And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us …’ So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
When Moses furiously calls Aaron forward and demands to know what these people did to him to turn his heart, it strikes me that Aaron can’t give a martyr-type horror story in response. He can’t break down in a flood of tears and say, “Oh Moses, it was horrific! They seized my wife and children, tied them up to the altar before my eyes, and started to light the fire till I relented!” Or “a horde of wicked men tore out my beard and blindfolded me and punched me in the face till I couldn’t think straight!” But wasn’t the fire blazing hot for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Weren’t the beatings painful for the apostle Paul? Didn’t the lifelong ostracism sting Mary, and the dungeon horrify John the Baptizer, and the isolation rattle Elijah? Yet these remained faithful in spite of suffering, just as our Lord did.
Yet, Aaron’s lack of excuse for committing this crime isn’t even as bad as the gutlessness of his ‘apology’! Where is the sackcloth and ash? Where is the heartfelt cry, “I have sinned against the Lord?” Even godless Pharaoh was able to muster that much! Maybe Aaron’s been a spokesman for too long. Maybe he just cares for rhetoric more than righteousness. Maybe he thinks he can hide behind a clever turn of phrase before the eyes of God. “Moses!” he effectively says; “don’t be angry at me; you know these people are evil. I simply threw their gold into the fire, and, well, remember all that black magic we witnessed in Egypt? That’s what happened here! Same thing: I threw the gold down and a devil brought forward this abomination!"
But God’s never fooled. Not by fig leaves or clever wordplay or sob stories. And if we don’t heed that lesson from Aaron’s story today, friend, we’ll learn it from our own.