Last time, we looked at the Children of Israel’s fall into idolatry by worshipping the Golden Calf in Exodus 32. Today, let us consider how Aaron, the High Priest, responded to their request to give them a “god” to worship:
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” (Exodus 32:1-5)
What was it that persuaded Aaron to go along with the people’s plan to sink into idolatry? Was it fear for his own safety if he refused? Was it his pride which caused him to jump at the opportunity to become the new leader of the nation? Did he, perhaps, agree with the sentiment of the people and was all too eager to assist them in their folly?
In defense of his actions when later confronted by Moses, Aaron tells him, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil” (Exodus 32:22). So, in essence, he blames the people for his compliance. Yet Verse 25 reveals that Aaron, by going along with their plan, “let them get out of control.” Moses told him that he “brought great sin upon them” (Verse 21). Aaron shared in the responsibility for the nation’s great sin.
We cannot, of course, determine Aaron’s intentions, but it does seem that he may have started out wanting to remain faithful to God while still appeasing the people. Some have speculated that his instructions for the Israelites to turn over their golden earrings may have been a bluff, hoping they would reconsider their request when they realized that it would cost them something personally. But often misguided zeal can be some of the most fervent. I heard of an evangelical minister who once observed Mormon missionaries, diligently going door-to-door to share their message. “It is a shame”, he commented, “that they will do more to promote a lie than we will to promote the Gospel.”
After the Golden Calf is constructed, Aaron proclaims that the following day there “will be a feast to the Lord” (Exodus 32:5). Although he has just crafted a lifeless idol, he is willing to devote and dedicate it to the worship of the True God. He planned to let the Golden Calf tangibly represent the unseen God of Heaven. In short, he was willing to compromise the clear instructions which God had given in an effort to placate the wishes of the congregation.
How often does this happen in our churches today? How often do church leaders compromise the Word of God in an effort to be “seeker-friendly” or, “ecumenical?” We don’t want to scare away non-believers investigating our Faith and we sure don’t want to offend tithing parishioners, so we go along with their requests even when we know that it is contrary to the will of God and the teaching of Scripture. Isn’t this the same thing that Aaron, who was the leader in charge during Moses’ absence, was doing? We give in and compromise because we don’t want to offend church members or chase off visitors.
It is worth noting what it was that Aaron fashioned the gold into: a young bull. This was a common symbol used throughout Egypt at the time and represented the deity Apis. This would have been a familiar likeness for an idol since the Israelites had seen it all over the land in which they had been enslaved. Aaron borrowed the religious and philosophical methods and approaches of the world. Even the debauchery which the people sank into as they danced before the idol was reminiscent of similar festivities practiced among their pagan former masters back in Egypt. They took what was clearly pagan and ungodly and slapped a different label on it by “dedicating” it to the Lord.
The parallel for this is also clearly seen in many of our churches. We borrow methods from popular psychology, non-Christian mystical religions, and atheistic academia and put a “Christian” label on it. We employ worldly approaches to attempt to “minister” to people because we want to be relevant and seem in touch with the God-rejecting world around us. We’re afraid to stand up for the Word of God because we don’t want to be accused of not being intellectual or scientifically minded. So we build our own golden calves and pretend that we are still worshipping God when we bow down before them.
May all who lead in every congregation bearing the name of the Lord Jesus Christ refuse to compromise the Word of God nor violate the instructions of our Lord in an effort to satisfy the whims of man.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]