God “gathers Aaron to his people.” Another way of saying Aaron dies. God chose the setting and the timing.
Moses and Aaron have been together since a short time after God called Moses. Aaron has been his voice to Pharaoh, his voice to the people, and his hands in action for God. It is time to break up the team.
When God tells Moses that it is time for Aaron to die neither of them raises an argument. The reason God gives for this “changing of the guard” was AARON’S rebellion against His command at the waters of Meribah. This is where Moses struck the rock twice when he was instead told to speak to it. I’m not going to even attempt to say that Aaron didn’t have a part in this because God knows the hearts of men but He didn’t share Aaron’s part in it with us. I wonder why this is.
Did Moses and Aaron discuss God’s instructions on the way to the rock? Did Aaron influence Moses’ actions? Did God want Aaron to step in and correct Moses? Did Aaron secretly doubt what was supposed to take place? What was his rebellious act? Was it even an “action” or was it a heart rebellion?
Moses and Aaron were held to a MUCH higher standard than the rest of the people because of their position and the visibility of it. God could NOT allow doubt to flow from the top. It was already trying to drown them from the bottom. So He had no choice but to deal with it.
Moses was still essential to God’s plans but Aaron was replaceable. I didn’t think about it before but God had already used Eleazar at least two important tasks. When the rebellion of Korah was over the censors were brought to Eleazar to hammer into plates to cover the altar. Eleazar also was the one who sacrificed the red heifer sacrifice to create the ash for the purification rituals. I can see the first task being “farmed out” but the second I would have expected the high priest, who was Aaron, to be involved in. Maybe God was preparing the people to accept the substitution that was about to take place.
When God called for the end of Aaron’s life he was completely healthy. We hear of no infirmity or disease in him. He simply was in this world one moment and in the next he wasn’t. As soon as Moses had transferred the office Aaron was ready to be with his ancestors. He went without pain or suffering. His mission on earth was finished and he stepped into the next life that God had prepared for him. THAT is a good way to go. No pain. No suffering. Not even a long good-bye.
I wonder if he had any doubt at this point in his life. He went up on the mountain knowing he wasn’t coming back down. What was running through his mind and heart? Was he preparing to meet God? Was he wondering how this was all going to take place? Was he afraid? Was he ready to be done with the work of this life? Did he feel he had earned this punishment? Did he see it as punishment?
The people felt the loss of Aaron. He had been with them from before Moses even returned to the scene. He was one of them and they looked to him from the start. He was the one they went to when Moses was “delayed” on the mountain. He was also their high priest, appointed by God Himself. They had just seen positive proof of that a short time ago with the same rod that was also the instrument of his downfall.
If Aaron could be so easily replaced what did that say for the lives of the people? Did it open their eyes to the fact that God’s standards were absolute? Did they see God’s judgement as just or were they in the dark about his actions? Did Moses and Aaron confess their sin to the people and share God’s judgement against them? Without that knowledge this change of leadership would have been MUCH harder to handle. Were they waiting “for the other shoe to fall” and Moses to be replaced right away too? Did this transfer of authority bring them peace, understanding, apprehension, or maybe all of the above. I imagine that the 30 days of mourning were also filled with explanations and expectations for what lay ahead for Israel.
Father God, You are just. Of this I have NO doubt. You are also merciful. Aaron received both from You. I trust Your judgement but I still wonder. I think it is part of the curiosity that You placed in me. I feel for Aaron and I have to confess a bit of confusion too. I have been angry at Aaron when he rebelled before but You didn’t punish those acts. His lies to Moses about his part in creating the golden calf was enough to make me want to scream at him. He committed a HUGE sin but tried to take NO responsibility for it. His throwing in with Miriam in rebellion against Moses is another time he should have suffered some form of reproof, in my mind. But instead he is finally punished for actions that Moses took. I honestly don’t get it.
BUT I TRUST YOU!!! I know there is more to the story than I see. I also know that You know the hearts of ALL men. And that You ARE just. Nothing You do is random or by accident. There was a reason behind all this.
Personally, I have been unfaithful or disobedient at LEAST as many times as Aaron and You still let me keep walking on this earth. I deserve punishment. But You gave and continue to give me mercy. Thank You Father for those gifts.
I have one more question Father. Did Moses and Aaron repent of their sins and offer sacrifices for forgiveness and were they forgiven? Receiving forgiveness didn’t eliminate the need for corrective action or consequences. That was what that whole day was about. The fact that there ARE consequences for our actions. We might not encounter them every time but they are there and will impact our lives one way or another. Their relationships were restored but the damage couldn’t be undone. The people had to know that EVERYONE was accountable for their actions.