Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Excuses, Excuses

     Many years ago, a singing group came to our small town and offered some wonderful music and a great testimony for Christ.  I will never forget one of the songs they sang that has stayed in my mind through the years called "Excuses".  The chorus goes like this:  "Excuses, excuses, you'll hear them every day.  And the Devil he'll supply them, if from church you stay away.  When people come to know the Lord, the Devil always loses.  So to keep them folks away from church, he offers them excuses."  Its a catchy tune too which will stay in your head for a long time.  Of course, the point of this song is to show us how often we hide behind excuses when it comes to attending church, reading the Bible, or even obeying the Lord.
     Perhaps the best example comes from the book of Exodus.  Moses has ascended Mt. Sinai to receive from God His commandments.  The people had promised to obey God and remain faithful to Him, but this soon changed as Moses was gone for a period of 40 days.  Restless and impatient, the people came to Aaron (the brother of Moses and high priest of God).  They
St Giles Cathedral
did not know what had become of Moses so they asked Aaron to make gods for them (Exodus 32:1).  Aaron obliged them by calling for all the gold jewelry which the Israelites had taken from the Egyptians.  He melted the gold and formed a calf which he proclaimed was their god.  They built an altar and planned a feast for the next day (read the entire chapter for a detailed account).
     While the people played and danced around this idol of gold, God told Moses what was going on below.  The Lord burned with anger, but Moses interceded for them.  When he came down the mountain, he witnessed the children of Israel sinning against God.  He came to Aaron and this is the conversation they had in verses 21-24:  "And Moses said to Aaron, 'What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?'  And Aaron said, 'Let not the anger of my lord burn hot.  You know the people, that they are set on evil.  For they said to me, 'Make us gods who shall go before us.  As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'  So I said to them, 'Let any who have gold take it off.  So they gave it to me, and I threw it in the fire, and out came the calf.'"  What a conversation!  I am amazed that God allowed Aaron to continue in the priesthood after such poor leadership in the absence of Moses.  However, God worked all things together for good as He always does.
     If we look closely at this excuse that Aaron offered up, we can note several characteristics which we need to watch for in our own lives lest we also fall into sin.  First, Aaron laid the blame on others rather than owning up to his part in the act of rebellion.  He called the people evil, but wasn't he also one of those who participated?  Instead of putting the blame on the people, he should have acknowledged his failure to obey God and repent.  The Bible tells us clearly that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).
     Secondly, he side stepped his responsibility to lead the people in the absence of Moses.  He was left in charge and served as the mouthpiece of Moses.  It is hard to know if he was afraid of the people or if he, himself, doubted God, but he definitely did not exercise good leadership.  A leader does not blame the people he cares for, but helps to guide them away from the danger of sin.
     Finally, the greatest excuse of all was given when Aaron tried to explain where the golden idol came from.  Instead of admitting his full, guilty partnership in these actions, Aaron said that he threw the gold jewelry into the fire and out came the calf.  This is beyond absurd to make such a claim!  Obviously, someone had to fashion this gold animal and proclaim a feast.  Since Aaron was set as the authority over the people, it is apparent that he was involved.
     From this story, we learn that nothing is ever hidden from God.  Our sins will always find us out.  We also see that there are consequences to our actions.  Many of the people (3,000 men) died by the sword.  Our excuses do not remove God's judgment for sin.
     One of the great blessings from reading the Word is that it serves as a mirror for us to look into daily.  God has placed these stories in the Bible to instruct us and turn us away from falling into the same temptation and feeble excuses.  Aaron tried to get around the issue that he fashioned that golden calf, but he made himself look silly...as though jewelry could jump into a fire and come out a calf.  This is how silly we appear before the Lord of heaven when we use excuses for disobedience to our duty to God as well as our duty to our neighbor.  We must remember that God delights in our obedience much more than any thing we can offer to Him.  Let us, therefore, strive to avoid excuses and live a life of holiness that will bring glory to God.  Selah!

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