And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” – Exodus 32:21
Familiarity can be an awful adversary. It creeps in when we are weak and often feeling uncertain. This is especially so when life feels uneventful; when it seems that nothing significant is taking place.
The post-slavery nation of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, being led by a pillar of cloud during the day and fire by night, eating the manna from heaven and seeing entire mountains shake under the weight of God’s presence, they felt no obligation to God’s self-revelation.
Moses had been meeting with God on the mountain many days and the people became restless. They soon returned to the worship of idols that they had learned during their Egyptian captivity and created a helpless cow out of gold to be worshiped.
It was what the people wanted and they were disciplined for it. Upon Moses’ return, and in his anger, he ground the golden atrocity to powder, mixed it with water and made the entire country drink it. He did not utter a word until he came face-to-face with his brother Aaron whom he had left in charge in his absence. His statement is chilling. “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” he demanded.
Nothing could be more incriminating. I could not imagine what Aaron must have felt at that moment.
On the one hand, Moses felt great compassion for Aaron. The newly appointed priest had not yet developed the backbone to judge properly and stand in the changing winds of adversity. Until this point, Moses had whispered words into his ear, telling Aaron what to say. He did not yet have to stand his own ground.
On the other hand, Aaron was still expected to obey. Despite his weakness (both personal and as a leader), obedience was not optional. Every person can obey; regardless of how helpless they may feel. It was because Aaron did not obey that the priesthood was jeopardized and the familiar culture of the people was granted permission to become the standard of living.
Every person who is a witness to the saving power of the gospel, and especially those serving in Christian leadership should take great care in all of their actions. Aaron’s actions brought sin upon the people. He gave them permission to sin and was held responsible for the abomination. He listened to the people and strayed from obedience to God. It is dangerous to follow the familiar.
The word of God is the absolute standard. When Jesus walked on the face of the earth, He “learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Obedience is the one thing that He also had to learn as a human. It does not happen automatically. You and I must also determine to lay the familiar aside and obey. Our obedience to God makes His standard visible. It is critical to our witness at all times.
Is a love of something familiar influencing your decision-making? Have you permitted activity in your life that is below God’s standards? What has God spoken to you? Obedience is not best. It is the only possible course of action for happiness.
Allow your weakness to attract the capable power of the Holy Spirit. Set your mind towards obedience, stand up straight and march forward.
The old hymn written in 1887 by John H. Sammis and Daniel B. Towner forever rings true:
“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”