Exodus 32 records the sin of the Israelites in making and worshipping a golden calf. When Moses came down from the mountain, he first confronted Aaron for allowing the people to commit this iniquity (v. 21). Then he turned his attention to the people.
It is important to note that Moses did not immediately condemn the people. This is consistent with the character of God who gives men the chance to repent and come to Him (cf. Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9). So Moses extends this invitation -- "Whoever is for the Lord, come to me" (v. 26).
Sadly, most did not answer this call. Only those of the tribe of Levi came to Moses (v. 26). They did not think of the consequences of their decision or what might be expected of them after responding. They simply responded that they were on the Lord's side, no matter what that might mean.
But what of the others who did not respond? If they were not on the Lord's side, whose side were they on? They were on the side that opposed the Lord. Therefore, they were worthy of punishment (v. 27-28).
E.M. Zerr, in his commentary on the Old Testament, makes a good application of these verses to us today. "If a man refuses to take his stand outwardly in favor of a righteous cause he is considered as being on the wrong side" (Old Testament, Volume 1; p. 168). Refusing to take a stand is not an option. We cannot ride the fence. We must make a choice.
Of course, Jesus makes this same point, and Zerr cites this passage to back up his statement. "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters" (Matthew 12:30).
Are we willing to take an open stand on the Lord's side, regardless of the consequences? There are pressures all around us -- the world, our family and friends, sometimes our own brethren. We must have the resolve that we will stand with the Lord, even if it means not standing with those we love.