Exodus 32:30-35 (NKJV):
30Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
31Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!
32Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
33And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
34Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”
35So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.
We all know the story of the Golden Calf that Aaron (Moses` brother) and the Israelites made when Moses was on the mountain receiving the commandments from the Lord (this same chapter Exodus 32 gives us a full account of the story). I believe there are few crucial points that get omitted or lost from this scripture when this account is mentioned or referenced, so I`d like to go into some details here.
Before we would look at the two important leaders of the Old Testament: Moses and Aaron, we need to realize the following facts:
1. God has a Book of Remembrance, which is mentioned in the numerous scriptures; it testifies of all our actions. In the end, during God`s judgment it is said that He would open His books and will look at those records (examples are listed in Malachi 3:16, Psalm 69:28, Exodus 32:33, Revelation 20:11-15). The ultimate judgment would be pronounced on those who are not written in the Book of Life (this is the book that God writes out about each name that gets saved; this is the only way to Heaven through accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior).
11Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God,[c] and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.[d] 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15 NKJV).
God writes out everything. Moreover, those who disobey His word have consequences; those who reject His truth, they have consequences; those who reject Jesus, they get the ultimate consequence of not being written out in the Book of Life. That`s why it`s important to preserve our lives and live them for the Lord. It is an abomination in the sight of the Lord when one claims to be saved, yet lives for one`s own flesh. The temporary lusts and indulgencies would only lead that person to be blotted out of His book just like the Israelites were along with their ringleader Aaron. Yes, it is clearly stated here that all those people were blotted out of the God`s book, and Aaron was among those people.
Jesus also mentioned the warning in Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV):
21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
We should not mix the two facts together when looking at these scriptures assuming that we can get to Heaven through our works. That`s not the message here. The message here is if one surrenders life to the Lord and gets saved through believing that Jesus died and rose again from the dead for our sins, that person gets saved. Once the person gets saved, the result of the lifestyle and the deeds the person commits should testify of the Heavenly Father. Salvation produces change in one`s heart, and when that doesn`t happen, the hypocrisy of one`s hearts is revealed. That means that the person never truly repented of one`s own sins. This is an important distinction to keep in mind because there are so many misrepresentations of the scripture.
We just looked at the passages from both Old and New Testaments that state the same idea: God tests our hearts and reveals those who are not true believers, and those who are not true believers they do not inherit the Kingdome of God. The same message Jesus mentioned here in the gospel of Matthew.
2. Another fact to note is that there is no unaccountable sin. God blotted out all those who worshipped the golden calf including Aaron, Moses` own brother who was the main priest for his lifetime. Sin always has consequences and to live in sin thinking that God doesn`t see it is simply foolish.
14For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, Whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NKJV).
God sees everything, so to live in sin assuming that it would be covered up for you, it just wouldn`t work. God doesn`t change, and His standards are universal.
3. This brings us to another, I could say most important fact, and that is the worst sin one can commit—a sin of idolatry. So many of us commit idolatry by putting things and/or people above the Lord, and we should be reminded in this story that He brings judgment to that every single time; even if it doesn`t happen right away, it will come to pass ultimately.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3 NKJV).
14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14 NIV).
This verses not only refer to the tangible carved peace of material that one can worship, but it refers to anything that takes hold of one`s heart placing God in the rears. Ultimately any interest that`s not founded in the Lord takes one into the path of idolatry.
4. So we see here that God required Moses to cut the sin out even if it meant sacrificing one`s family. His word was not contradicted by what Jesus said in the New Testament, so we have no excuse reading this story thinking that God`s critical measures were only necessary in that particular situation:
25Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother”(Exodus 32:25-29 NKJV).
God allowed family to be split and killed to preserve His name Holy because God doesn`t tolerate idolatry in any shape or form. Jesus said in the New Testament that He came to bring sword:
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’;36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’[e] 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:34-39 NKJV).
Jesus didn`t mean that we have to go out and proclaim the Crusades forcing people to accept Him or die as churches committed through the middle age history. That`s not the idea here. The idea here is the essence of one`s heart that God discerns and knows. He tests the hearts of people to see if they would follow Him and obey His word. Idolatry always brings harsh consequences because we just read that God is a Jealous God. Remember that right after Israelites crossed the Red sea God tested them in the desert. Right after they experienced so many miracles and saw God in His might, their hearts were tested to reveal the substance of them:
2And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not (Deuteronomy 8:2 NKJV).
It`s important to watch how do we start, live, and finish our lives. Aaron ended up being blotted out of God`s Book along with all those who created a golden calf and worshiped it while Moses was buried by the archangel Michael himself (Jude 1:9). What a tremendous difference and a warning to us as to how we live.
5. Furthermore, God holds accountable especially leaders because they have the ability and power to either lead people out of sin or to lead people into sin. Aaron clearly led people into sin of idolatry while Moses directed Israelites` focus back on the Lord.
We read in the verses 25-26:
25Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.
To me this is a bitter chapter to read realizing how many times did I have the opportunity to take a stand for God`s word, yet I chose to compromise to appease people. I chose to appease my husband and live in sin, rather than stand for God`s word and obey it. It brought destruction and war into my life, and my household was split in two.
This is a harsh warning and a reminder from the Lord that there are consequences for disobedience. We always have that choice whether to obey or to disobey God`s word.
Aaron was a priest who should have been walking with the Lord; he had that privilege being in the presence of God, yet his heart wasn`t filled with His word. The verse 25 says that Aaron did not restrain the people. Being that leader and a priest while Moses was away, he was responsible to assure Israelites maintained the standard of being godly people. The reputation of the Lord was at stake because as we read further in the verse 25 that “for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies”. Enemies who heard about God`s power and might; it is the same God about whom they heard producing all the 10 plagues on Egyptians and killing them. These same enemies heard that Israelites compromised their trust in the Lord. It brought God`s name to shame; it compromised His reputation among the surrounding nations.
One of the reasons why Jesus stated of His coming with the “sword” was because He knew that people with compromising hearts will mock God. Our lives should be unyielding to the world. Our priority should be standing for God`s standards to preserve His reputation and His name.
We look at these two strong leaders: Aaron and Moses and we see how each one of them ended up. Aaron was blotted out from God`s book of remembrance while Moses preserved God`s reputation and was acknowledged by the Lord being His friend throughout the Bible.
I want to reap that reward of being called a friend of God rather than being among those talked about as being blotted out of His book. God writes out in His book of remembrance everything we do to give out rewards according to each one`s work (gold, silver precious stones, wood, hay, and straw).
11For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is (1 Corinthians 3:11-13 NKJV).
Our main foundation is in Jesus, and we should be building our lives only on this foundation. All our works should be a result of our walk with the Lord. I want my works to reflect God`s character, so they could withstand the fire like gold does. Fire (meaning sufferings and trials) reveal what each one works are made of. Aaron and Israelites didn`t pass that test, but Moses, Levites, and those who stood up with them, they did. God rewarded them for their obedience to His word.
So the question still stands for each one of us: how do we end? Do we end building to deserve gold, precious stones, or hay, straw, and to be blotted out of His book? Do we live our lives mocking the Lord and putting Him to shame among His enemies, or do we take a stand for His standards? Let us build only on gold and aim for the high rewards in the Lord, so His name could be glorified among our loved ones, friends, and even enemies.