The Gospel According to Aaron

The Gospel According to Aaron

The Gospel According to Aaron.

“… But Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied and my words get tangled.’ Then the Lord asked Moses, ‘Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.’ But Moses again pleaded, ‘Lord, please! Send anyone else.’ Then the Lord became angry with Moses. ‘All right,’ He said. ‘What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say.” (Exodus 4:10-16).

Aaron and his famous walking stick.  Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.”(Numbers 17:8). Aaron’s staff is famous in Scripture for figuring in so many dramatic miracles. Let’s take the last miracle first. The Israelites in the wilderness were rebelling against the leadership of Moses and Aaron, and wanted to know if God truly chose those two men to lead the people to the Promised Land (Numbers 17). God was getting impatient with their rebellion, so He instructed each tribe to place a branch, hewn into a tribal rod, with the name of each tribe inscribed on it, into the Holy Tabernacle. All twelve tribes were represented as those tribal-identifying rods lay overnight untouched in the Holy Place. The word from the Lord was that the man of His choosing would have his rod blossom. By the next morning, the question of leadership was decided by God’s miracle… Aaron’s rod had sprouted, blossomed, and bore ripe almonds. All of Israel saw Aaron’s rod and knew without a doubt that Aaron was the one chosen by God to lead the holy priesthood of Israel. It was at this time that Aaron’s rod was placed in the Ark and considered a holy object to be remembered and revered.

What is the significance of the rod developing ripe almonds, as opposed to figs, or pomegranates or  dates? Why almonds? In answer to that question, there’s a good chance the Lord was reminding everyone of the divinely inspired lampstand in the Holy Place. Yahweh had given strict instructions that the golden lampstand in the tabernacle was to be shaped in the form of an almond tree, with its branches, blossoms and almonds all engraved in the gold. (Exodus 25). It turns out that the Hebrew root word for “almond” was “watching.” Those two words are basically the same in Hebrew, and the Lord used the almond tree to let the people know that He would be observant over His Chosen people, alert to His word that it be performed as He said. Jeremiah said it best, “Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of an almond tree.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am always watching, ready to perform my word.‘” (Jer. 1:11-12). In other words, almonds are a sign from God that He is always watching to make His word fruitful, to bring them through all the stages of growth, to bring forth fruit, just like Aaron’s fruitful rod in the Holy Place. It was no accident that Aaron’s rod blossomed as the branch of an almond tree. It was not random. It was all God’s design. No wonder that the Hebrew name for the almond tree was the “Watchful Tree.” Indeed, God is the watchguard of Israel, and His word will be accomplished as He said.

As dramatic as Aaron’s fruitful rod was, we can’t overlook how important that simple walking stick was in Israel’s history before they were even out of Egypt. When Moses and Aaron were starting to press Pharaoh to let God’s people go, Aaron’s staff was central to the eventual exodus of the enslaved people. It was Aaron’s staff that struck the Nile River and made the water turn to blood (Ex. 7:19). It was also Aaron’s rod that stretched out over the waters of Egypt and caused a massive influx of frogs to come from the River to cover the land (Ex. 8:5). And it was Aaron’s rod too that struck the “dust of the land”, the ground, so that every speck of dust became lice, or gnats, that settled on all of Egypt’s people and animals. Before these plagues even happened, though, Aaron’s rod figured in a major victory over Egypt’s sorcerers and magicians. In this piece of drama, Pharaoh wanted Moses and Aaron to perform a miracle, so Aaron took his rod and threw it on the floor next to Pharaoh. Aaron’s rod immediately became a snake. The sorcerers were brought onto the scene, and through their enchantments were also able to turn their rods into snakes. But to show who’s boss, Aaron’s serpent quickly swallowed up all the magicians’ snakes (Ex. 7:12). Pharaoh’s sorcerers may have successfully figured out how to inflict a temporary paralysis to their pet cobras, but it didn’t matter. Aaron’s snake ate them all anyway. Aaron’s God is clearly superior to Pharaoh’s gods, as the upcoming plagues revealed. “On the Egyptian gods the Lord had executed judgments.” (Numbers 33:4).

So Aaron’s rod is rich in symbolism and proves to be a picture of many different truths.

Something dead can come to lifeAaron’s rod is a resurrection story. His staff was a dead, lifeless branch from an almond tree. It was simply a long, sturdy stick hewn from a tree, with no roots, no sap, nothing that would result in fruit or growth of any kind. According to nature’s plan, it had no chance whatsoever of coming back to life. The blossoming of Aaron’s rod was God’s doing, supernatural, a miracle from heaven. It was totally unexpected to see a dead branch display all three stages of vegetable life at all, let alone at the same time. This is a story about the resurrection, much like Ezekiel’s dry bones. It’s a powerful picture of the fact that with almighty God, dead things can come back to life, whether it’s a lifeless branch, or dry bones, or a human heart dead in sin, or a dead human body on the Last Day.

Something powerless can wield authorityIn Pharaoh’s presence, God used a mere walking stick to exert His power. Everyone of those plagues visited upon Egypt was a judgment from God on the various gods of Egypt. When Aaron struck the Nile with his rod, God’s power was displayed over their god of the Nile. When Aaron waved his staff over the River and frogs inundated the land, God was giving evidence of His superiority over their worship of the frog. When Aaron struck the ground and Egypt was immediately overwhelmed with lice and gnats, God revealed His power over their god of the biting insect. When Aaron’s rod turned into a serpent that ate all the magicians’ serpents, there was no doubt whose god was most powerful… Yahweh, the God of the Israelites. The rod/staff was always a symbol of authority, and that symbol came to life with Aaron’s rod as he wielded the very real authority of the almighty God.

Something barren can bear fruit. Aaron’s rod is a story of miraculous fruitfulness. When his staff brought forth ripe almonds, literally overnight, we can easily see a picture of the many times barren women in the Hebrew Bible were able to bear children only after God’s intervention. We think of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah, for starters. We also think of times in Scripture when a child was born unexpectedly, most notably with Mary’s pregnancy from the Holy Spirit. Jesus was the unexpected fruit of a devout teenaged girl, a branch in David’s tree, who nonetheless served the Lord by giving birth to the Son of God. A ripe almond from a mere branch. Only God’s miraculous power could bring this to happen. Is it any wonder that so many painters during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance painted a blossoming almond tree into Annunciation scenes? There is Mary, an unknown, common village girl, unexpectedly and miraculously bearing the fruit of her union with the Holy Spirit. With God, even the barren can bear fruit, and even the common can be miraculous, just like Aaron’s rod.

Almond trees are beloved in Israel, because they are the first sign of spring. Their beautiful white blossoms bloom in late January. So when those pure white blossoms bloom, the people know that winter is almost over and new life is just around the corner. When Aaron’s dead rod brought forth living buds, and full blossoms, and ripe almonds, the Israelites were not merely assured of Aaron’s leadership role in the priesthood. They were also reminded that God was always watching over them, ready to perform His word over their life in their journey to the Promised Land and beyond. The pregnancy of Mary would speak to unexpected fruitfulness, to God’s love and watchfulness, and to signs of God’s new life coming just around the bend, springtime in the history of man. In God’s powerful hands, Aaron’s rod shows us that the dead can come back to life, the powerless can wield God’s authority, the common can become miraculous, the Lord will be alert and watchful, and fruit can come in the most unexpected and timely ways. Aaron’s rod turns out to be profound in ways that appeal to Jews and Christians alike. It’s no wonder it is held in such high esteem throughout Biblical history.

Aaron’s high priestly blessing.

“The LORD bless you and keep you; 

The LORD makes His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His face onto you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

May the Great I AM remain active in our lives. May Yahweh bless us, provide for us our daily bread. May He sustain us in our daily work and livelihood, enabling us to pay the bills and remain productive in our jobs. And may He keep us, protecting us against whatever may cause us harm. May He keep us from crisis, serious illness, accident or injury. May the Lord protect us in whatever spiritual warfare we may experience. Blessing us and keeping us, may God provide for us and protect us.

May the Great Lord of Life shine His face upon us in friendship. May His eyes light up with fondness when looking upon us. May He deepen our friendship with Him, our union with Him. Thank you that you are not a God who hides His face out of displeasure or anger. May our relationship with the Lord be deeply personal, and may our faces reflect the light He shines upon us. May your face shine, Lord, and be the light of our world. Because of Jesus, may we see a smiling face when we see God.

Continue your graces upon us, Lord. Be gracious to us as we go through each day, vulnerable and helpless without your grace. We thank you for how you have been gracious to us in the past, and we pray that you would continue your mercies as we seek to follow you each day. Be tender with us, Lord, and understanding, and compassionate. Thank you that you are full of grace and truth. May our children and grandchildren realize at a deep level that you are a gracious God.

Lift up your face to us and look at us eye-to-eye, Lord. Look upon us with favor, and don’t pass us by. We pray for your loving attention, that you would turn your face in our direction and share with us a true glimpse of your loving countenance. Thank you, Lord, that you are a personal God who recognizes us, who gives us meaningful eye contact. We thank you that you are pleased to show us your face, that you would deign to be familiar with us.

O Prince of Peace, give us your peace. Give us peace in our spirit, our heart, our mind. May we be free from anxiety and worrisome thoughts as we seek our peace in you and you alone. May there be freedom from strife and disorder in our family, peace between parent and child, between spouses, between children, between siblings. Please heal any division or discord there may be that would take away from your peace in us. Grant us true shalom in our homes, Lord, a sense of flourishing and wholeness and abundant well-being. Give us peace within each of us and peace with others, through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Aaron and the sacrifice system. Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.” (Hebrews 9:13-14). Why so much blood? Aaron must have been covered in blood for most of the day. Blood is sacred, says the Lord. Blood is holy, set apart from other aspects of creation. In the eyes of God, blood represents life. Life itself depends on blood. In fact, “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Lev. 17:11). Blood is a life principle flowing into the very structure of created life. Since the Fall in the Garden, the world has had a disastrous problem: sin. The result of sin is death. And the result of blood is life. So it naturally follows that blood is somehow the remedy for sin. Blood has to be involved if forgiveness is to happen, if life proves victorious over death. In God’s plan of redemption, His universal solvent is blood, it dissolves the presence and authority of sin.

God designed a blood sacrifice system in the Old Covenant that atoned for the sins of the Chosen People. As a God of justice and righteousness, He demanded a punishment for sin, and the blood of an animal sacrifice was put in place to satisfy that demand. Pure blood from unblemished and utterly innocent animals. Innocent blood was the only answer to the guilt of sin. But this sacrificial system was not meant to be permanently in place. It was ultimately an incomplete system in many ways. It required ongoing sacrifices; it was only a temporary atonement until the person sinned again; it was merely for external purposes, making the person ceremonially clean; it didn’t necessarily change the heart of the person making the offering. So the Mosaic system was adequate and God-ordained for a time. But it was only a shadow, a hint of a better system coming along in God’s perfect timing. It was a necessary beginning to what turned out to be a perfect end. In the Old Covenant, the Mosaic sacrifice was necessary but insufficient. The best was yet to come in the fullness of time.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice hinted at in the animal sacrifice. He fulfilled all the requirements of the Old Covenant system… an unblemished, pure, innocent victim offering blood for atonement. Jesus completed the sacrificial system, so only one sacrifice, His, was needed. His blood brought forgiveness of all sins, by all people, for all time. At a superficial glance, it looks like God is out for blood. But God “doesn’t want blood, He wants life.” Only Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can offer his blood for eternal life, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). In Jewish tradition, the discovery of an unblemished red heifer signals the coming of the Messiah. Truer words were never spoken. Jesus is the Red Heifer. The Messiah has come.

Garments of Splendor. ‘Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to me as priest. And you shall make sacred garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to me as priest.” (Exodus 28:1-3). Yahweh wanted Aaron to be distinctive in his role of high priest. Aaron’s identity was firmly established in the minds of the people whenever they saw him because of his holy garments. Aaron wore a set of clothing that distinguished him as high priest. His sacred garments set him apart from the people, and it reinforced in his own mind that he was called to a serious business with God and with the people. Aaron’s high priestly uniform pieces were made to be “glorious and beautiful.” Rabbinic sources state that the garments were not intended to be merely attractive in their own right, but instead made for “the glory of God and for the beauty of His presence.” His holy garments were made to reflect the very glory and beauty of Yahweh. So nothing but the finest of materials were used, and even the tailors producing these garments were specially gifted for this project by the Lord Himself.

Aaron’s sacred garments included:

(1) An ephod, a type of apron or long vest made of finely woven linen cloth, elaborately embroidered with gold and blue, and purple and scarlet thread. On each shoulder strap was a precious stone with six of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved on it. This symbolically meant that Aaron represented the whole nation of Israel in his ministry in the tabernacle. These names on the two stones meant he bore the burden of all the people as he served Yahweh.

(2) A breastplate was made that provided quite a striking appearance. It was a large pouch that was tied to the shoulders by gold chains and set with twelve precious stones, upon which were engraved each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The two mysterious stones known as the “Unim and Thummim” were held inside the pouch, evidently to somehow help Aaron discover the will of the Lord.

(3) A sleeveless, seamless blue robe was made that had pomegranates and gold bells attached to the hem. The sounds made during Aaron’s ministrations in the tabernacle alerted the people that he was indeed serving the Lord at that time.

(4) A white linen turban to be worn on his head had a gold plate attached to the front, and on the plate was engraved, “Holiness to the Lord.” This was an unmistakable message whenever anyone looked at the forehead of Aaron in his garments.

(5) A linen tunic that reached the floor, tied by a finely woven linen sash.

(6) Linen trousers to serve as undergarments. These trousers had to bed worn in the tabernacle or they would “surely die.” (Ex. 28:43).

More Garments. “Clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14). Christians also have a holy garment to put on. We put on Christ. Faith indeed has a uniform. Following Jesus is like putting on a whole new wardrobe, a new set of clothes. We are now wearing Christ, we have a new identity, a different look, a new style that reflects our heart’s desire. Following Jesus means we are now clothed in a different line, we have a new fashion designer. We have changed wardrobe consultants, and we are now covered in a new garment, a robe of righteousness. We have put on God’s goodness as our garment, and righteousness as our covering. Our new uniform reflects a right standing with God, as well as a pursuit of what pleases God out of our response to His love. Our new wardrobe now reflects God’s nature and character as He transforms us from within. We are now clothed in Christ, displaying the very virtues of God, reflecting a state of righteousness offered through the grace of Jesus. Our uniform has an identity. We want to identify ourselves with Christ. We want our clothes to reflect our faith. With our new spiritual threads, our high praise echoes Isaiah: “I delight greatly in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).

Before we put on, we have to take off. We need to strip ourselves of the old Adam as we put on the new Adam. To put off our old garment is to repent, to confess our old nature to God. Our new clothes represents repentance, our confession, our desire to strip off the old and put on the new. God’s grace is the only power strong enough to enable us to take off and put on.

When we put on our new set of clothes, we need to keep growing, making sure the outside is matching up with the inside. We need to make sure our new identity matches up with our growing faith. It’s easy to simply obey a set of rules, to simply put on holy appearances, a righteous exterior, a superficial goodness. Jesus gave some stern rebukes to those religious leaders who were hypocrites, actors wearing a stage costume of righteousness. Putting on Jesus means we have a genuine character on the outside, nurtured by the Holy Spirit, which matches up with the maturing faith on the inside. A mere costume of goodness is not sufficient, because we know that “people judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). “I didn’t want some petty inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules, when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ – God’s righteousness.” (Philippians 3:8, Message).

What does our robe of righteousness look like? When we clothe ourselves in Jesus, what is our spiritual fashion statement? “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:10-12, NIV).

Our Priestly Garments. “Like living stones, you are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5). Aaron provides a vivid picture of what a priest looks like. And as we become little Christs, and thus in a sense a little priest, each believer is called to be a priestly assistant as we devote ourselves to Jesus the High Priest. How can we flesh out our priesthood?

  1. Bring God to the people. Demonstrate to others God’s character through the Fruit of the Spirit, so it’s clear what God is like (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control); Enlighten others to the wisdom and relevance of Scripture;
  2. Bring the people to God. Intercede through disciplined prayer; Remind others of God’s presence in the world through word and deed; Interpret the times through the lens of Scripture;
  3. Offer yourselves daily as a living sacrifice. Read God’s mind by studying the Bible; Minister to “one another” in God’s name; Offer up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving; Live a life of self-denial as you pick up your cross daily;
  4. Put on Christ as your priestly clothing. Take off the Old You in sin, rejecting the attitudes and behavior of the old nature; Put on the New You in Christ, growing in faith and goodness; Remember love is the centerpiece of your priestly wardrobe.

High Priest. “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testing we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16)As the designated high priest for Israel, Aaron was the only person in the world who could enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. He would enter this Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat, the Atonement Cover, for the forgiveness of all the sins of the people. The Mercy Seat sat on the top of the Ark of the Covenant, the sacred gold-covered box that contained the original stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, a golden jar of manna, and Aaron’s blossoming staff. But now Jesus Christ is the new high priest. “He has entered that greater, more perfect tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:11-12). Because of His sacrifice that satisfied the demands of a holy and sinless God, Jesus brought an end to the old sacrifice system, which only was a hint of Christ’s sacrifice in the first place. As our high priest, Jesus is our advocate before God, our everyday intercessor in God’s presence. Aaron’s role as high priest, his job in securing the forgiveness of the people, was only a foreshadowing of Jesus. Aaron’s high priesthood was merely in anticipation of Jesus’ high priesthood.

Aaron and Psalm 133. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing – Life forevermore.”  How precious life is when people live together in harmony. This psalm reflects a warm, quiet joy as we imagine anointing oil coming down over the head, over the beard and onto the robe. People living together in peace and unity is the high point of Christian community, is the sign that the Lord is present in the community. The oil that Moses used to anoint Aaron as high priest (Ex. 29:7) was costly, pure, scented, sacred, and purposeful. Living in harmony with others is just as precious, pleasant, life-giving and meaningful. Oil is what set apart Aaron and made him holy. Oil is what consecrated Aaron. In the same way, harmony is what sets the Christian apart from the world. Harmony is what is distinctive and makes the believers sacred. To live in harmony, brothers and sisters see each other as priests, with the unifying oil of love flowing down each believer, saturating the whole body to the hem of the robe.

When harmony is achieved, separate parts are intentionally combined, separate strands are braided together, to create a beautiful whole. Apparent differences are either reconciled or overlooked for the greater good of unity. Great efforts are made at mutual understanding. Adjustments are made in order to fit together. Complementary notes are sung together to enjoy a compelling harmony. “May God, who gives patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-7, NLT).

In Scripture, the oil of anointing symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and in fact is used by the Holy Spirit. So the anointing of oil on Aaron’s head lends itself to a spiritual application. When the Spirit is applied to each of us, when we are anointed, it is never sprinkled or dribbled… The Spirit is always poured, just like in Psalm 133.

a. ...till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high.” (Isaiah 32:15);

b. “Exalted to the right hand of God He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.‘ (Acts 2:33);

c. “They were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.” (Acts 10:45);

d. “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:5);

e. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:5-6).

Harmony, like fragrantly scented oil, spreads its perfume outwardly. When Christians love each other and are of the same mind and working together, that love spreads to all who can see it. The anointing oil of harmony spreads the aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15). The early church leader Origen once said that the perfume of the knowledge of God is pervasive in the world, thanks to “the mystery of the anointing in which all Christians share; Jesus received the anointing with the oil of gladness in all its fullness. Those who are partakers in Jesus, each according to his own measure, partake also in His anointing. Since Christ is in fact the Head of the Church which forms one single body with Him, the precious oil poured upon the Head, runs down to Aaron’s beard and all the way to the very fringes of His garment.” Fr. Cantalamessa follows up that idea with this thought: “The Holy Spirit is the precious ointment that is poured out on the head of the new High Priest who is Christ Jesus; from Him, the Head, it spreads like a soaking oil down through His body, the Church, to the very hem of its garment, there where the Church touches the world.” (R. Cantalamessa, Come, Creator Spirit).

Aaron’s Tragic Mistake. “When the people saw that Moses was a long time before coming down the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said to him, ‘Get to work, make us a god to go at our head; for that Moses, the man who brought us here from Egypt – we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron replied, ‘Strip off the gold rings in the ears of your wives and your sons and daughters, and bring them to me.’  (Exodus 32:1-2). The forty-year wilderness journey of the Israelites could easily be divided into BC and AC: Before the Calf and After the Calf. The Israelites couldn’t have made a worse mistake. It was the worst thing they could have done. After countless stupendous miracles for their benefit by Yahweh, the people panic and lose hope in Moses’ leadership and Yahweh’s presence. They construct a pagan fertility god to worship. Moses was understandably outraged, and so was Yahweh. After personally witnessing the plagues of Egypt, the Red Sea, miraculous water supply, manna from heaven and the defeat of the Amalekites, one would think the people were grounded in an unshakable faith in Yahweh. But they lost faith, they panicked, and they had a major spiritual weak moment. They fashioned, with the help of Aaron, a golden calf god, and worshiped it with burnt offerings, and peace offerings, and an orgy of dance and sexual self-indulgence. They couldn’t resist the temptation to return to pagan idolatry.

Unfortunately, Aaron was right in the middle of this spiritual chaos. Since Moses was up the mountain talking with Yahweh, the people went to Aaron and asked him to make a god to worship. Aaron, essentially a follower and not a leader in this situation, agreed to collect gold from everyone, and he molded a golden calf. He then made an altar in front of the calf for pagan sacrifices. Moses returned to the people after receiving the Ten Commandments, and he witnessed the pagan idolatry and revelry. He immediately threw the stone tablets to the ground, smashing them to pieces. He then took the golden calf, burned it, and ground it into powder. He took the powder, threw it into the water, and forced the people to drink it. He wanted the people to literally ingest this sinful outrage to remind them to never do this again. That must have made quite an impression. This is when Aaron offered his weak excuses for his involvement. These are evil people, he told Moses. Why, they gave me the gold, I threw it into the fire – and out came the calf! Aaron, give me a break, as Moses no doubt rolled his eyes.

The Israelites committed a horrific sin, and even though they were soon forgiven after Moses’ advocacy, more punishment was in order. Aaron didn’t get punished, which is interesting, but over 3,000 Israelites were slain for their part in rejecting Yahweh. Apparently, Aaron came to his senses after his monumental weak moment, and he succeeded in becoming an effective and faithful high priest to the end of his days.