Exodus 32:21-32 makes for fascinating, but disturbing reading. We have previously read the incident of the descent into idolatry by the people of Israel, under the leadership of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Remember that Aaron, in addition to being Moses’ brother, was granted delegated authority by God. He was identified to be the mouthpiece of Moses, after Moses complained to God that he could not speak. Then God used Aaron to feature prominently in the early miracles that were done in Egypt before the King of Egypt in order to secure the release of the Israelites. The fact that the people approached Aaron and pretty much demanded him to lead them into sin is a clear indication that Aaron had failed to distinguish himself as the servant and representative of God as Moses had done. Given his physical and spiritual pedigree, only Aaron could be blamed for that.
Oh God, you have given us all your Holy Spirit, and with Him, all the claims to the rights of Children of God. But quite often we have failed to live in the light of the legacy of your light and love. The world therefore looks at us and fails to see you. They disrespect us so much that they would even invite us or command us to lead them in sinning against you. Please forgive us Lord. May your presence and glory be once again reflected in our lives, so that love us or hate us, men would identify us with you, and would bring honor and glory to your Name.
In Exodus 32:21, Moses makes a question that does not require an answer. There was no acceptable answer that Aaron could have given that could have justified what he did. He led them into committing the grave sin of idolatry, and had let them get out of control, resulting in weakness before their enemies (Exodus 32:25). What really blow my mind is Aaron’s response. Silence would have been more appropriate. Repentance would have been most appropriate, seeing that the damage had already been done. Instead, Aaron lies, and does so pathetically (Exodus 32:23-24). What was even stranger is that there is no recorded personal consequence for Aaron’s mammoth transgression. But not so fast. Skip across to Deuteronomy 9:18-21. Now it makes sense. It was only the powerful intercession for Aaron by Moses that saved his life, and for that matter, the lives of all the Israelites. And yet, after that Moses and his sister Miriam challenged the authority of Moses (Numbers 12:1-16)
It is against the backdrop of the real possibility that the sin of Israel justified their total annihilation, that the destruction of 3000 randomly Israelites can be appreciated (Exodus 32:26-29). Also it seemed that by failing to respond to Moses’ invitation for all those who were on the Lord’s side to join him (Exodus 32:26), all but the Levites brought the sentence of death on themselves. It was therefore the mercy of God that only 3000 were killed on this occasion. And the fact that not one of the Levites were killed by Israelites that they attacked, demonstrates that this was a God supervised judgment, and not a human act of murder.
Moses’ pleading for the Israelites is but a weak type of the intercessory work of Jesus on our behalf. For after all, Moses had only imputed authority to intercede because he himself was sinful. Jesus, on the other hand, has inherent authority, because He alone is sinless. But remember that the work of the intercessor, does not make our sin less heinous to God. Don’t push it (Romans 6:1-4).
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