And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
(with Exodus 32:4): — I have chosen these two texts to point out an instructive lesson regardng the easiness of sin and the difficulty of holiness. The material of the golden calf which Aaron constructed was poured into a mould and shaped without trouble; the material of the seven-branched candlestick had to be beaten out carefully and slowly with much toil and pains.
I. The pattern of the calf was easily constructed; it required no originality, no effort of thought, only an exercise of memory; and Aaron cast their golden jewels into the familiar mould, and out of it came the familiar image. So easy, so natural, so inevitable was the process, that Aaron used language regarding it which seemed to imply that, when he lighted the furnace and poured into the mould the molten gold, the image of the calf came out of its own accord. It may be further remarked that, in order to get the image sharp and clear out of the mould, Aaron must have put into the gold an alloy of some inferior metal, or it was already in the ornaments of the Israelites. And is this not true of all sin? It has a mould prepared for it in a world lying in wickedness, and in the deceitful heart of man. The pattern of sin is as old as Adam. The first transgression was not only the root, but also the type of every transgression, just as the whole plant is a development and modification of the primitive leaf, and constructed after its pattern. Why is it that we think so little of articles cast in a mould, in comparison with those wrought by hand? Is it not because these moulded articles are easily made, involving the smallest expenditure of toil or time or thought? They can be manufactured and multiplied by the thousand with the greatest ease once the mould is formed. The maker puts as little as possible of himself into them. He is not an artist, but a mere mechanic. The essence of all sin is a desire to get things in the easiest way — to run things into moulds, rather than to hew or carve or build them with slow, patient toil and care. And hence when persons do not take thought or trouble to do what is right, they always blame circumstances and not themselves for the wrong. When they do not resist temptation they say that they could not help themselves. Sin is regarded as a misfortune demanding pity, and not a wilful act drawing down condemnation.
II. The material of the seven-branched golden candlestick was not run into a mould already prepared for it. It was all hand-made work. It was the most elaborate of all the vessels of the sanctuary, because it represented the result of what all the other vessels typified and led up to — the light of the world, and yet it was beaten out of one solid piece of gold. The workman who fashioned it must have pondered minutely over every part, and bestowed immense labour and skill upon all its details; the pattern and symmetry of the whole must have been clearly in his mind, while from one mass of metal he beat out each shaft and floral ornament. The whole idea of it implied personal thought and toil and care. While it is easy for man to sin, it is difficult for man to be holy. He finds moulds for his sin lying ready to his hand, without any trouble. But he has to fashion, as it were, by the toil of his hands and the sweat of his soul, with the Divine help, the means by which he may be rescued from his sin and folly. We can mould a false diamond in glass or paste in a few minutes; but nature requires ages of slow, patient workmanship to crystallise the real diamond from the dark charcoal. We can cover common deal wood with an exquisitely grained veneer of walnut or mahogany at a small expense and with little effort; but the grain of the walnut or mahogany represents many years of strain and struggle, during which the tree grew its beautiful markings. Thus in the human world we can make easy imitations of moral and spiritual qualities, which when genuine can only be produced by slow, patient self-discipline, by many prayers and tears and toils. The paste diamond of religion, that glitters so brightly and deceives so many, can be manufactured in the mould of easy compliance with outward church duties and rites; the veneer of godliness can be assumed by a profession which costs nothing, and makes no demand of self-sacrifice upon the inner nature. But the deliverance from sin and the formation of holiness, which the salvation of Christ implies and involves, can only be through toil and suffering.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,