Open Your Bible
Exodus 4:27-31, Exodus 7:8-13, Exodus 32:1-6, Exodus 32:21-24, Leviticus 8:1-5, Leviticus 9:1-7, 1 Corinthians 10:7
Let me be straight with you. I was excited to share a few reflections about “Men and Women in the Word.” But I wasn’t super stoked when I saw that I’d been assigned to write about Aaron. Aaron. Really? Moses’s right-hand man? The guy who made the golden calf? What more was there to say about a person who nearly caused the destruction of Israel a few days after God parted the Red Sea?
I wrote down a few adjectives—words that described my assumptions about Aaron. To me, he seemed like a charismatic guy. A classic over-achiever. A man who was called by God, but also bent on pleasing people. The more I jotted down the adjectives, the more I realized I was describing myself.
Aaron has a complicated story. Before God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He’d already called Aaron to start moving toward Moses to help him. In the story of Israel’s redemption, Aaron played a massive role—speaking on behalf of Moses, who spoke on behalf of God. He saw God’s miracles firsthand. He called down plagues to strike Egypt and spare Israel. He walked through the Red Sea on dry land, surrounded by water like walls.
Not long after those miracles, Moses left Aaron in charge while he went to Mount Sinai and received instructions from God on how to build the future tabernacle (Exodus 25–31). Moses had been on the mountain for more than 40 days, longer than he’d planned to be gone. Soon, cajoled by the Israelites, Aaron assumed Moses had died. While Moses was hearing instructions from the Lord, Aaron was busy building a golden calf.
Unable to wait patiently for God’s instructions, he moved on with his own plans. Comfortable in his position of power, he used his gifts to lead people astray. Aaron was of feeble mind and character, and he was quick to turn his back on the one true God.
As Moses came down from the mountain to see this ghastly scene, the truth was revealed. God may have called Aaron into holy service, but Aaron wasn’t holy. He was impatient, charismatic, and reckless. He was a sinner in need of saving. Aaron was just like me.
Though God went on to punish the Israelites for their sin, he spared Aaron. In His mercy and grace, God allowed Aaron to see the tabernacle, fully built. Compared to the golden calf Aaron created with his feeble hands, the tabernacle was a spectacle of beauty, a moveable house constructed with expertise to God’s exact specifications (Exodus 4:30). Aaron was the first high priest to serve there, charged with carrying out sacrifices for the people. In that role, I imagine Aaron came to understand his need for atonement. As he sacrificed real animals, spilling real blood, I wonder if he continued to repent over that first, false image that he’d created.
We are all Aaron. Called by God, and yet capable of turning our back on Him. Gifted, and yet capable of using those gifts for our own glory rather than God’s instruction. We are all sinners, in need of an atoning sacrifice.