Scripture: And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” Exodus 32:21 ESV
Observation: Following a similar protocol to ancient Ugaritic tradition, Moses burns the idol’s flammable elements, then grinds its remains into powder and scatters its dust on the water, and lastly, makes the people drink it (32:20). Moses then confronts Aaron (above verse), who had accommodated the people’s clamoring for a god to lead them in Moses’ absence (32:1-6). Following the example of his forefather Adam, Aaron deflects responsibility with four feeble excuses:
- “You know the people, that they are set on evil” (v.22).
- “For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him” (v.23).
- “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” (v.24).
In essence, Aaron, acting like an adolescent, plays the role of the victim and blames others for his actions. And like a child, he fancifully claims that the evidence (the golden calf) magically formed itself in the fire (blaming the laws of nature).
Takeaway: Like Aaron, when we take on a victim mentality and deflect responsibility for our actions, we stunt our spiritual and emotional growth and damage relationships. Moreover, when we fail to assume responsibility for our actions, we close the door to reconciling with those we have offended. We also carry the weight of guilt that will spur other unhealthy behavior that can further damage relationships. Lastly, when we succumb to self-pity and blame others, we suppress the ability to problem-solve and make different choices next time. But when we humble our hearts and confess our sins, grace abounds.
Indeed, grace brings about a positive outcome. When Aaron and Miriam later acted foolishly at Hazeroth by questioning whether the Lord spoke only through Moses (challenging Moses’ leadership), the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy. But this time, Aaron assumed responsibility, confessing his and Miriam’s sins to Moses and pleading with Moses to intercede on their behalf to the Lord for Miriam’s healing. Moses received his confession and cried out to the Lord, who relented and healed Miriam (Numbers, chapter 12).
So how does our Gospel speak to this issue? What Moses could do only in part (interceding for Aaron and Miriam), the Son of God did in full: covering our Father’s wrath against us by taking on our sins and crediting his righteousness to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). And when the reality of our Gospel permeates our souls, we discover the richness of his grace that frees us to take responsibility for our actions, confessing our sins and receiving his mercy and grace to help us in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16).
Prayer: Father God, thank you for giving us your Son, who has freed us to live under your Covenant of Grace. Would you please help us take responsibility for our actions and receive your grace and mercy that allows us to move onward and upward? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling