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Choke On It

Choke On It

He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. Exodus 32:20

Back before fentanyl was a common street drug, there were still overdose deaths from it – from fentanyl patches. Fentanyl patches are a legitimately prescribed medication worn topically by those in severe chronic pain (often end-of-life situations), and contain enough of the drug for three days. Inevitably though, there were those with an opioid addiction who got ahold of them, not understanding the potency. They didn’t wear the patch as prescribed, but rather, released all the drug at once by chewing on it. This led to an overdose, and if they lost consciousness, they’d inhale the patch and literally choke to death on it.

Choke on it. This was the experience of the Israelites in today’s passage. The story didn’t involve fentanyl patches though, but rather a golden calf idol which they’d created to worship. When Moses discovered what his people had done, he melted the idol down, ground up the ashes, mixed it with water, and made the Israelites drink it. You want this so badly? Then drink it. Choke on it. Taste the evil that you have wrought. Though it may seem harsh to us, Moses understood that his people’s sin wasn’t trivial. Rather, it was a matter of life and death. Either they must kill their sin, or their sin would kill them.

This isn’t a lesson only for the Israelites of long ago. This is for me, today. Daily, I must abandon my self-destructive nature, killing it, or it is gradually killing me. In my drug use, I killed everything good in my life. In recovery now, I cannot take my sobriety too seriously. This is a matter of life and death. Daily, I must make a genuine effort to point my life at God, abandoning my way for his. I know that if I miss one day of my time with God, I won’t relapse into using drugs immediately, but if I miss a week, I might think it’s a good idea to look at pornography or pick up some chewing tobacco. And that’s how it starts – with the things I think of as little sins. Once I tolerate those little sins though, they have a way of growing until I choke on them.

I like my new life though. And so, daily, I’ll continue to abandon the old life, putting it to death. If I insist on going my way, God allows me to choke on it. If, however, I daily abandon the old life, I can continually enjoy the sweet air and water of the new one.

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