The golden calf (32:1-10). It seems apparent to me that Aaron was not a particularly spiritually strong man, at least not at this point. Moses had been on the mountain for a long time, and the people became restless. This restlessness encouraged sinful thoughts and sinful actions. The production of the golden calf was merely the by-product of a heart not loyal to the Lord. There is a word associated with such confusion of heart: syncretism. Syncretism is a melding of various ideologies into one (note Aaron’s response in v. 5).
Moses’ prayer (32:11-14). The Lord declares to Moses what was happening, and He prepares Moses for what He will do. However, in boldness Moses appeals to the Lord to not do what He had planned – and the Lord listened to his prayer. The prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Moses, Joshua, and Aaron (32:15-24). Moses descends, meets Joshua, and the two of them come to Aaron. Moses’ anger was intense, but this controlled anger was merciful compared to what the Lord was prepared to do; the fabricated idol was pounded into powder and Moses made the whole nation (children of Israel) to drink it. Moses’ inquired of his older brother why and how this happened. Aaron’s reply has been “fodder” for many sermons.
The Lord’s side (32:25-35). Because Aaron had allowed (encouraged) such sinful behavior, Moses called upon the people to make a decision. Of the many that came forth it was the Levites that distinguished themselves on that day by doing the Lord’s work. It is hard to think as much, but the Lord’s work could have (should have) been done in a different area, but some of the people would not allow it, and demanded of the Lord a response. He gave it.
Application: Who is on the Lord’s side? The great song that we sing (generally at the time of the invitation), “Who will follow Jesus?” is the same kind of question. If we have chosen to follow the Lord, will we stand for the right, will we hold up His banner in the thickest fight? It is easy to sing, it is another thing to live.