Divine Irony

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While studying Leviticus, I noticed a little bit of irony. Leviticus chapters 8-10 deal with establishing the priesthood through Aaron and his descendants.

9:2 – “He said to Aaron, ‘Take a bull calf for a sin-offering and a ram for a burnt-offering, without blemish, and offer them before the Lord.
9:8 – “Aaron drew near to the altar, and slaughtered the calf of the sin-offering, which was for himself.”

As Aaron approached this calf that would be his own sin-offering, I wonder if he remembered another calf associated with his sin? In Exodus 32 we find the story of the Golden Calf. Despite the fact that Aaron declared, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt!” the golden calf was not living and did not have the capability to be the god they desired. Isn’t it ironic that God would use a calf to make atonement for Aaron’s sins? And now stands Aaron, knife in hand, over a calf provided by God, not by human hands. And unlike the first calf, this calf can help him be closer to God. This calf is not destroyed in anger as the first calf was. This calf is sacrificed with the understanding that we should be on the other end of the knife.

This story reminds me of another point of irony in the story of our lives. Many of the sins we commit are in some way a misuse of blessings God has given to us. In some way, shape, or form when we sin we have twisted something God has provided. We see this most profoundly in two texts:

1) Exodus 32:1-2 “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who will 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.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me…” And we know the rest of the story, he forms it into the golden calf.

Where did they get the gold they used for sin? Exodus 11:2-3 and 12:36 “Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbour and every woman is to ask her neighbour for objects of silver and gold.’ The LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians…and the Lord had given the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.”

God provided the gold they would one day use to make an idol to sin against him. What God had designed to be a blessing to them was twisted and used for sin. Even as Moses was with God on the mountain, as God etched the first words on the tablet – “you will have no other gods before me. You will not make for yourself an idol…you will not bow down to them or worship them…” the people danced around their new found “god”.

2) Hosea 11:1-4
“When Israel was a child, I love him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.”

God provided it all. He provided everything necessary for abundant life. He even spent time with them figuratively teaching them how to walk, all the while knowing they would one day use those God-given skills to run away from their Maker.

Isn’t it ironic how we take things designed for blessing and turn them around and use them for sin and even fashion those blessings into our own false gods.

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