We now take a three-chapter break from the Tabernacle, with a stark reminder of how remarkable it is that God ever decides to dwell with people. It is very much a case of going from the sublime to the ridiculous ...
The debacle of the golden calf begins with the people getting impatient (v.1) - they can't seem to cope for very long without Moses to lead them. And although Aaron is Moses' brother, spiritually he doesn't seem to be made of the same sort of stuff. He starts by doing what the people want him to do (vv.3-5) and ends up making feeble excuses to his brother (vv.22-24).
By contrast, Moses gives us two model prayers:
- In vv.11-13 he pleads with God to spare the people. What was the basis of this request? That if Israel were wiped out, it could make God look bad. God hears and relents.
- In vv.31-32 he identifies himself with the people and offers to take their sin upon himself. God rejects the offer, but perhaps he was pleased with the sentiment, which is echoed by Paul in Romans 9:1-3.
What can we learn today from the contrasting examples of Aaron and Moses? Here are some possibilities:
- Pleasing people is a dead end. Go with pleasing God every time - and that way you will end up being a true blessing to other people.
- Don't minimise the seriousness of sin - your own sin, or other people's. Instead, take it to the Lord in prayer. And pray passionately.
- Be patient in worship. If God doesn't show up immediately, don't change your theology for the sake of a better experience. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:14).
Question to ponder: What is the main lesson you need to learn from this chapter?