Wednesday 22nd February 2023

EXODUS 31 and 32

Aaron comes across as a bit of a wimp!  He was naturally a man-pleaser who was apparently desperate to be liked and would push his own convictions to one side to avoid rejection or unpopularity.  He had been left in charge for 40 days and the natives were getting restless!  “Make us some gods” they whined.  Perhaps in an effort to humour them he decided to do something; therefore he decided to while away the time with a little metalwork and ended up creating a calf idol of the type found back in Egypt.  The people egged him on and then took that idol and started to worship it.  Aaron quickly realised that things had gone too far, panicked, and hastily erected an altar to the Lord in front of the calf idol in a vain attempt to prevent a wholesale turning away from God.  But the damage had been done and people who indulge in idolatry – which is spiritual adultery – will soon progress to physical adultery and this is precisely what they did! 

In a flash, God knew and, in anger (yes, God has feelings too!  He invented feelings!) he told Moses to leave him alone (i.e. don’t intercede) so that he might destroy them and build up a new nation through Moses.  Ever the compassionate man, Moses pleaded with the Lord to spare them, on the basis that it would damage God’s reputation in the world and would break the promise made to Abraham.  God wanted Moses to put that case to him (it is one of the mysteries of intercession) and accepted his plea.

Returning down from the mountain, Moses saw the chaos, smashed the stone tablets – indicating a break of the covenant – and destroyed the golden calf.  Then he rounded upon Aaron and demanded to know what he had done to allow all this.  Aaron, displaying the very least attractive part of any man’s character denied all responsibility and claimed that the calf had been a total accident, caused entirely by the people’s impatience; some men are cowards (as are some women) and will never admit fault in themselves or their actions.  It is amazingly gracious of God that he allowed Aaron subsequently to be in charge of the priesthood.

Moses quells the riot by drastic means – Levi again going wild with the sword, but this time under God’s authority – and regains order, at the cost of many lives.  Later on, God punishes the nation further with a plague.  So, what can we learn from this?  Don’t be a man-pleaser, since you end up neither pleasing them nor helping them; to love someone is not to accept all their views and actions with indiscriminate approval, but to show that they are accepted despite your disagreeing with them in certain ways.  If we want to raise up disciples who are men and women of integrity and faith, then we cannot first win them by methods that demonstrate the very opposite of these.  Moses, known as the humblest man on earth, is our example in this regard; he spent time (along with Joshua) in the presence of God daily, he spoke God’s truth without fear or favour, and he was ready to sacrifice himself in order to save those who did not deserve it.  Well done, good and faithful servant!

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