Our presence here at this table makes a claim on us. Because we are here, we must not become idolaters, as some of the Jews did in the wilderness. We must not eat and drink at another god’s table, and then rise up to play.
The golden calf, however, was not called another god. Aaron tried to have it both ways — he tried to have a festival to Jehovah around the image that came out the fire, as he claimed, all by itself.
But this was not adequate. When Moses came down from the mountain, he was not prepared to be reasonable. He did not enter into ecumenical dialog with those who wanted to argue that the calf was not an idol, but merely a pedestal, a platform, for the invisible Creator. He jumped to conclusions, as some of our modern theologians might say. He broke the tablets of stone, and did irreparable harm to the cause of ecclesiastical and ecumenical negotiations.
His approach was so severe, we might want to say. He did not take the time to carefully research the arguments of those who had spoken so winsomely to Aaron. But if this is severity, then may God grant the grace of giving us more of it.
So let us guard our hearts. As we celebrate before the Lord, as we learn to rejoice before Him, as we learn to suck the marrow out of the bones, let us at the same time be vigilant. We often do not know what manner of spirit we are of, and when we rise up to play, if it veers toward fornication, then let us remember the twenty-three thousand who fell. God calls us to celebrate before Him, but this is to be done in the beauty of holiness.