As I’m reading through Exodus again I’m having lot of new questions. Moses is on the mountain with God and all the people are waiting down at the bottom. God’s giving Moses the tablets. He’ going into incredible detail about the Tent of Meeting and everything. I’m sitting here asking myself questions like, “why does God want fresh bread on the table? He’s not going to eat it.” (Of course I get the greater significance of the bread, from it saving David’s life to John 6:35. But still…if I’m Moses? “Fresh bread? Uh, Sure…”) Also, the recipe for anointing oil looks fantastic, but it also says unauthorized use of the oil well get you expelled or “cut off.” But I really want to try it! I’m a Baptist and subscribe to Priesthood of the Believer, does that count as “authorized?”
Yesterday I read about the Vestments—the priestly garb. I’m struck over and over at how much detail is going into this outfit. (Alternating pomegranates and bells on the robe. The bells I get, but what’s with the pomegranates? God likes pomegranates that much? Should I?) I’m struck by how many times God names Aaron as the wearer of these garments. God even spends a paragraph talking about the type of underwear he wants Aaron to wear, and calls this one permanent. Don’t go into the presence of God without underwear on.
Then we get to the consecration. Aaron’s got all these beautiful, insanely intricate ceremonial pieces on—the breast piece, the ephod, the robe, the turban, the tunic, even the underwear. And then,
“…take some of the blood that is on the Altar, mix it with some of the anointing oil, and splash it on Aaron and his clothes and on his sons and their clothes so that Aaron and his clothes and his sons and his sons' clothes will be made holy.”
So Aaron puts all the stuff on, only to have it spattered in blood. I’ve read this hundreds of times before and thought nothing about it, because it’s our (Christians) history. It’s part of our upbringing. We’ve heard these stories since we were little kids. We’re immune to them. BUT AARON IS WEARING POSSIBLY THE MOST EXPENSIVE GARMENTS IN HISTORY AND HAVING RAM BLOOD INTENTIONALLY SPATTERED ON THEM.
Then he’s supposed to hold, in his hands, the fat from the ram, the fat tail, the fat that covers the innards, the long lobe of the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them, and the right thigh and wave them at God. While dressed in the blood-spattered priestly garments.
I get it. I’ve already said I get the greater significance, the law serving as a neon Expo marker highlighting our sin and need for Jesus. But still…HE’S HOLDING RAM ORGANS AND WAVING THEM AT GOD.
I don’t know how I feel about this.
So it’s “Aaron this, Aaron that.” Wave-offerings, peace-offerings, whole-burnt-offerings. Over and over God names Aaron and his role. I’ve never thought that much about Aaron. He’s kind of supporting cast member in my head. Like the characters that worked the desk in “ER.” They were in every episode, but there was never an episode about them.
But here he is, front and center in God’s plan for atonement, worship and consecration. He’s mentioned by name thirty-one times in Exodus 28-29. God has PLANS for this cat. I’m going round and round in my head, with the minutae and the blood and the organ waving. Really wondering about all the detail and all the gore. Questioning. I mean, there’s A LOT of blood in these pages.
And then this morning I turn the page.
While God is going into such intricate detail about what he wants Aaron to wear, Aaron is casting a calf out of gold to worship. At the moment God is laying out the process of sacrificial atonement, Aaron’s presiding over a pagan worship orgy.
Like I said, Aaron’s always been a day-player in my head—a spear carrier. As such I’ve never ascribed him much in the way of sinner or saint. He’s just been kind of vanilla. But after this?
The passage is written as if God suddenly discovers this and Moses has to talk him out of incinerating the lot, but I don’t for one second believe God wasn’t keenly aware of what was happening in the valley while he’s law-giving with Moses. At the bedrock of my belief in God is the tenet that God is acutely aware of everything going on, everywhere. God is acutely aware of what Aaron’s up to, even as God is setting him up with the superfly outfit and laying down the rules for his (Aaron’s) priesthood.
Suddenly the details of the vestments become a love sonnet. God is gushing about what he wants his beloved to wear. He can’t help Himself. And since He’s God and omni-everything, He can get pretty detailed. Even while at that very moment, He knows his beloved is betraying him. The blood and the organs no longer seem horrific. God no longer appears a callous bloodthirsty tyrant. It is necessary to atone for what Aaron and the Israelites have done. I’m pretty sure God hates it—is as revolted by it as I am, but it’s the only way He can still interact with His beloved. I think it might also be the only way that Aaron et al will grasp the gravity of what they have done. Being spattered with blood to bring home the depth of their sin. I imagine Aaron, shame-faced, maybe scared out of his mind, covered in blood and holding this offal, trembling. God is across from him, weeping at what his beloved has to go through to be in His (God's) presence. I’m heartbroken for God over the way his beloved has cheated on Him, even as I’m keenly aware that I’m the cheating beloved, that I’m Aaron.
My personal heroes of the faith have long been the ones that screw up the most. Peter, of course. Jonah is a favorite. And now Aaron is added to this group. Another of God’s personally chosen that has betrayed Him. I’m in good company.
And then I’m in the Upper Room. Jesus is breaking the bread. He’s pouring the wine. The next day he offers the Atonement. I’m propelled to a whole new level of gratitude for His heroic act of salvation. I don’t constantly have to dress up in an elaborate outfit and be splashed with blood to atone for betraying God.
The law has (once again) highlighted my need for Jesus.
2 months ago