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May 28, 2023

Failure Figures: Aaron

Failure Figures: Aaron | Week 1

Well, my name is Erik Smoot, and I get the incredible privilege of serving here at Grace as the Bridge Pastor. Now, Bridge is a ministry that is dedicated to our fourth and fifth grade students. It is so much fun. I see some of you fifth graders out here, and fourth graders. I love you guys.

So, today, I have an awesome opportunity to open up our brand-new sermon series, and it's called “Failure Figures.” Now, what we're going to be doing over the next couple of weeks here at Grace is we're going to be taking a look at these figures in the Bible, some of these stories that we see in the Old Testament, and we have some questions that we want to address. Like, for example, why do most of us just want to skip ahead to the New Testament in the Bible? To skip to the Jesus part, right? Because if I said, “Hey, for the next 30 minutes, we're going to be doing genealogies in the Old Testament,” why is it that we would all groan, myself included? Or what about this? Don't we all want a story with a happy ending? So then, why do so many of these stories and figures in the Bible not have a happy ending?

What we're going to come to find throughout this series is that these figures, these legends of our faith, and these stories are not enough on their own. The story is really not over. So, what we're going to do today, guys, is we're going to start out with looking at our first failure figure, and his name is Aaron. Now, I'm sure most of us have heard of this name before, but before we jump into his story, I have a question for you. How many of you are like me and have run into internet connection troubles at times? Any of you? It's the worst, isn't it? Right? Okay. If that's happened to you, I'll be praying. Imagine it. Maybe it you're at your friend's house, or you're at the hotel, and you're just trying to connect to the Wi-Fi. Right? Now you're on password attempt number 13. Okay? You're kind of shaking, a little bit, in aggravation so you don't scream as you're putting in this password. You're like, “Dude, are you sure this is the right password?” because you just want to get access to the internet. You want to watch Netflix. Maybe you want to play your mobile game, look at the weather, the news, or whatever it may be. You need access to the internet to do that, and it's not working. You've called your tech savvy niece. On the other line as the internet provider. You’ve unplugged the modem, restarted the router, and it's just not happening. Isn't that just aggravating? Is it just me? Is it just me? Oh, I'm sorry to see that it's you too, but the reason why I bring up this illustration is because there's a word here. There's a word that I want all of us to just kind of have floating around in our minds for the rest of our time together today, and that word is “access.”

The reason being that in the beginning of the Bible, back in the Garden of Eden, we see that humanity, through Adam and Eve, had access to God, but they were disobedient. So, they were kicked out of the garden. The next story that we see in this narrative is Adam and Eve's sons, and they are trying to regain access to the garden, back to the presence of God. So, they bring this sacrificial offering, but it doesn't go so well. That’s another story for another time, but all that to say, “Access denied.”

So, from that moment on, we see humanity is longing to have access to God again because when we have access to God, we have access to His presence. In His presence, there is fullness of joy. At His right hand are pleasures forevermore. When we have access to God, that's where we experience fulfillment, that’s where we have complete rest, abundance, security, and unconditional love. Isn't this what we all want? So, the reason we're going to be taking a look at Aaron today, our first failure figure, is because if you've been reading through this narrative, you might start to wonder, “Whoa, is this the guy who’s going to bring back this access? It looks like they're going to be having access again.”

So, what I want to do is tell you a little bit about Aaron. Now, Aaron is the older brother of this guy named Moses. How many of us have ever heard of Moses? He’s kind of a big deal in the Bible. His resume is pretty impressive. I mean, he was the one who God used to deliver the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt. He's the one who God had part the sea, and he's the one who had the water come out of the rock.

To put it this way, God said this about Moses: “With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.”

I mean, I could go on. This guy is impressive, but the first time we're introduced to his older brother Aaron is when Moses has just declined. He's declined God's invitation to be this leader that delivers Israel out of slavery.

Let's read. So, he's declined, and God says, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you. He will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth. I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.”

“Him,” in context here, is Pharaoh. But can you imagine this? As if he were your mouthpiece? How many of us have younger siblings? Anybody? Anybody? Okay. Can you imagine the look on your younger sibling's face if they heard something like this from God? Can you imagine the wink that they’d give you as they're like, “Come on, mouthpiece. We've got the Lord's work to do.”

Right? They'd love to hear it. But what we see in this text is not Aaron throwing a fit. What we see, instead, is Aaron being obedient. Again and again, he’s obedient to the voice of the Lord, and to the voice of his little brother, Moses, the appointed leader. So, he's used an incredible way by God for the deliverance of His people. I mean, Aaron's the one that God used to turn his staff into a snake. I mean, he's the one that had the waters turn into blood, the frogs come up out of the rivers, the dust turned into gnats. I could go on. He's used in incredible way by God for the deliverance of His people. So, as you go on in this story, you might start to think, “This could be the guy. I mean, this could seriously be the guy who might bring back this access.”

So, as the story goes on, Israel is delivered out from Egypt, they’re out of slavery, but they're in thew wilderness now. Something special is about to happen. They're about to enter into the covenant where God promises to be their God, and they would be the blessed, special people. This came with the Ten Commandments. You guys are familiar with the famous Ten, right? Okay. So, Moses goes up on this mountain to receive these commandments, and God tells them what it is that they are to do and not to do now, as the people of God.

So, we read, “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said,”

Now, in Bridge, that fourth and fifth grade ministry, a lot of times, what we do is we read Scripture together. So, will you all help me and read this last part of Scripture with me?

“‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.’”

Great job. Awesome. Pat yourselves on the back. So, they're like, “Mo, we get it. We know what it's like to be the people of God. We get these rules. We're good. We're all in.”

So, Moses does the ceremonial covenant things, and then something super interesting happens here in the story. Something so exciting, really. We see that Moses, Aaron, Nabad, and Abihu, which are Aaron's sons, and the 70 elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Access. Can you imagine this moment? How special it is for the people of God, these chosen ones, to go and see God, this is incredible. This is what they had been longing for. So, after this moment, Moses gets singled out by God to go up and receive the stone tablets of the Commandments, to be told about the Arc of the Covenant and the Tabernacle for 40 days on this mountain. Let’s read what God has to say to Aaron's little brother.

“‘Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron to give him dignity and honor. Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.’”

Way to go, Aaron. Right? I mean, this is quite the step up from just the mouthpiece of Moses. Dignity, honor, and this role of priest. One of the most honorable ways imaginable to serve the Lord at this time. This is great, but it's generational. We see that God made it a point for him to tell his little brother, “Make tunic, sashes, and caps for Aaron's sons, to give them dignity in honor.”

Y'all, Aaron and his sons are now being commissioned to serve as priests to the Most High. This is a great, big deal. I just want to take a moment, elaborate, and explain what this role of priest would look like because when I do, when we understand this, this text becomes so rich. So, essentially, the priests were people who would care for the sacred space. This sacred space is the tabernacle, which was, eventually, the temple. This is where God said His very personal presence would reside. Think of it like God's personal throne room here on earth. The priests, they're the ones who are going to care for this space. They're the ones who are going to present offerings to God to present all of Israel holy and blameless before Him. This is a taste of that access humanity had been waiting so long for. This is such a big deal.

Aaron is being called to be the closest Israelite to God who has delivered them from slavery. So, essentially, Aaron and all his sons after him are going to represent the people to God, and God to the people. So, you can think of the priests and the tabernacle that they work in like gateways that link together heaven and earth.

You can think about it like this: We've got heaven over here, which is God’s space, and over here we have earth, which is people space. The thing that's going to bring them together, the thing that's going to unite them, is the tabernacle, and Aaron, the priest, working in it. This is access, you guys. This is so, so good. This access actually required a sacrificial system. The priests would perform the duties of the sacrificial system, and I just want to summarize this so that we have this rich understanding. The sacrificial system was very symbolic. See, it was broken up into two parts. The first part was atonement. This essentially means it's a sacrifice that was to cover the sins of the people.

In Bridge, last week, we talked about this, Bridge students. In Romans 6, Paul teaches us that the consequence of sin is death. So, in this sacrificial system, God graciously allowed the priests to offer animal sacrifices in place of the people. Then the second part of the sacrificial system — remember, this is very symbolic here — was purification. Now, this part of the sacrificial system required blood because blood represents life. So, what the priests would do, in this sacred space where God's presence was, is they would sprinkle around the blood, and it would symbolically wash away death and defilement. So, you can think about it like this: This place where God says that He will put His presence is now made clean by this blood. It's very, very symbolic. But something tragic happens in the story. While Moses is receiving from God all this instruction about the priests, about how to give Aaron and his son's dignity and honor, about the tabernacle and the Arc of the Covenant, tragically, Aaron begins to be obedient to the wrong voice. It wasn't the voice of the Lord, and it wasn't the voice of the appointed leader, Moses. It was the voice of the people. Let's go ahead and read.

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.’

“Aaron answered them, ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’

“So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’”

Oh, no. This is an awful moment that we see. Now, remember, put yourselves in the shoes of this story for a moment. Remember Moses, Aaron, his sons, and those 70 elders? They had just gone up and seen God. Wouldn't you think that before Aaron was done making this idol, they'd be like, “Excuse me, Aaron. Why don't you just come over here for a minute? Yeah. Are you crazy? What are you doing? You’re not seriously going to build this calf, are you? We just entered into this covenant. What are you doing?”

But no, they didn't. You see, they were impatient when they were waiting when they were supposed to be waiting on the Lord. So, Moses, he comes down from the mountain because God had cut the time short, and He told him to go down because the people had built this calf and were now worshiping it. So, Moses comes, and he throws an absolute fit. A righteous fit, but an absolute fit. Well deserved. Because if you remember, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Right? The first of which was, “You shall have no other gods before me. You should not make yourself a carved image.”

Y’all, this is rule one, and they just broke it. They just wrecked this covenant they had just established. Something unexpected happens here. Moses comes down and destroys this idol. He grinds it down, he confronts his older brother, Aaron.

Unexpectedly, we read, “The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin — but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’”

Y'all, this is surprising because this is priestly language. We see Aaron's little brother is now the one who has gone up and tried to represent the people to God. Now we see the high priests little brother is the one who’s going to make atonement for their sin. Aaron, the first appointed high priest of Israel, has just failed big time, and we see that somebody else is needed. But, tragically, it's not like it's just Aaron. This was generational. We see the Old Testament is spotted and marked with the failure of the line of Aaron, these priests who continue to disobey the command of the Lord. This is tragic because, essentially, it's access denied.

This story makes us long for something greater, doesn't it? It makes us long for someone who would fulfill this role of high priest. So, for the rest of our time today, I want to shift gears, for a moment, and take a look at another high priest. His name is Jesus. Now, Jesus's résumé. If you thought the others were pretty good, just wait. This one is impeccable. Jesus is the Son of God who came, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose up again three days later to give us new life, forgiveness of sin, and access to God. You can't touch this résumé. I mean, it is just so good. What we see in contrast to Aaron is that Jesus was unwilling to be disobedient to God even at the expense of people's expectations. The reason being because Jesus knew that access can only be found in obedience to God. I'll say it one more time. It's that important. Access can only be found in obedience to God. I want to show you some examples here in the Bible where we find Jesus, but he doesn't. He doesn't give into these expectations because he is obedient to God again and again.

For example, John 6:15. We are somewhat familiar with the story of the feeding of the five thousand, right? Five loaves. Two fish. People are hungry. Jesus does the miraculous. He multiplies it. People are full. Yay, Jesus. Right? This is an incredible miracle. But in John 6, we read that the people try to force Jesus to be their earthly king, but He withdrew. You see, this was not part of the will that God had for Him. He was meant to be so much more than just their earthly king. Or what about in Mark 1:35-39 where Jesus goes to this town, He's healing all these people, and the people want to hoard Jesus? They're like, “Hey, why don't you just hunker down here, Jesus?” but He doesn't meet this expectation. He knows there are other towns and other people who need to hear this Gospel, this good news about the Kingdom of God. They need to be healed. They need to be delivered. Or what about Matthew 12:38-39 where the Pharisees are demanding a sign from Jesus?

“You're the Messiah? Prove it.”

But He doesn't meet that expectation. What about Matthew 16:21-23 — my personal favorite — when Jesus doesn't meet the expectation of His disciple? You see, there was a disciple named Peter, and he had just gotten done rebuking Jesus because Jesus had disclosed His coming suffering on the cross. His disciple doesn't want Him to go through with it, but Jesus doesn't meet this expectation because it would come at the expense of disobeying the command of the Lord. The reason why I say all of this is to show you that Jesus was willing to be obedient, even if that meant not meeting expectations. He was sinless because of it.

In fact, Hebrews 4:15 teaches us, “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Greater. A greater high priest. Actually, Jesus, our high priest, took it a step further than Aaron did. We saw that Aaron's little brother had to go up on the mountain to fulfill this role of high priests, to represent the people to God, to make atonement for their sins. But greater than Moses? When Jesus went up, when He was willing to give His life for the atonement of His people, Jesus was sinless. He was spotless like the lambs that would've had to have been sacrificed on Passover. You see, when Jesus gave up His body for us, He fulfilled His role as high priest, but He also, simultaneously — I mean, go Jesus — was fulfilling this sacrificial system. He gave up His body for atonement, yet He also shed His blood for us.

You see, 1 John teaches us the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. We see here that Jesus, in His ultimate act of love on the cross, is fulfilling what none could do before Him. He’s making us clean with His blood. And something unexpected actually happens. Something unexpected happens while Jesus is hanging there on the cross, and this ultimate act of love — we read it in Matthew.

“And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn two, from top to bottom.”

This is so significant because this curtain is derived from the Hebrew word “veil,” and this veil was in the temple, this sacred space, and it separated the holy of holies, where God's presence was, from the rest of the establishment. It separated God's presence from the people. At its best — at its best — this temple offered us limited access to God because of this veil. But what we see here is that when Jesus was fulfilling the command of God on His life, He did away with it. This curtain, it's gone. What separates the people from God, it's gone. It's there no more.

So, what does this mean for us? Well, you see, Jesus was so good at fulfilling His role of high priest, so good at fulfilling this sacrificial system, that you and I no longer have a need to bring animal sacrifices to a temple, to go through a priest, for we have a high priest who has done that once and for all. Because of that — but wait, there's more. It's like those infomercials where it's like, “If you call now — but wait, there's more!”

Seriously, because Jesus, when He did this, John 14 teaches us that Jesus promises His followers the Holy Spirit. See, we learned in 1 John that He cleansed us from our sin with His blood. You and I can now be that sacred space in which God's very own presence resides. You and I can now be this temple because we can have the presence of God with us. Jesus provides us unlimited access to God now through His Holy Spirit. So, why do most of us just want to skip ahead to the New Testament of the Bible, to skip to the Jesus part? Because this is where we find that we can have unlimited access to God. We can have unlimited access to His peace, to His rest, to His joy, to His security, to His unconditional love.

So, as we leave today, there are a couple of things that I want us to think about, to take with us as we go. The first is this: We need to know the story. As we're going to see, throughout this Failure Figure series over these next couple of weeks, these stories and these figures reveal to us Christ. Don’t just skip ahead to the New Testament. You see, when we get familiar with these stories, we see just how rich and amazing our Savior really is. What we come to see throughout this is that we're not too far from the story. I get impatient when I should be waiting on God. I meet the expectation of people at the expense of the command of the Lord. We're not far from these stories, so get familiar with them, and get familiar with what Jesus teaches us. Once we know the example of Jesus, be obedient to God. Here's the deal: Jesus could not have fulfilled His mission, He could not have fulfilled this role of high priest, He could not have fulfilled the sacrificial system, He could not offer you and I, today, unlimited access to God had He not been obedient. It was the vital part of His role as the sinless sacrifice, and it only came in obedience to God.

So, as we go throughout this Failure Figure series, we're going to come to see just how important it is for you and I to be obedient to God. So, I know this message isn't sponsored by Nike, but they have a really great saying that applies to this. Just do it. Once you know what God wants for you, once we know the example Jesus gives us in the Bible, just do it. I know so much from the 90s was cringey, and some of the fashion is coming back — I’m praying for you, students. I promise I am. But something from the 90s is still prevalent today. It's a question: What would Jesus do? Once we're familiar with this story, and we know, we need to do it. We need to do and follow the example of Jesus. Be obedient.

Number three. Listen to me. All my brothers and sisters in Christ, all those who have yet to make this decision, listen. Access to God only comes through Jesus. It only comes through Him. The world tries to offer hotspots. Hotspots for you and I to connect to so that maybe in that, maybe in this thing the world offers us, maybe we could find joy, maybe we could find fulfillment, maybe we could find this. But no, it's a counterfeit. The things that God has to offer us can only come through Jesus. Learn from this Failure Figure. I have tried to find joy outside of the Lord, I have tried to find His rest outside of Him, and it doesn't work.

Jesus makes it really clear. He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Lastly, to all my friends who have yet to make the decision to trust in this great high priest Jesus, draw near. You have this incredible opportunity to do what thousands of years of humanity have been longing to do and have access to God. You have this opportunity. Maybe you feel that tug on your heart. Maybe you feel like you want the access that comes from God. Maybe you want the things that we get, this joy, this peace, this rest, and maybe you don't know how. I want to encourage you. The Bible is awesome, and it really teaches us what to do.

Romans 10:9 says, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

You'll be saved from the very thing that separates you from God, the sin that separates us. Just like that veil, Jesus is willing to take it down. He is willing to take away your sin if you just believe. If you just ask Him to, He will do it. It's a free gift. You don't have to earn it, you don't pay for it, it’s not about how good you are, it’s not by how well you can perform. It is simply by trusting and believing in what Jesus did for you and I on the cross and believing in this great high priest. So, after service today, if that's you, if you’re wanting to draw near, if you want this forgiveness of sin, if you want this access to God, we have some people down here, at the front, who are dedicated to praying with you. We want to pray with you. We want to walk with you because this is the greatest — the single greatest — decision that you could ever make.

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