«Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest.» – Exodus 40:12-13, ESV
As I was preparing a Sunday School lesson in Exodus, I was struck with the significance of Aaron being anointed as priest. It gave me great comfort to see Aaron anointed as priest, even though he had committed a grievous sin; God fulfilled His purpose for him.
God first told of His intention to make Aaron a priest in Exodus 27 & 28. God has called Moses up onto the mountain and He is giving him instructions for building the tabernacle. He then gives instructions for the priests. In Exodus 27:21, God says Aaron and his sons would tend the tent of meeting and this would be “observed throughout their generations.” The Lord chose Aaron and his sons to be His priests. This choosing was not based on anything that Aaron had done; he was simply the one that God chose. In chapter 40, we read of Aaron and his sons being anointed and consecrated as priests; the instructions that were given to Moses are being carried out.
But in between chapters 28 and 40, a major event takes place that could have disqualified Aaron from serving as priest. In chapter 32, the people begin to grumble, as they are so prone to do. Moses has been up on the mountain with God for 40 days and the people are getting restless. They ask Aaron to make them “gods who shall go before us.” (Exodus 32:1) And Aaron did! He had the people take off all their gold earrings, and he made for them a golden calf. Then he made an altar in front of the calf to have a celebration.
Aaron, the spokesperson for God in front of Pharaoh, the one by Moses’ side leading the people of Israel out of Egypt, who has witnessed, and been an agent for, miraculous signs and wonders. This Aaron created an idol to be worshiped alongside God—breaking the covenant he said he would uphold. He was left in charge of the people, and yet he led the people into this grievous sin. He even lied to Moses about how this golden calf had come about.
Aaron could have been disqualified from being priest. His sin was grievous, and while there were consequences that were meted out, we see that God forgave Aaron and continued to use him as He had declared He would. God restored Aaron, even though Aaron broke the covenant he had said he would uphold. He still placed Aaron in the role He had intended all along for him.
May we find encouragement in Aaron’s story. We may feel we have failed God, but like with Aaron, God will extend forgiveness and will not cast us away from the purpose He has for us. God has created us for “good works,” works that He has prepared long ago, “that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Be encouraged; God takes us with our brokenness and our sin and uses us according to His purpose and grace.