The Grace of God
How do you react when someone fails you? Perhaps a better questions is, "How does God treat us when we fail him?"
How do you handle it when someone you are counting on fails?
Sometimes it depends on the severity of the failure, right? There is a difference between failing to reply to my text last night vs failing to show up to work.
Sometimes it depends on the person who fails, right? If it is someone that is really close to us vs something that we hardly know.
And sometimes, our response to other people’s failure is simply formed by the pressures and problems (or lack thereof) that we are facing at the time.
Last week we examined what happens when we are tested. Sometimes we pass, sometimes we fail. Today I want us to look at one person that failed miserably, and then see how God handled it.
Aaron was PICKED by God to be His mouthpiece before Pharaoh.
14 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. 15 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. 16 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 4:14–16 NLT
Aaron was the one who spoke to Pharaoh. He performed the miracles with Moses. He was there for all the works of God: the plagues, Passover, crossing the Red Sea. He was right beside Moses the entire time, seeing God and being an agent of God’s will and power.
This is a powerful position to be in! He is to represent God and speak for God in front of God’s people as well as God’s enemies.
In Exodus 24 Aaron gets to go up on the mountain and have a covenant meal with God.
In Exodus 28, God is instructing Moses while he is on the top of the mountain, in the cloud for 40 days. He calls Aaron out to continue in his role of representing God to the people:
Though God did not speak in chapter and verse, we have Exodus 28 talking about preparing garments for Aaron and his descendants. Then we have chapter 29 describing the official service, in front of all the people of Israel, whereby Aaron and his family will be consecrated (set apart) for the work of God.
1 “Call for your brother, Aaron, and his sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. Set them apart from the rest of the people of Israel so they may minister to me and be my priests. 2 Make sacred garments for Aaron that are glorious and beautiful. 3 Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom. Have them make garments for Aaron that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service. // Exodus 28:1–3 NLT
These special garments were not just beautiful because they were going to be used in the tabernacle, but they were designed to make Aaron look glorious. The idea most likely being that the people who represent and reflect God to people ought to also reflect the glory and splendor of the God they represent. (this mindset is also seen in much of the architecture we see in the large cathedrals)
40 Make tunics, sashes, and headbands for Aaron’s sons to give them glory and beauty. 41 Put these on your brother Aaron and his sons; then anoint, ordain, and consecrate them, so that they may serve me as priests. // Exodus 28:40–41 CSB
The purpose in all of this is to have Aaron and his sons serve God at his very dwelling place on earth!
44 Yes, I will consecrate the Tabernacle and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, 46 and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God. // Exodus 29:44–46 NLT
It is obvious that God has some special plans and a special place for Aaron! He has been hand picked to represent God and display His glory to the entire nation of Israel! These are the plans that God has scribed in stone and is giving to Moses on the top of Mount Sinai.
When Moses went up in the mountain, he left Aaron in charge. Aaron was the mouthpiece of God through the 10 plagues in Egypt. Arron is the head of the priestly tribe and his family will forever serve the lord as priests. Aaron is family, so Moses was sure he could trust him.
As the people get restless, they approach Aaron and belittle Moses and God, and demand that Aaron make a god for them.
When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make gods for us who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!” // Exodus 32:1 CSB
QUIZ: kids, what should Aaron have done/said?
Yeah, even the kids know the right answer, but Aaron did Not do the right thing.
2 Aaron replied to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the gold rings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, “Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” // Exodus 32:2–4 CSB
- Takes up an offering of gold
- Makes a finely detailed golden calf (FASHIONS it with an engraving tool!)
- Presents it to the people – and the people liked it!
Leadership: should always listen to and serve those they lead, but NEVER at the expense of the glory of God! Aaron formed a calf, a symbol many of their pagan neighbors would also worship and gave the inanimate pile of gold credit for leading the people out of Egypt.
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of it and made an announcement: “There will be a festival to the Lord tomorrow.” 6 Early the next morning they arose, offered burnt offerings, and presented fellowship offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to party. // Exodus 32:5–6 CSB
Do you notice what Aaron did? He chose to enter the same kind of covenant relationship with this golden calf as he just did with Yahweh!
- Build altar
- Offer burnt offerings
- Offer fellowship offerings
He JUST ate this meal with the REAL GOD!!!!!
God confronts Aaron through Moses
7 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Go down at once! For your people you brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly. 8 They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them; they have made for themselves an image of a calf. They have bowed down to it, sacrificed to it, and said, ‘Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ ” // Exodus 32:7–8 CSB
Some things that strike me as odd in this passage:
- God tells Moses to take care of it when He could have just approached Aaron himself (he WILL do this later with another incident)
- Though Aaron made the calf, God blames “the people”. I am not sure if God is just lumping Aaron in with the rest of the crowd or purposefully NOT calling out Aaron by name
Moses confronts Aaron
So Moses trucks down the mountain to put out the fires. I am not sure if having all the time or going down a mountain would be good or bad. It might help me cool off, or it could make me more angry!
21 Then Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you have led them into such a grave sin?” 22 “Don’t be enraged, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know that the people are intent on evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make gods for us who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off,’ and they gave it to me. When I threw it into the fire, out came this calf!”. // Exodus 32:21–24 CSB
THEN, when confronted, we see the same pattern that we watched in the beginning of Genesis. These scene is a flash back to the garden.
REMEMBER: the big picture story is seen all throughout the scriptures.
First, Aaron tries to blame the people. “you know their hearts are wicked” (like Eve blamed the serpent). Then he tries to say that the people made him do it (like Adam blamed Eve). Then, he lies to try to downplay what he has done, “I put gold in the fire and this calf just popped out! (like Cain after killing Abel).
Leaders: we will all make mistakes, but the sign of a godly leader, a leader of integrity, is to own up to our mistakes. Aaron is way out of line and if it were up to me, he would NOT be leading the priests. But, it’s not up to me…
25 Moses saw that the people were out of control, for Aaron had let them get out of control, making them a laughingstock to their enemies. 26 And Moses stood at the camp’s entrance and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites gathered around him. 27 He told them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says, ‘Every man fasten his sword to his side; go back and forth through the camp from entrance to entrance, and each of you kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.’ ” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand men fell dead that day among the people. 29 Afterward Moses said, “Today you have been dedicated to the Lord, since each man went against his son and his brother. Therefore you have brought a blessing on yourselves today.” 30 The following day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a grave sin. Now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I will be able to atone for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a grave sin; they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 Now if you would only forgive their sin. But if not, please erase me from the book you have written.” 33 The Lord replied to Moses: “Whoever has sinned against me I will erase from my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I told you about; see, my angel will go before you. But on the day I settle accounts, I will hold them accountable for their sin.” 35 And the Lord inflicted a plague on the people for what they did with the calf Aaron had made. // Exodus 32:25–35 CSB
When we make bad decisions, decisions that contradict God’s word, as leaders we not only mock God, but we also are mocking those we lead. We set them up for humiliation and pain.
In this case, not only were they the laughing stock of the region, but in the end 3,000 of them lost their lives and many of them became ill with a plague – we do not know if they died.
Aaron could have prevented all of this.
Leaders, parents, friends, we must never give answers or advice or counsel that knowingly contradicts God and his word or we set people up for failure and pain. It is better to NOT be popular and to have people leave or stop being your friend because you stand up for what honors God than to be responsible for their consequences.
So, if you were God, and you saw what Aaron was doing while you were giving Moses instructions about how to bless Aaron and how he would serve as the first High Priest, what would you do?
- Pick a new representative to be priest?
- Wipe out Aaron with the plague or have him killed?
- Choose to use Aaron anyway?
We see God’s answer in chapter 40 of Exodus:
13 Dress Aaron with the sacred garments and anoint him, consecrating him to serve me as a priest. 14 Then present his sons and dress them in their tunics. 15 Anoint them as you did their father, so they may also serve me as priests. With their anointing, Aaron’s descendants are set apart for the priesthood forever, from generation to generation.” 16 Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him. // Exodus 40:13–16 NLT
The GRACE of God
So, while this calf-party was taking place, God was giving instructions to Moses about Aaron and his special place of honor.
Did God know what Aaron was going to do? Yup.
After Aaron did it, God then continues with his plan, and Aaron is consecrated as priest.
What does this teach us? God does NOT select us based upon our good works and good heart, nor does he discard us because of our sins. God chooses whom he chooses because it brings him pleasure and he can use each and every one of us regardless of the past offenses we have.
Romans 9:10-13 (NLT) - 10 This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. 11 But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; 12 he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” 13 In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.”
FACT: Aaron will later rebel against Moses and God will confront Aaron about it! God knew this would happen, and still picked Aaron.
I have a very hard stance on people who have the title Priest, Pastor, Elder, etc. Why? Because our job is to “be examples to the flock”
12 Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. // 1 Timothy 4:12 CSB
However, I must also be careful, lest “I too fall into sin”
12 So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. // 1 Corinthians 10:12 CSB
We all fail. The only perfect one was Jesus. The good news is NOT that we all fail and have a lot of company ? The good news is that even though we all fail, God is a God of grace.
Perhaps you have felt like there is no way God could ever love you? Maybe you have looked at your past and said to yourself, “God could never use someone like me for his work”.
Aaron is a great reminder that God chooses us and uses us just because he wants to, and it brings him great pleasure. Your past, and even your future sins can be forgiven, and God can still bless and use you. God’s grace is never an excuse to keep on doing wrong. Rather it is a reminder of God’s love for us and his goodness to us.
It is also a reminder that WE need to be full of grace towards others.
We were created for what? Representation and Relationship. If we are going to represent God well, to be “image bearers”, we must learn to reflect his character. He is a God of grace.
I might have wanted to find a replacement for Aaron.
God did not.
There are times we will be frustrated or hurt by others, and we will want to cut them off. While there may still be consequences to their actions, there can still be grace offered.