“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for 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.” (Exodus 32:1)
Moses delayed coming, and the children of Israel become impatient…and faithless.
Aaron instructed the people to bring him gold. Aaron received the gold. Aaron fashioned it with an engraving tool. Aaron made a molded calf. Aaron saw it. Aaron built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation that “tomorrow is a feast to the Lord” (verse 5). Aaron was not passive in this effort; Aaron was most active in it.
And so the next day the people rose early, offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and “sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (verse 6).
After being sent down from the mountain by God, Moses asked Aaron, “what did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” (verse 21) Remember, Aaron and Hur had been left in charge of the people (Exodus 24:14).
And now the excuse-making begins.
Aaron sought to dampen and minimize the seriousness of this issue: “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot” (verse 22). Moses was angry about the sin, and did he not have a right to be?
Aaron deflected responsibility, shifting it to the people: “You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me…” (verses 22-23). It’s the people. Aaron lays the blame on the people.
Aaron continues laying the blame on the people, conveniently leaving out details such as his instruction to the people to bring him the gold and his receiving of it.
Then, in the most absurd answer, almost comical if it weren’t so serious, Aaron blatantly lies: “So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out” (verse 24). No, Aaron, this calf did not just come out. You fashioned it with an engraving tool. Now Aaron has added lying to his sin.
But Aaron is not alone. Just like him, we can find ourselves making excuses for sin.
We may be inclined to minimize sin. For example, in telling a lie, one may say, “Well it was mostly the truth.” Or “what I said was technically true,” even though he knows it was spoken in deceit, intending to give the wrong idea. Paul wrote, “Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).
Like Aaron, we may be tempted to blame others. We live in a society filled with evil influences. There is pressure to conform, and it is easy to blame another for our own bad choices. “If you had been in my shoes, you would have done the same thing,” we might say to another. Perhaps we lose our temper, but we want to blame others because we say “they led us there” through their behavior or words.
The path to sin needs to be nipped in the bud. Aaron heard the people complain and heard them request a molded god, and instead of correcting them, he obliged. When they brought him the gold, he continued on the path of sin. He just kept going down that road. In the beginning, it may have seemed hard to withstand the people’s pressing request, but this was the time to stop. Hear James: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Get your desires right. When drawn away and enticed (tempted), stop it right there.
What we need to do is accept responsibility for our sin. When we sin, it is our choice and our doing. We need to be like David, who when confronted about his sin by Nathan the prophet, said, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). He writes, “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). When we know of our sin, we should say, “I sinned. I was active in this. I have no excuse.” Let us accept full responsibility for our own sin and follow God’s prescription for remedy. For the child of God, the solution is repenting and confessing our sins to God: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
– Larry Jones