When Israel left Egypt, they left with gold, silver, and Egypt's finest clothes. Talk about bling, man they had it all. So the Israelites set out into the desert under the leadership of Moses. After crossing thru the Red Sea on dry ground the Israelites set up camp at the foot of Mt. Sinai. It was here that the Israelites put their Egyptian booty to use; they built a golden calf. This golden calf was anointed as their god and gave them the okay to willfully indulge in every lustful activity they could imagine. What started off as fun and exciting, quickly became hell. While the Israelites were cavorting in the wilderness, Moses was up in the mountain talkin with Israel's real God. So in the middle of their 1 on 1, God tells Moses, that those people are down there actin' a fool. So Moses makes his way down from the Mountain with the two tablets w/ the 10 commandments written on them. Joshua was halfway up the mountain and when Moses reaches Joshua, he says, "There is the sound of war in the camp. "Moses replies: "It is not the sound of victory, it is the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear."
For centuries black folks have been drawing parallels to the children of Israel and themselves. Many a negro spiritual is inspired by what God did for the children of Israel. A few things in this story stand out to me. The Israelites left Egypt with what many would extremely valuable possessions; they left Egypt with riches so to speak. In some ways it was like reparations, after 400 years of slavery they get to leave with as much of any and everything they can carry. Not long after their leaving there was sense that they didn't have enough, or what they really needed. Here it was they where out of under Egyptian oppression, with enough gold and silver to put DeBeers to shame, but it wasn't enough; they needed a god. So they had the bright idea to transform their valued possessions into their god. I don't mean to be too obvious, but this is exactly what we do today. We fashion things that we ascribe value to as our gods. And these gods give us freedom to act. In this case the Israelites' god licensed them to abandon good judgment and do whatever felt good in the moment. Unfortunately their good time undermined what God actually had for them. Most telling is what Joshua and Moses hear. Joshua hears a war, Moses hears defeat, but the only sound is singing; singing that conveys war and defeat.
Yesterday I had the privilege to catch half of a documentary called "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes". The film focused on the image of black masculinity as portrayed in hip hop music. In so many ways it was a repeat of this story for me. There's bling, there's sex, there's partying, and there's music. And regardless of the context the music doesn't highlight victory, instead it canonizes defeat. And at the end of the day the question remains, is the golden calf, the bling, and all that comes with it really worth it, or could God actually have something better for us on the other side of this desert?