Monday, April 27, 2009

Imperfect People Doing God's Perfect Work

If there's one thing that the Old Testament makes clear, it's that God demands complete fidelity to the covenant relationship with Him. He has no tolerance for idolatry, even at times calling it "whoring after other gods".

Given that background, the story of Aaron and the golden calf (Exodus 32) confused me. Moses was up on the mountain talking to God, and the Israelites were starting to wonder what had become of him. They asked Aaron to make them new gods to go before them. Aaron collected all the gold and made a calf. He proclaimed to the people, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." He then built an altar, proclaimed a feast day, and led the people in offering burnt offerings before it.

God was understandably upset and sent Moses back down to the people to sort the situation out. There was some divine smiting of the people, but Aaron himself got off lightly. Although there is no textual evidence of Aaron's repentance, a few chapters later, he was called to serve in the temple. Even today in the church, we call the lesser priesthood after him.

A few years ago, it hit me. God uses imperfect people to do His perfect work. I've never made golden calves and led people in idolatrous worship, but I've definitely made mistakes in my life and in my service. Still, God needs me to serve. He needs you to serve.

This realization has helped me when church leaders haven't lived up to the standard one could expect someone in a position of trust to abide. The problem isn't with God or with the church. The gospel is still true even if the people aren't. The church is still authorized even when leaders do unauthorized things.

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