I always get upset when I read Exodus 32, because as Moses is up on the mountain with the Lord, the people are again getting themselves in trouble. They surround Aaron and ask to make gods because they haven’t a clue what happened to Moses, the one who led them out of Egypt. Right after they approach Aaron, he immediately is asking for gold earrings. He doesn’t beat around the bush.
Aaron leads the people to sin. We see his immediate action is to answer their request and make a golden calf. He doesn’t stand up boldly for God. He doesn’t say, “Hey, let us wait for Moses.” He jumps right in headfirst. When Aaron’s sin is addressed, he is asked what the people did to him that caused him to “bring terrible sin upon” him. This leaves the door open for Aaron to confess to what he did. Instead, he points out “how evil these people are.”
In the case of Aaron, the people supplied the gold, but he fashioned the calf. When the people got excited, he built and altar and planned to worship the calf, just adding to the sin. When people sin, they are to blame for their actions. Even so, we never should be leading someone to sin. If we are bringing sin upon someone, we are guilty and in need of repentance.
“Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, ‘Tomorrow will be a festival to the LORD!’ Finally, he turned to Aaron and demanded, ‘What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?’ ‘Don’t get so upset, my lord,’ Aaron replied. ‘You yourself know how evil these people are.’” – Exodus 32:5, 21-22 [NLT]
Jacob wanted to build an altar to God. An altar represents the presence of God—it was how one would have an encounter with God. He recognized the need to be clean before a holy God. He commanded everyone to toss out all of the other gods. They were to rid themselves of anything and everything that was not God the one true God. Then Jacob commanded that they take “a good bath and put on clean clothes.” They were purifying themselves. This was an outward display to signify a change of heart—a ceremonial cleansing.
Many scholars see this bathing as a likeness to baptism as this washing was done to signify their choice to serve the one true God. Baptism is an immersion into water or sprinkling of water which signifies purification. It is the ceremony people participate in when they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In doing this, people choose to give their lives to the one true God. By doing so, you receive the Holy Spirit and therefore have the presence of God within you.
You may have already been baptized, but you might not have tossed out all of the alien gods in your life. Something might be pulling you away from the presence of God. Evaluate where you are today and see if anything is taking the place of God in your life. He should be first always. Today is a good day for a cleaning. Let us put on clean clothes and walk forward in His presence.
“Jacob told his family and all those who lived with him, ‘Throw out all the alien gods which you have, take a good bath and put on clean clothes, we’re going to Bethel. I’m going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone since.’”
-Genesis 35:2-3 [MSG]
“But King David replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.’” – 1 Chronicles 21:24 [NIV]
Gad told David to build an altar to the Lord and David obeyed. When he approaches Araunah to ask for the site needed to build the altar, he insists on paying the full price for the area even though he was told to simply take it. David’s reason was that if he simply took the land without a cost, then it really was not a sacrifice.
A sacrifice should cost something or it does not mean much. If David took the area without sacrificing anything of his own, what would it mean to him? It would mean nothing. It would not have been his sacrifice, but Araunah’s sacrifice.
Today look at what sacrifices you make for the Lord. Are you actually making a sacrifice that means something to you? Remember the widow who gave all she had—that small amount was a big sacrifice in her situation. We should feel the sacrifice—do you? Remember that God paid the full price for you. No sacrifice was too much for Him to give.