We saw last week, that although God’s people have been rescued from slavery in Egypt to be God’s treasured possession and holy (Exodus 19:4-6), the people are quick to forget that he alone is to be worshipped (Exodus 32:7-10). As the glory of the Lord fills the tabernacle in the midst of the Israelite camp (Exodus 40:34-35), the key question we are left with is how can the holy and pure king of the universe dwell among his sinful and impure people?
Read: Leviticus 16
How do the first two verses set up the rest of the chapter?
How does the Lord begin to show how he will resolve this tension?
What attitude are the people to have as they keep the Day of Atonement (see v 29-33)?
How does this passage help shape our view of the Lord and sin?
Read: Hebrews 9:23-28
How do these verses help us understand what was going on during the Day of Atonement?
The Lord told the people of Israel that as they repented and trusted God’s appointed priest to make atonement for them, they would be made clean in his sight (Lev 16:30). Why can we, who are trusting Jesus Christ, the great High Priest, have even more confidence that he will safely take us into the presence of God and we will not be killed?
Exodus 32-34, introducing the idea of a mediator between man and God, is structured around Moses’ 4 prayers. In the first prayer (32:11-13), Moses reminds God of his covenant promises. The second (32:30-32) is all about Moses and his willingness to be cursed instead of God’s people. The third (33:12-18) is Moses’ prayer to know God’s better. The last (34:8-9) is Moses’ prayer for forgiveness. Moses the mediator (compare 1 Tim 2:5) is the man who intercedes (compare Heb 7:25).
Interestingly, this is one of the passages where God is said to ‘relent’ (Ex 32:12-14) in response to prayer. Has prayer changed God’s mind? No, God cannot change (Malachi 3:6), but always acts in line with his will. That is to say, when the situation changes, then a different aspect of God’s will comes into play. Moses has ‘stood in the gap’ (see Psalm 106:23), and so God will act differently towards his wayward and idolatrous people. He is both the God of wrath (Ex 34:7) and the God of incredible mercy (34:6).
What is Israel’s sin in 32:1-6? What does God’s response reveal about his character?
What are Moses’ concerns as he prays in 32:11-13? Is he right to have those concerns? Are these your concerns?
What are the two main elements of God’s glory as he reveals it to Moses (33:18-34:7)? How does each play out in God’s response to his people’s sin?
Summarise the main lessons this passage teaches us about God. Why did Israel need to understand this? Why do we?