1Co 10:7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play."
In the above text Paul warns Christians not to fall into some of the sins that Israel committed while in the wilderness. They must be sins that Christians can commit which makes us take a look at the first one listed which is idolatry. No real saint would give a second look at a stone or wooden idol and actually bow down and worship it but giving our love, attention and energy in living for things alongside of Christ is an easy trap to fall into. As we consider what led Israel to idolatry in Exodus 32 we see that this is something we very easily commit. Much of this has everything to do with how big our God is.
Exo 32:1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."… Exo 32:4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"
Perhaps the key word in the Exodus passage is in verse 1, “delayed”. We know that the calf Aaron made was not supposed to be an entirely different god than Yahweh but one that represented him as vs. 4 says, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt”. What was their great sin that led them to fashion this “new and improved” god? They didn’t like waiting and wondering; living by faith was hard. Sitting there for forty days not knowing what was happening with Moses on the mountain wasn’t sitting well with them. They wanted a God they could control, who worked on their timetable, according to their agenda.
Of course the problem with this god is that while he might let you do whatever you want to do, he isn’t a god worth our worship, adoration, obedience, much less our time. This is not a god who is in control of things and so it is difficult to spend much time praying to him since one has little confidence that a god you can control actually controls the events of your life. We can’t have it both ways can we?
I would think this explains Numbers 14 which is probably what Paul is referring to in 1 Cor. 10:10 when he says not to grumble as Israel did. Here the ten spies came back and described the people of Canaan as giants too big to overcome. Why did the people believe the ten spies and not the other two? Because they still thought of the true God as a sweet, little, golden calf. Next to these giants he didn’t look so big. Here is what they said to Moses, Num 14:2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Num 14:3 Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?"
Their idolatry caused them to have little to no faith in the Lord and so God gives them their wish and he marches them out into the wilderness and lets them die there. I think if you follow Paul’s line of reasoning in 1 Cor. 9-10 he is saying that if we fall into this type of idolatry we will be about as useless to the cause of Christ as those Israelites.
I once was told that I preach the sovereignty of God too much. I would vigorously argue that statement on any level but surely one big problem the church has today is that many of the pulpits proclaim a God who is not big enough, holy enough, and sovereign enough. There are few things that are more practical and important for us than to have God exalted in our eyes. A big God gives big faith, but I would have a hard time trusting a little God. A big God warrants service and worship. A little God makes us look to ourselves just like those Israelites did and all that does is incur the wrath of the Lord.