Irony. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think about Aaron and the Golden Calf incident found in Exodus 32. I’ve often said that, People want an Aaron, but we need a Moses. Aaron was pressured by the congregation Israel to give them what they wanted—a familiar style of worship. (Golden Calf worship was an Egyptian thing.) So out came the calf…! Aaron was sensitive to what the people wanted, but did not have the backbone to give them what they needed. Moses, on the other hand, had quite a backbone—and a whole bunch of folks ended up drinking gold dust, crying out for mercy, and repenting before Almighty God!
Irony behind the irony. What is Ironic is the fact that while the people grumbled in their impatience for a comfortable form of worship, God (in Exodus chapters 25-31) was downloading to Moses on the mountaintop the exact forms of worship that pleased Him—truly heavenly worship! God explained in great detail how all of it would be paid for (Chapter 25) and how the tabernacle and all of its furnishings should look. God laid out the dimensions, the building materials, the purposes, and the significance of each and every aspect of His dwelling place on earth. Even the robes the Priests (like Aaron!) would wear were designed and described by God to Moses in exacting detail. The Almighty God of the universe intended to actually dwell in the very presence of His people and interact with them in a way pictured and manifested by every piece of tabernacle furniture, clothing, and service. God’s heart was (and is!) to Tabernacle with His people, but human religiousness and impatience settled(s) for quick, easy, and familiar… Forty days seemed too long; the people wanted relationship with God on their terms “right here, right now.” God wanted something so much deeper, better, richer…
Irony behind the Irony behind the Irony. What is really ironic, however, is this. In Exodus 24, we discover that Moses, Aaron, and 72 elders of Israel (70 leaders plus two of Aaron’s sons) were invited by God to come up the mountain. There, the Scriptures tell us, they saw God, glimpsed heaven, and ate a covenant meal with the Lord God Almighty! Yahweh did not kill them for gazing upon Him; He blessed them and ate with them (a foretaste of the Lord’s Supper!)! All 74 returned to the camp, but Moses and Joshua returned to the mountain for forty days. Meanwhile, the other 72 including Aaron (and Hur!) stayed below in the camp… got impatient… listened to the complaining… and built a golden calf! Is that not devastating? They saw God. They ate with God. They experienced heaven. And then built an idol!
The non-ironic truth: God wants to Tabernacle (live with!) His people—but simply glimpsing His glory, simply eating and communing at His table, does not mean we are dwelling with Him. True, Heaven-breathed Worship is the hallmark of His Tabernacle—His dwelling place! We’ll know we are dwelling with Him when the Worship “we” bring—the “new song” we sing—flows from His heart and design, not our own. True Worship emanates from heaven and returns to heaven (Psalm 150). We’ll know we are dwelling with Him when everything flows from Him and to Him. We’ll know we are dwelling with Him when our human religiousness, impatience, and desire for the familiar gives way to awe and wonder in the Presence of the One whose designs for worship far exceed anything we can think or imagine!