On Sabbath we were studying what happened when the Israelites felt that Moses was gone too long. They went to Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for 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.” What was Aaron’s response? Did he protest? Did he tell them that it was a sin to have other gods? No! He said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” He encouraged their apostasy instead of trying to prevent it. They would have been able to worship the gold calf if he didn’t make it.
Once a person gives into temptation it’s downhill from there. Aaron made the idol from the people’s jewelry and when the people cried, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Aaron built an altar to the calf and encouraged the people to commit idolatry by making this proclamation, And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.
How could Aaron who had witnessed God’s mighty works lead the people into giving credit to their deliverance from bondage to a false god made by hands instead of to the true God? Aaron was the one who spoke to the Pharaoh; touched the Nile with his rod and its water turned red; whose rod turned into a serpent which ate the serpents conjured by Pharaoh’s magicians? How could he now make an idol in the form of an animal, much like an Egyptian god and set up an altar before it and have the people worship it as the god who brought them out of the land of Egypt?
After Moses smashed the tablets of stone, burned the calf and ground it into powder which he forced the people to drink, he turned to Aaron and demanded, “What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?”
“Don’t get so upset, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire—and out came this calf!” He knew how evil the people were and yet, he went along with what they wanted. And I like how he said that when they brought their gold to him, he simply threw it into the fiare and out came the calf. Verse 4 tells us that, Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. He took his time and did this. Clearly Moses didn’t buy his poor excuse for verse 25 says: Moses saw that Aaron had let the people get completely out of control, much to the amusement of their enemies. Aaron had let the people go astray.
Yet, God chose Aaron to be a priest to Him as a priest–a very high office especially as it entailed bearing the judgment of the children of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually. Talk about grace. In Exodus 28, God instructs Moses, “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Elemazar, and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest. And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest.”
Aaron was tested and he failed. While Moses was gone, he was in charge of keeping things in order–under control but he failed to do that. And that is why Moses was so hard on him. Aaron should have known better. He should have put his foot down and rebuke the people.
Perhaps Aaron regretted what he had done and God is all for second chances. He gave Aaron a chance to redeem himself by choosing him to be His priest. My Sabbath School Quarterly lesson puts it this way:
However, and here’s the amazing thing: God not only forgave Aaron his sin, the Lord eventually allowed Aaron to wear the sacred garments as the covenant nation’s first high priest, a type for the high priestly ministry of Jesus Himself (Heb. 8:1). In other words, though Aaron was guilty of a terrible sin himself, he was also the recipient of God’s redeeming grace, grace so great that it not only forgave him but allowed Aaron to assume a sacred office that, at its core, is all about God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness. Thus, Aaron’s life is a special example of mercy and redemption available to all in Christ.
I encourage you to read Exodus 32 and then ask yourself this two-part question: Have you ever failed, even miserably, to live up to what you have been given? How can you get from Aaron’s example hope for yourself that all is not lost, even despite your mistakes?
Exodus 32; 28