Exodus 28:1-3 And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazer and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons.
2. And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother for glory and for beauty
3. And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to the work thereof, even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen’
Exodus 32: 1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him. Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me…..
4. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and after he had made it a molten calf; and they said. These be thy gods O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt…..
17. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp’
What can be sadder than a person whose secret acts of corruption are uncovered just when an extraordinary promotion has been agreed for him in the boardroom by the highest echelons of management? Or a person who leaves the winning team just before their luck changes? Especially when the promotion or winning comes with a remuneration package designed to give them ‘glory and beauty’ for all the wonderful ways in which they sacrificed earlier for the organization? How terrible it must have been for Aaron to later find out the plans God had for him and how terribly he had let down the leadership team of God, Moses and himself when the full import of the idolatry he allowed was exposed in the bright light.
I have thought interminably about what pushed Aaron to build the first and most horrid idol after Israel came out of Egypt. How could anyone, after being a part of the team whose physical presentations to Pharaoh precipitated the ten terrible plagues in Egypt, ever ascribe the power behind the exodus to an idol he himself made from gold earrings? How can anyone who personally experienced the parting of the red sea say the sacrilegious things that Aaron said? How can anyone, after tasting the miracles of manna, quail and water from rocks pour scorn on the giver of those miracles? It beats any imagination.
And perhaps the answer does not sit in imagination. I believe that it sits in the deep power of emotions in the human being, and the devastating effect of cultures that give us the wrong values. Could it be that Aaron secretly thought all along that Moses was actually displaying magical powers he got when he lived as prince of Egypt, and did not believe what Moses said about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – but felt afraid or unwilling to tell Moses his real opinion? Was it possible that even after seeing the physical glory of the God of Israel, Aaron thought that God to be like one of the defeated gods of Egypt, such that it was appropriate to discount His power if another source of power could be raised? So was it possible that Aaron was really not the holder of the faith Moses professed even while he spoke as the mouthpiece of Moses – but he failed to tell this deep truth to Moses because it was more suitable to go along with Moses? Had the polytheism of Egypt destroyed Aaron’s ability to have a monotheistic faith? Or was Aaron simply jealous of Moses as they worked together in the leadership of the exodus – and so was able to contradict Moses and seize power when offered to him – careless of the consequences? No one will ever know, because we are not told.
What we know is that not only Aaron, but also his children, showed a derision of Moses’ God and Moses’ authority, while Moses’ God planned to put them in a priestly order far above that of their brothers the Levites. And yet Aaron was Moses’ right hand man in the public realm from the time Moses returned to lead the exodus, and until this event. The expectations of Aaron’s position belied his actions when he was pushed to the wall. His words showed a different faith from what he was officially supposed to hold.
It seemed that Moses’ success was presumed to be Aaron’s success, just because they were partners, but without the public unity, their internal contents were different. The much imagined integration of faith with work was a façade, when it came to Aaron. And when the true content of Aaron’s work was exhibited, Joshua said ‘I hear the sound of war’. Eventually, Aaron and his sons died in the wilderness, and Joshua became Moses’ successor.
Although Aaron’s uniform as high priest was designed by God Himself, Hebrews Chapter 11 ‘forgot’ to include him in the hall of faith – while remembering Rahab the prostitute. The lessons are deep. When we fail to align the internal truth of what we believe and ascribe to, with the external truth of our work; when we fail to speak up – and pretend to be part of what we do not believe in, we open ourselves up to ‘war’. War in our own souls. War between our internal and external worlds. War in the outcomes of our lives. We live a disintegrated life. And when the bubble bursts, we are the ones that will be expelled.
I wish Aaron had lived in his own truth. I wish he had not accepted to be Moses’ right hand man, if he did not believe in the God Moses attributed the work to. I wish he had resigned when he realized that he did not believe in the ‘God of Abraham’ as the one who was leading them out of Egypt. But perhaps he was too attracted to the power Moses displayed, and could not resist being a participant. Living a quiet life of integrity – in which you choose what you love and love what you choose – and a life of clamorous war in which the expression of joy is only a high pitched sound hiding a contradiction beneath – which one should you prefer? Integrity is expensive. More expensive than we imagine, until we are tested. May God help us to bring order into our lives through a firm integration of all our expressions.
Prayer: Lord, help me to never follow any glamor from cheap ambition, lust or greed. Help me to find the truth for myself, and speak only what I believe in and trust as truth. Help me to choose integrity and faithfulness to what I believe in at all times. So that I will never do what is clearly different from what I publicly confessed as my role. May I never allow chaos in my life, when you are planning to give me glory and beauty. Amen