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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Aaron and the golden calf

     I am reading through the Bible chronologically this year and today's passage took me to Exodus 31-33.  Moses has been on top of the mountain for a long time, so they ask Aaron to make a idol for them.  It appears they are concerned that they have no leader now and possibly Moses has died.  This happens despite the fact that only back in Exodus 20:19 the people told Moses "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die."
     What is surprising is how fast the people become corrupt and walk away from God.  But, even more surprising is how fast Aaron abandons God also.  After all, they have evidence that God is with them through the cloud during the day and the pillar of fire at night.  They had this experience of hearing God's thunder and seeing the presence of God.  You would think that if any group would be obedient, after walking on the bottom of the Red Sea on dry land, then this group would be. 
     But, when you look at Aaron's response to the people, he joins with them quickly.  He requests of them that they remove the gold earrings and give them to him.  He works to create a mold and makes an idol of gold of a calf.  This is imitating the natioins that were around Egypt at that time.  Then, it says the people rose up to play.  This doesn't mean tic tac toe.  This phrase implies that their behavior became sexualized much like the pagan nations around them.  Things had gotten completed chaotic and out of hand.
      It makes God mad enough that he tells Moses he is going to start over with just Moses.  God's wrath is getting ready to boil over completely and destroy them.  What is interesting is that we see such a huge contrast between Moses and Aaron here.  Moses, the man who could not speak, finds his voice and intercedes for the people. Aaron, the one who is suppose to be the mouthpiece, is completely overcome by peer pressure and sin.  It is a wonder that Aaron didn't forfeit his position that day.  It is only by God's grace that he lived.
      For you see Aaron's lie verse 24 "And I said to them, Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off." So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf."  Really Aaron?  What about that mold that still has some gold around it in your tent Aaron?  It just walked out by itself from the fire?  What an incredible lie Aaron told.  It should be a warning to us, that if Aaron's behavior and words can become so corrupt so fast, then we should all watch ourselves carefully.  I think more than anything else, this shows us how desperately wicked the heart can be.  It would lead Jeremiah to say, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?"
      I think this also tells me about the importance of coming to God each day and confessing sin.  The importance of keeping short accounts with God and not allowing things to build up over a long period of time.  Of making sure that I am putting on the full armor of God each day before facing the day because you don't know what that day will bring (Eph 6:12-17).  It is about not walking around ignorant as though you don't have a spiritual enemy and realizing that without abiding in God we all have the potential to go the way that Aaron went here.  That should lead us all to pause and to remain humble and not to get proud of how "spiritual" we might appear. 
     This doesn't mean that we have to remember each and every sin and confess it.  I don't want to get into a bunch of legalism here.  I think about the passage in 1 John 1:9 that says, 'If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us."  One of the important words to me in that verse is the word "all".  God cleanses us from all sins when we ask.  I don't have to be like Martin Luther and punish myself physically and deprive myself of things physically and make myself sick with shame and guilt.  I come to God and confess it and humbly realize it is because of God's grace and mercy that I can come to Him.  God doesn't want us to walk in shame and guilt.  God wants us to walk in forgiveness and mercy.


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