The story of Moses and Aaron in Exodus is quite an interesting one. There's something about these two men that the Bible doesn't tell us, and I can't help but wonder what it might be.
Because here's what happens: God speaks to Moses from a burning (but a not burning-up) bush and calls him to become the voice of his people before Pharaoh, a fitting call for an Israelite who was raised in the Egyptian palace. Moses is timid and begs for God to change His mind. God refuses, but does give Moses his brother, Aaron, as a support system. Now, they will both speak for God. They will both do miracles. Moses' staff holds miracles; Aaron's holds miracles of its own. God is with both men. Together, they confront Pharaoh and then lead the entire nation of Israel out of Egypt and onward toward the Promised Land.
That's not the interesting part.
Here's where it starts to get intriguing: several chapters into their Exodus journey, there's a split between the brothers. Up to now, both have been traveling together, leading the people together, speaking for God together. All of a sudden, no more. Moses goes up the mountain to meet with God, and he takes with him "his assistant, Joshua." (We have no idea where Joshua came from at this point. He just sort of appears.) Aaron, who will become the first priest, is left at the bottom of the mountain with the people.
This is mildly interesting. We could probably spend a few days on this alone. But for the purposes of this post, let's keep going into the story.
Moses has been on the mountain for a long time. And we're told that when Moses goes places to meet with God, it's quite visible that God shows up, too. Smoke, fire, clouds. Thunder. The people know that God is there. I don't know if in just short of 40 days' time, the people became used to the presence of God on the mountain or what, but they're starting to get restless in the camp nonetheless. Moses is on the mountain. Joshua is on the mountain. God is on the mountain.
Aaron is right there among them.
So they go to Aaron. The people of Israel come to the priest that God has given them, to this brother of Moses who they know has spoken holy words, to this guy whose staff holds the miracles of the Lord. They come to Aaron, who in the same time of Moses, has been God's presence among them, God's voice for them, God's guidance before them. They come to this man of God, and they say to him...build us a god. Make us an idol. Craft for us an image. They don't say, build us this God. Make us an idol of this God. Craft for us an image of our God. No. Any god at this point will do.
We often don't think much about this. But we ought to. Because the mountain trembles, the Lord thunders, His anger is apparent, and Moses comes out of the cloud and back to the people...and they beg him to plead with the Lord for them. That's their first response. In fact, every time they stumble, every time they stray during their trek toward the Promised Land, this is their immediate response: they ask Moses to intercede with the Lord for them.
Why, then, didn't they ask the same of Aaron?
They could have. Couldn't they? Two brothers, both of whom have been the voice for the Lord for all this time, both of whom have led them out of Egypt, both of whom have compasses pointed toward Canaan, both of whom hold miracles in their very hands. When they have Moses, they beg him to pray for them. When they have only Aaron, they pester him to make them new gods.
That's the part of the story that I can't help but wonder about. What happened to Aaron, or what happened between Aaron and the people or between Aaron and God, that caused the people to turn away from God at the very moment they turned toward him? Why didn't the people of God ask Aaron to intercede with the Lord for them in their restlessness?
Why didn't they ask the same thing of the priest that they asked of the prophet?
You know what? I was right. We could probably spend a few days on this. In fact, let's do that. The story continues tomorrow....