The people are only too willing to supply materials for making a god they can see. For that they want to make sacrifices, it may cost something (Isa 46:66“Those who lavish gold from the purse
And weigh silver on the scale
Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it [into] a god;
They bow down, indeed they worship it.
). The ear decorations are gladly handed in. The ear is stripped of what it adorns, and that is listening to God’s Word.
Aaron gives it the shape of a calf and gives the calf the honor that only God is worthy of. He grants the calf the honor of redemption from Egypt. All His miracles are forgotten. Psalm 106 gives an impressive account of this (Psa 106:19-2319They made a calf in Horeb
And worshiped a molten image.
20Thus they exchanged their glory
For the image of an ox that eats grass.
21They forgot God their Savior,
Who had done great things in Egypt,
22Wonders in the land of Ham
[And] awesome things by the Red Sea.
23Therefore He said that He would destroy them,
Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him,
To turn away His wrath from destroying [them].
). Aaron builds another altar for it and even calls out a feast in which he mentions the name of the LORD.
This is one of the events Paul quotes from the history of the people of Israel, which he says “happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1Cor 10:66Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.). In the following verse he then cites this event with the golden calf: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play”” (1Cor 10:77Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.”).
Paulus refers to the ‘festivities’ around the golden calf. The Israelites became idolaters. Idolatry means: to put something else in the place of God and of Christ. That can easily happen. It really does not have to be about things that we know are sinful, wrong things. We see that here. What is their idolatry? It is said directly behind it: eating and drinking and playing. Are these wrong activities? Not in themselves, but they are wrong for Israel.
The people have lost contact with Moses, their great leader. He has been gone for a long time, people don’t see him anymore and don’t hear him anymore. That’s why they say to Aaron that he should make a god. Aaron does that and the golden calf arises on its pedestal. Then they start to eat, drink and play. So what is the cause of eating, drinking and playing? That Moses has been gone for so long.
What is the example for us here? The Lord Jesus has been gone for so long, it seems as if He never comes back. Then the thought creeps in: “Let’s make it easy for ourselves in this world and live it up. We’ll make a god for ourselves too, one we like, one with whom we can get along, and life becomes one big party!’ But it is a feast without the true God. These kinds of sounds can be heard around us with people who profess to be Christians, but who do not take into account the coming of Christ.
When the Christian no longer looks forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus, he will focus on earthly things. Things other than the Lord Jesus take up his time and attention. The spiritual leaders take the lead. They do not want to lose their position and respond to what the people ask (2Tim 4:33For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but [wanting] to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,).
The feast forms the pious sauce over the godless fuss. In many shades, this practice is repeated in Christianity. Pagan holidays are covered with a Christian sauce (Christmas), godless lifestyles are declared expressions of godly love (blessing of so-called same-sex marriages).