They Gave Me This Gold, I Threw It into a Fire and Out Came This Calf

32: 21-24

    DIG: What great sin was Moses angry about? Who did Aaron blame? Why didn't he take any responsibility? When the people questioned whether Moses would ever come back down the mountain at all, how did Aaron respond? Do you think Aaron really thought Moses would buy his pathetic excuse, or was it merely the only thing he could think of at the time? Does it seems to you that Aaron was embarrassed or arrogant? Why?

    REFLECT: Have you ever been deeply hurt by someone you thought you could count on? How did you react? How do you react when you are caught in a sin? Do you immediately ask for forgiveness? Do you usually appeal your case on the spot? Are you broken by your sin like King David (Psalm 51), or do you just rationalize everything and live with the guilt? Can you live with the punishment? Can you live without it?

    Following the destruction of the idol and the people drinking its remains, Moses turned to Aaron for an explanation of what had happened. His brother’s excuses were as desperate as they were lame, and they did not fool him. Moses said to his brother: What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin (32:21)? This term, a great sin, is used most often in the TaNaKh, in reference to idolatry. However, it is also used of adultery (Genesis 20:9 and 39:9). In the ancient Near East it is a legal term for adultery. When it comes to the worship of God in the TaNaKh, these two terms, idolatry and adultery are closely related. They are two different sides of the same coin.674 He couldn’t believe that Aaron would do something like that. He had allowed the people to get out of control and become a potential laughingstock to their enemies.675 ADONAI was angry enough with Aaron that He was ready to kill him (Deuteronomy 9:20). Great indeed was his sin, but greater still was the mercy that pardoned it.

    Just as Moses had successfully soothed God’s wrath, now Aaron tries to do the same with Moses. “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered, “You know how prone these people are to evil.” Terrific! Aaron tried to justify his own guilt by placing the blame on the Israelites. They said to me, “Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him’” (32:22-23). There was no sign of repentance, only blaming others. So it was at the beginning. When God charged Adam with sin he blamed his wife (Genesis 3:12), and when Eve was questioned she blamed the Serpent! No difference here.

    Aaron told them, “Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.” Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf (32:34). Was it a miracle? Hardly, a few verses earlier we were told that Aaron took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf (32:4). He merely told a lie. The sad part is that not only was it an unbelievable excuse, but that he had no idea what he had done. He not only participated and allowed it to happen, but even when Moses had returned and was angry he didn’t understand what the problem was. “Honest Moses, this golden calf just followed me home!”

    It is common in the southern United States for prisoners to help in the building of prisons. That is ironic, because every brick that they lay makes them more imprisoned, and every nail they hammer makes their escape more impossible. In a sense, sin is like that – each sin committed makes it easier to sin again and again and again. And so it was with Aaron. After breaking the first two commandments through idolatry, he then compounded it with lying and violating the ninth commandment. Therefore, his guilt and shame were all the greater. Is it not so with us?676

 

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