On the back side of our sins – after we have finished committing them – we may find ourselves in a bleary state, looking up to God or back at ourselves talking nonsense. “This is why I committed this or that,” we may say. Or, “I only did it for this reason, and it’s not really a big deal.”
And, later, we may find ourselves coming to a moment of more clarity, and it is in that moment that we realize there is no good excuse for our sin. We have to suspend reason in order to generate an explanation for why we told that lie, why we entertained a certain dark thought for so long, or why we retaliated against an enemy.
In the midst of our sin, and perhaps shortly afterward, if we wrestle with our chosen excuse for long enough, we can make it make some sort of “sense” to ourselves. But when we are asked – by our consciences or the Holy Spirit – even the simplest question about it in the light of day, when our full rationality has returned, then our excuses collapse. We can see how ridiculous we have been. We can see our foolishness.
I imagine this must have happened for Aaron, perhaps even as he spoke the words – “So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” Perhaps Moses slapped a hand to his own forehead after hearing his brother’s words. Perhaps Aaron did the same.
This episode, of course, reminds us of the first sin. God approached Adam, and Adam offered a fully confused response – “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
The reality is Aaron and Adam knew better. But they walked down a road away from perfect communion with God – away from his commands. They looked foolish in the end, and weak. They knew the commands of God, and they broke them. Simple.
Our sinful nature, as humans, muddies our minds. It causes confusion. As Christians, there is another way (Romans 12:2).