They dined with God and then helped the people build a golden calf to worship.
Let's look at the Word and set the scene:
Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu along with seventy elders, are being invited to come to the mountain of the Lord. Only Moses is allowed to approach God, while the others must remain at a distance. The people are not invited. Moses then goes and tells the people all the instructions given by God for them to follow and they say they will obey. Moses writes everything down.
The next day, Moses builds an altar and sacrifices are made. He splashes the blood against the altar and reads the Book of the Covenant. They people say they will obey. Moses splashes the people with the remaining blood and tells them that this seals the covenant the Lord has made with them.
So far, so good. Covenant conditions are stated and both sides commit to keeping it. The ceremony is then followed by a meal, and Moses, Nadab, Abihu and the elders dine with God.
What? They dine with God? Yes. They are not struck down and He shares the meal with them. Wow. God then instructs that Moses must come and receive all of the instructions that God has written out for the people. I find it fascinating that God literally has the final word: these instructions are not written out by Moses, but written on stone by God Himself.
Then: "When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights." (Ex. 24:15-18)
Moses' task? To receive all of the instructions pertaining to the Tabernacle: its furniture, the Ark, how the priests are called and how they are to dress and all the accoutrements that the Tabernacle will require to operate.
When God was finished, Moses descended the mountain with the two stone tablets in hand, inscribed by the very finger of God. (Ex. 31)
Moses had earlier told the elders/leaders to wait for him: "Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.” (Ex. 24:13-14) So, the elders are to wait and Aaron and Hur are to settle disputes. In other words, they are privileged to be part of this utterly awesome experience, but they also need to attend to the needs of the people.
People and life goes on outside our prayer closets, meetings and time spent before God when we are leaders. But God is a Father of detail, and knows the people should not be leaderless, so He has Moses make provision for them while Moses is to be away for awhile.
Now to the ugly part:
"When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, 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.”
Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. (Ex. 32:1-6)
What? Aaron was appointed to settle disputes among the people. Period. But instead of telling them of the wonder that was to come, and how they had already covenantially promised to obey God, he assists them in making an idol.
Was he afraid of the people rioting? Did he lose faith in Moses and think something bad had happened to him? Did he... Who cares, Aaron! You dined with God. Pure and simple.
How could a man who had been in God's very presence, dine with Him, talk with Him and share a covenant meal that symbolized God's protection over His people just simply forget all of that, and bow to pressure to build an idol? AN IDOL?
So, instead of reminding the people of their pledge to obey (twice!), and all the power and mercy God displayed in their deliverance from Egypt, Aaron gets to work, indulging their basest longings. The idol is made from the wealth they had plundered from the Egyptians, and then they bow to it, exclaiming that it and other gods had delivered them (Ex. 32:3-4).
Aaron? Elders? Nadab? Abihu? WHERE ARE YOU? Why the silence? Why the duplicity? One minute you are dining with God and soon, so very soon, you are aiding and abetting what God will call "corruption."
It gets better: Not only does Aaron suggest the method (collect all the gold) of making the idol, he fashions it himself. He hears the people proclaim that the idol is their deliverer, and then: "When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry." (Ex. 32: 5-6)
So a leader goes ahead and indulges the people's basest desires: idol worship, food, drink and orgies. He then does the coup de grace: He decrees that tomorrow they will celebrate the Lord.
How often do church leaders, who have the Word, indulge their congregations' basest desires: They do not take a stand on sin; they wow the people with signs and wonders and encourage their people to engage in such disorderly conduct; they dilute the Gospel to make it more culturally acceptable; they personally are not living lives "above reproach"; they have an ego that either made them seek fame or it grows because they receive so much fame; they keep people entertained with stories, videos and everything but an uncompromised emphasis on the Word.
What is God's reaction to all of this unfolding beneath His mountain?
He tells Moses of the people's behavior and how it is corrupting them. He is furious. He wants to destroy them. But Moses, like our Jesus, intervenes and reminds God of His covenant with their ancestors, and how the world will wonder about their destruction.
God relents in His mercy.
God relents even now in His mercy, while His bride capers to the melody of the world and its melody of what is acceptable.
Let me close with His word: "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb.4:14-16)
Thank you, Nicole for your inspiration for this blog!
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