True reverence for God is a weighty, serious, profound response to God that is more than a feeling you feel. It instead becomes a sense of God’s importance, greatness, beauty, loveliness that affects every part of the Christian life. The fear of the Lord is what we experience the clearer our view becomes of who God is.
If I told you that there would be a worship service for the God of Scripture, to seek His blessing on us, led by a well known preacher, with many churches working together, at great expense and organisational effort, and the music and the preaching is going to stir us up to intense zeal and passion, wouldn’t you be interested? This was the scene when Israel worshipped with the golden calf.
But God’s verdict on this? Here we have in black-and-white, God’s opinion of their worship service:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ ” (Exodus 32:7–8)
God called it corrupt, and said Israel was not worshipping Him, but instead worshipping a thing they had made. Can you imagine their reaction, to be told, “You weren’t worshipping God. The symbol you made of God, you had actually worshipped it, and it warped your idea of God, and you worshipped your own feelings.”?
Apparently, the essential ingredients of revival are not sincerity, passion, zeal, emotion, organisation, expense, unity, sacrifice, effort. Apparently, you can have all that, and yet not have revival.
So why was it not revival? We get part of the answer by looking at how they acted in this event, and what was the character of this worship-response. What was the dominant affection, the mood, or the tone of this event? C. S. Lewis once said the thing we think we are loving is seen in the kind of love. He wrote this, “The form of the desired is in the desire. It is the object which makes the desire harsh or sweet, coarse or choice, ‘high’ or ‘low.’ It is the object that makes the desire itself desirable or hateful”.
So, what kind of desires, and affections were present in this event? We can tell be looking a little closer.
First, we read, they ate and drank, and got up to play.
What does that mean? Well, likely not church volleyball, or hide and seek. The Hebrew word translated play is tsahaq, and it often means laugh, mock, joke.