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And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down 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.
AARON’S GOLDEN CALF OFFENDS THE LORD
The people never thought of taking Aaron as a substitute for Moses, because they instinctively recognized his moral weakness. Though he was dressed in the garments of the high priest, he was essentially a weak man. This came into evidence:
(1) By his reply to the people. When they demanded the calf he ought to have met them with an indignant negative; but instead, and to prevent the unpopularity which such an attitude might have evoked, he contented himself with putting difficulties in the way of their project. “Surely,” he thought, “they will never go on with their mad scheme, if they have to pay for it with their jewels.” But the event did not justify his expectations.
(2) By his reply to Moses. “There came out this calf.” It was the furnace, not I, that did it. “Blame my heredity, environment, companions,” says the wrongdoer. The weak becomes the sinful one. Strong Son of God, help us! Make us strong! See Jer_15:20.
And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
MOSES BREAKS THE TABLES AND BURNS THE CALF
There was no weak compromise on the part of Moses. He cast the tables from his hands as though he felt that the covenant between God and the Hebrew race was hopelessly broken. He remonstrated with Aaron, destroyed the calf, and appointed the tribe of Levi as the executors of divine justice. How striking the act that forced the people to drink the dust of the golden calf! Men always have to drink the dust of their idolatries. You cannot make an idol without growing into the likeness of your idol and becoming, some day, nauseated with it.
As Israel turned from the splendors that shone on the summit of Sinai to fashion the calf, and found that the end of those things was misery, so those who turn from the Savior, who is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His Person, pierce themselves through with many sorrows and perish. See Heb_12:25.
And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)
MOSES PUNISHES IDOLATERS AND PRAYS FOR THE PEOPLE
The heart of Moses was full of that wonderful new word, atonement. For many days Jehovah had been speaking to him about it. But he seemed to feel that on this occasion, the blood of goats and bulls could not avail to put away the black transgression of His people. Then there arose within him the noble resolve to which he gave expression, when he returned by the well-worn path to the summit of Sinai.
His voice was very broken as he commenced to plead. Mark that unfinished sentence, “If thou wilt forgive their sin-I.” It was arrested by a burst of uncontrollable emotion. Can we finish it? “If thou wilt forgive, thou wilt act worthily of thyself and bind us to thee forever; but if not, and if the blood of beasts does not avail, let me be their atoning sacrifice, and blot me from thy book!” See Rom_9:1-3, r.v.