CH 9 RECIPIE FOR DISASTER

Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.  He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.”  When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it,… Exodus 24:13-15

 Before Moses and Joshua went up the mountain to receive God’s copy of their agreement and the instructions for building a tabernacle, he gave the elders two instructions. Aaron or Hur could handle any disputes in his absence. They must wait for his return.  Moses disappeared into a cloud, and no one knew when he would return. Does that sound familiar? Didn’t Jesus disappear into a cloud with a promise that he would return?[1]  

The similarities are unmistakable and the contrast evident. Under the law God’s people must prepare a place for God to dwell among them. Under grace God prepares a place for man to dwell with him. Before Jesus disappeared in a cloud he said, “I am going away to prepare a place for you.”[2] Sadly there is one more thing similar. The things God’s people do when we have to WAIT!

 Exodus 32:1

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

 God knew his people would choose another leader when they grew impatient. He already prepared Aaron to deal with them when he commanded Moses to bring Aaron with him on his fourth trip to the mountaintop.

God is so desirous that it would always go well with us and our children that he will warn us and prepare us for the danger that lies ahead, but we must be alert or we will miss the warning sign.

Exodus 20:22-24

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.             “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.

 When God spoke these words, Aaron was present at God’s invitation. Even though God did not speak directly to Aaron, it was meant for Aaron to hear because it was God’s desire that things go well for Aaron and his children. God saw the roaring lion looking for someone to devour prowling around the camp, so he warned Aaron not to make a god of gold and told him where he could go to be blessed.

After Moses, Aaron and the elders sealed their covenant agreement by having dinner with God, Everyone returned to the camp except Moses and Joshua. The elders had been waiting for less than a month when they asked Aaron to make a god to led them because they didn’t know what happened to Moses,

 Exodus 32:2-4

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3     So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool (Aaron had done this before). Then they (Aaron was not acting alone) said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

 God told Aaron twice, once when God spoke the Ten Commandments and once standing with Moses in God’s presence, don’t make graven images to worship. Aaron failed to obey God. Let’s investigate why.   

 LACK OF HUMILITY

 1 Peter 5:5-8

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (KJV says “exalt in due time”, the Greek word is hupsoo and in this context means to give you a spiritual uplifting or revival in due time.)  7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

 Aaron was Moses’ older brother, but when it comes to the things of God Aaron was young man. He lived in Egypt for forty years serving Pharaoh’s teachings about God. Where do you think Aaron learned how to make a god out of gold? While Aaron was perfecting the art of making gods men can manipulate, Moses was living in Midian serving a real God that he cannot manipulate. In spiritual things Moses is the elder and Aaron must submit to his younger brother.

It takes a lot of humility to let your little brother tell you what to do. What do you think went through the minds of the religious leaders in Jerusalem when 30-year-old Jesus, who had not studied under them except for a three day question and answer session when he was 12, came along with advice on how to worship God? If you don’t know God’s ways it’s dangerous to be a leader in the church. God always gives us what we need put he puts it in humble places to confound the proud.

If you are an elder and have been an elder for a long time its very easy to become arrogant and your own arrogance will rob you of that which is truly God. I have a pretty good idea what the religious leaders were thinking about Jesus, “You know nothing carpenter from Nazareth, how dare you suggest we are not running the temple properly. We were doing this before you were born!”

Their arrogance kept them from receiving everything they needed to be accepted and blessed by the God they had devoted their lives to. Many of the chief rulers believed Jesus but were afraid to admit it.[3] If Aaron and the religious leaders of Jesus day would have humbled themselves and submitted to the younger,[4] in due time, God would have exalted them. Ultimately, many of them in Moses and Jesus day repented of their arrogance but there is always a minority that would rather be first than be blessed. 

 HEARERS ONLY

We must be alert because God rarely speaks directly to us. It is much more likely God will arrange to have the things we need to know spoken in our presence. This is one reason we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.[5] God will ordain a church service or Bible study for one person if he sees that person is headed for danger.  The people God speaks through by song, prophecies and the preached word rarely know who it’s for because God respects your privacy and the things going on between you and him are personal. No one else needs to know. At the same time we can all glean from a service even if it is for one person because the gifts of the Spirit manifest for the profit of all[6]. Be alert, pay attention, or things may not go well with you even though it is God’s desire that they do.    

Did Aaron pay attention? Was Aaron alert? Obviously not! At this time in his life it is more likely that Aaron is angry with God because he does not have anything to do but sit on a pew and listen. He was not humble like Moses and doesn’t like submitting to his younger brother. Therefore Aaron heard the word, but he did not do it.

 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:22-24

 When God invited Aaron to the mountaintop and told Moses not to make gods of gold he held up a mirror for Aaron to look in. God told Aaron who he was and gave him advance warning not to do what was in his heart. He warned Aaron to worship the invisible living God not an idol of your own creation. If Aaron had treasured every word God said whether it was addressed to him or not, when the pressure for revival became intense in Moses absence, he would have led the people to God’s altar, and God would have blessed them. God told him as much on the mountaintop.

 BELIEVING LIES

If your leaders are weak disaster is certain because immature people probe, pick, manipulate and complain until they get their way. All they need to get their ungodly way is one weak leader with the authority to give it to them. The people knew Moses went up the mountain, but they did not see him disappear into the cloud, the elders did. Just like we know Jesus returned to heaven in a cloud. We did not see Jesus depart, the apostles did. The leading men of the tribes of Israel and the elders came to Moses and said the fire will consume us and we will die.[7] They are weak ineffective leaders because they believed a lie about their God.

The attitude or the spirit of the leadership always permeates their following because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Throughout the history of Israel when there was a good leader the people did good. When there was a bad leader the people behaved badly. When there was no leader every one did what was right in his or her eyes.

Moses was only gone forty days and nights, barely over a month. But the people have picked up on the elder’s attitude that God will kill them. Everybody came back down the mountain except Moses and Joshua. All the elders can tell them is Moses disappeared into a cloud, and we must wait until he comes back. The elders have no viable evidence that Moses will ever come back except Moses word. The elders have been getting phone calls all hours of the day and night by people asking difficult questions. Where is Moses? In the fire! Didn’t you say the fire would kill us? I think it will! When will he be back? Don’t know! Can’t we do something while he is away? Not sure! What if he doesn’t come back? Well…! Do you think he’s dead? Now that’s a real possibility! It did not take long for the people to come to a legitimate conclusion based on the information they embraced as truth!

Exodus 32:1

            …”we don’t know what has happened to him”

 If the information you base your knowledge on is a lie, you will come to accurate conclusions that are inaccurate. All the people had was information from men who believed God would kill them. The source of the information you embrace is just as relevant as the information. It is very difficult to sort out what is true and what is a lie and that is especially true about God. And especially true in an age where we only know in part. The church in the wilderness doesn’t know that the God in that fire is willing to die for them.

I can’t be critical of Israel’s conclusions, or anyone’s conclusion about God, when all we have is partial knowledge. The incomplete part we possess produces libraries of books that are not worth the paper they are written on. How do we sort through all of this information? How do we know what is true about God. Some say we are created, some say we evolved. They both have books written by men to prove their point of view and both ideas must be accepted by faith. How do I know what to believe?

When you make judgments about God allow for reasonable doubt! I choose to believe creation because I have reasonable doubt that a fish could become a monkey and a monkey become a man. Where did the ocean come from that the fish lived in before it flopped out of the water to grow arms, legs and a tail so it could swing from trees and eat bananas. Who provided the fish an ocean and the monkey trees to live in and banana’s to eat? A Big Bang! What explosion has ever created order? Make a big bang that creates order instead of disorder, and I might have a reason to believe we just happened by chance. I have much more reason to believe that none of this is by chance.

The lesser is taught by the greater. Jesus said, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.”[8] A fish cannot teach himself to be a monkey nor can a monkey teach himself to be a man. Let me add one more thought. A man cannot teach himself to be a God, hence the vanity of idol worship. When we create the idol, we greater than the god our imagination fashioned.

Unfortunately, it was not unreasonable for the people to believe that they did not know what happened to Moses. Their leaders believed God would kill them and no one volunteered to go up that mountain to look for Moses dead body as proof. That alone is enough evidence to believe there is a power greater than themselves on the top of that mountain. They did not put that fire there. They cannot put that fire out. The fire is still burning and they are afraid of the fire. Therefore, it was reasonable to suspect Moses was dead. We just don’t know. Before this story is over three thousand will die simply because they could not WAIT for Moses to return.

 IMPATIENT

What did the people desire that made it hard to wait and created such misery for so many?

 Exodus 32:1

…“make us gods who will go before us”

 They desired a god to lead them. What is wrong with that desire? Not a thing if you have good leadership that loves the truth more than they love advancing their own ministries! It is not the people who walk out of churches and refuse to worship that create misery. The people who blindly worship at Aaron’s altar produce a flood of misinformation and misrepresentation that it is easy to drown in.

But Moses left Aaron in charge you might say! No, he didn’t! Moses left Aaron and Hur in charge of keeping peace by settling disputes. He did not leave them in charge of leading worship. Before Moses disappeared into the cloud he built an altar of earth where anyone could worship God and be blessed.

The people were tired of waiting for Moses to return. Worshiping at the altar of earth was hard because there is no one standing over them telling them how to do it right. Now add to that a frustrated priest who is longing to be in the spotlight. As Moses increased Aaron had decreased. When the people gathered around Aaron and asked for his help it appealed to his own unfulfilled desire. Remember Chapter 1, the lesson on Temptation; it was Eve’s desire for something good that got her in trouble. Like minds tend to flock together and Aaron was more than willing to give the people what they desired, so he could have what he desired: to be God’s man of the hour again.

 OLD WAYS

To understand why Aaron led the people into such gross error we need to consider that all of Aaron’s life he had been taught religion. His parents had great faith in God.[9] All of their children had a calling on their life to serve God, including Miriam.[10] In addition to all the religious activity at home Aaron was born in and grew up in a nation consumed with a religion that bore many similarities to the faith his parents taught him.[11] Like so many others in Israel, Aaron drifted away from the God of his fathers because the religion of Egypt gave him want he wanted today!

God never forgot Aaron. He had better things for him then leading people to worship vain and worthless things. God had his hand on Aaron’s life to be a high priest and I do not doubt that Aaron knew it when he was forty-three years old and his brother Moses came down from Pharaoh’s palace to say its time to be delivered from all this religious nonsense. Moses lived in Pharaoh’s house as a son. He knew the priest used religion to manipulate the people. The people didn’t believe Moses because they were happy with the religious nonsense. They were building great treasure cities. Pharaoh got the treasures and they had cucumbers, melons and all the meat they could eat. When Moses left Egypt, he also left Aaron in frustration with a calling that cannot find its fulfillment. Thinking the God of his fathers forgot about him Aaron sought fulfillment by worshipping Egypt’s gods and making plenty of gold cows, so others can worship god to.

Forty years of vain and worthless worship had elapsed when the God commanded Aaron, to go Midian and talk to Moses.[12] Aaron traveled to Horeb the mountain of God, also called Mt. Sinai, and Moses told Aaron everything the Lord was going to do. Not only was God going to do great things, but God still had a place for Aaron. God had appointed Aaron to speak to the people for Moses. It would be as if Aaron were Moses prophet and as if Moses were a God to Aaron.[13] Weary of Egypt’s empty religion, Aaron humbled himself to this bitter arrangement.

For the time being it was enough for Aaron just to have his brother in his life again and to have an important part to play in the great things God was about to do. The sweetness made the bitterness easier to swallow. He could handle being second fiddle to his younger brother, as least he thought he could. By the time they got to Egypt and Aaron began to fulfill his calling, he had all but forgot the bitterness for the glory that engulfed him. It took a long time but when it was God’s time for Aaron, he was so bright he couldn’t see his own face in the mirror.  

Aaron announced to the elders of his people their God had come to deliver them just like Joseph said he would.[14]  Aaron was the spark that lit the fire of revival in their midst. Aaron threw down the rod in the presence of the elders of Israel and it became a serpent; Aaron’s hand became leprous and it was instantly healed for all to see, Aaron turned water into blood and the sons of Jacob believed and worshipped God.[15] It was Aaron that started the negotiations with Pharaoh[16]. At God’s command it was Aaron that cast down the rod that turned into a serpent-eating serpent in Pharaoh’s presence not his younger brother Moses[17]. It was Aaron that caught the serpent by the tail and it turned back into a rod. Aaron had the power of God! Or did he?

When Pharaoh refused to yield to God Aaron stretched out the rod and the waters of Egypt turned to blood[18]. The power to make a man’s life miserable when he refuses to obey God is in Aaron’s hand. At God’s command Aaron stretched out the rod and frogs filled the land[19]. Aaron was having the time of his life. More than forty years he waited for this day and now the spotlight was on him in a big way! Every body in Egypt and Israel were talking about it. If you don’t obey God Aaron will stretch out that rod and you will be sorry. Aaron had the power of God! Or does he?

All Aaron had was a form of godliness with no understanding of its true power because Aaron loved himself and his ministry more than others. He proved it when he started fashioning gold cows and taught the people to serve Pharaoh’s gods in the land of Egypt. Yes, Aaron repented and tried to do the right thing, but there was much wrong in Aaron. When the frogs made Pharaoh and his people so miserable they could not find relief, Pharaoh called for Moses AND AARON to entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs. In his misery, Pharaoh reached out to the two guys that have been witnessing to him that they might pray for him. Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh’s presence but only Moses cried out to the Lord and the Lord did according to the word of Moses.[20] That my friend is the true power of Godliness! Not the power to make you miserable when you fail to obey God,  that is only a form of godliness. The power of godliness is the power to relieve the misery God sends when men do not obey him. When you can come before God and obtain relief for someone who does not deserve it you’ve got the power of God. When you possess this power God can use you to do more than make people miserable. At your humble request God will relent and remove the misery he has sent.

Why didn’t Aaron entreat the Lord like Pharaoh asked him to? To busy polishing the rod of judgment I guess. God saw Moses compassion and Aaron’s absence, but God is longsuffering. Your ministry will go away before you do. At God’s command Aaron stretched out the rod and dust became lice on man and beast[21].  Aaron was still being used by God but not for long. His light is beginning to flicker and fade because all he does is make men miserable. When they ask for relief Aaron has no mercy.

When it came time to send flies the Lord did not have anything for Aaron to do. He told Moses to confront Pharaoh.[22] Up to now it had been Aaron confronting Pharaoh. Once again, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron to ask for prayer because Pharaoh does not know who possesses the real power of godliness. Once again it was only Moses who prayed for relief and the Lord did what Moses requested.[23]  

Aaron is still hanging around but he does not have much to do anymore. He had no part to play in the plague on the livestock. Had God forgotten about Aaron? No! To the contrary God was trying to get Aaron’s attention. The next two plagues Aaron was sitting on the sideline. Did he stop to wonder why? Apparently not because God had to be a little more direct.

 Exodus 9:8

8          Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh.

 Wake up Aaron! Things are not right in your life. When God sent boils on man and beast he told Moses and Aaron to take handfuls of soot from the furnace but only Moses was allowed to toss it in the air. Can’t Aaron see that God was not using him anymore? This plague would be more than misery. It became boils on man and beast. People will suffer and Aaron cannot be trusted because Aaron will do nothing to relieve their suffering. From this point on Aaron is present but not active. We continue to read about him coming before Pharaoh with Moses but Aaron has nothing to do and by the time they arrived at Sinai Aaron was thoroughly bored.

Not only was Aaron bored, he was left in the camp to settle disputes and wonder why God didn’t use him anymore? I can hear Aaron thinking: Why did everybody listen to Moses, when I am the one that preached the message that led them back to the God of their fathers? Why was Moses a great man and respected in the land of Egypt but not me?[24] I started the negotiations with Pharaoh. I stretched out the rod and great miracles happen. I did all the work and Moses stepped in and took all the glory! When will I be respected like Moses is? Why don’t people appreciate me? Aaron was a disaster waiting to happen!

In the light of Aaron’s past it was easy to see why Moses left Aaron and Hur in charge. Aaron cannot be trusted to do anything but create misery. Hence he was left to learn how to create peace until Moses returned. God knew how much Aaron wanted to be used again and God also knew the pressure that would come to bear on Aaron when Moses was away. Therefore, God commanded Moses to bring Aaron with him on the fourth trip up the mountain. He wanted Aaron to hear two very important things from God’s mouth. First, you must not make an idol of gold. Second, if you will go to God’s altar he will come and bless you.[25] 

If Aaron had been a doer of the word he would not have beheld himself in the mirror God’s words created when he stood in God’s presence with Moses and straightway forgot what manner of man he was.[26] If Aaron had not forgot what manner of man he was, when the people cried for a god to lead them, Aaron would have led them to the altar of earth Moses built. God would have meet them and blessed Aaron and the people.

All it takes to create a disaster is immature people who don’t want to wait and one weak leader who is a hearer of the word but not a doer. The real problem with Aaron is that he truly believed he was leading the people in the right way. He was called to lead worship and he knew it, in addition to that, God had used him in a great way in the past, so how could he be doing anything wrong now. That kind of deception is extremely difficult to break. Even though Aaron loved the things of God, he had not learned to love the people of God. When you exercise your gifts without love for God, and his people you gain nothing.

When Aaron saw the enthusiasm over the idol he made he saw an opportunity to use his gifts again and 

 Exodus 32:5

            5 …, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.

 Sin is subtle! The Hebrew word Aaron used for “Lord” was the Jewish national name of God: Yehovah or Jehovah. This was not an obvious sin. This was a sin that can only be discerned by those,

 Hebrews 5:14 KJV

14        …that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

 Aaron was not of full age with senses exercised to discern both good and evil. He was not able to separate the worship of Egypt from true worship of Jehovah. Aaron did not lead them to turn away from Jehovah that delivered them from Egypt, at least he didn’t think he did. Aaron and the people believed in their heart they were doing the right thing. They wanted to worship Jehovah, the God that delivered them from Egypt. The problem is false image of God in their heart. Many years later, King Jeroboam set up two gold cows in Israel and told the people the same thing Aaron did.[27] Aaron’s cow remained among them until God sold them as slaves again.

In Egypt the cow was associated with love. They made gold figures of a cow and put them around the neck of their dead because “then shall abundant warmth be in him throughout, even like that which was in him when he was upon earth. And he shall become like a god in the underworld.”[28] Why did they turned their back on the fire of God’s love they could still see blazing at the top of Mt. Sinai, to bow before a cow?

I’ll tell you why! The people thought they were worshipping Jehovah that delivered them from Egypt because that is what their leaders – plural – told them they were doing. These are the same leaders that ate dinner with God. The people trusted them. These are also the same leaders that believe a lie about God. These are the same leaders that keep complaining God brought us into the wilderness to kill us, and now this fire will kill us for sure. They didn’t believe Love was in the fire they could not control. They believed was the cow their Pastor made!

All they really did when they rushed to church early that morning was worship Aaron’s vain imaginations. The people’s confidence in Aaron was not without a valid basis. Aaron led them to return to the God of their fathers when they were living in Egypt. The people didn’t know that somewhere along the way Aaron lost the true power of godliness if he ever had it at all. They don’t know that Aaron had nothing but an empty form of godliness because God had used Aaron to do great things. In fact, many of them were probably a little annoyed and wondering why Moses took over. When Aaron led them things were popping now that Moses took over all they could do was sit around and wait.

The people were ignorant of the corruption in their leaders. They empowered a man too weak to lead them to God’s altar, so he built his own altar and taught them their God is a cow. See the ring in his nose; lead your God wherever you want to go. When you get there pull up a stool and milk him. Then pat him on the rear and send him out to pasture until you need him again. The pattern in Egypt’s worship, the pattern of the world’s way of worshipping, was still deep in Aaron’s heart.

Aaron did not care about the truth. Aaron only cared that he has a place to minister. For a long time, he had felt that ministry slipping out of his hand. He does not understand why, so now he is convinced that the God of Abraham is a cow. He forsook the altar Moses built that God will honor. Aaron lead people who desired to worship to what Aaron believed was the truth because he really did want to worship Jehovah that delivered them from Egypt but all he led them to was a lie that created misery and ended in the death. Yet, Aaron survived his sins and retained his place as the High Priest. How do you continue to worship in a church when someone you loved died because the Pastor lied? If you don’t understand God’s ways you won’t.


[1] Acts 1:9

[2] John 14:1-3

[3] John 12:42-43

[4] John 3:2

[5] Hebrews 10:25

[6] 1 Corinthians 12:7

[7] Deuteronomy 5:23-24

[8] Matthew 10:24

[9] Hebrews 11:23

[10] Micah 6:4

[11] see Egyptian Religion, by Sir Wallis Budge, Citadel Press 1959, 1987

[12] Exodus 4:27

[13] Exodus 4:16

[14] Exodus 4:30

[15] Exodus 4:31

[16] Exodus 7:2

[17] Exodus 7:10

[18] Exodus 7:19

[19] Exodus 8:5-6

[20] Exodus 8:12-13

[21] Exodus 8:16-17

[22] Exodus 8:20-24

[23] Exodus 8:25-31

[24] Exodus 11:3

[25] Exodus 20:22-24

[26] James 1:22-24

[27] 1 Kings 12:28

[28] Egyptian Magic by Sir Wallis Budge pages114-115

About Teena Myers

Teena is the Vice Chairman of the Southern Christian Writers Guild, author of three books and a freelance writer.
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