Group projects are never all they’re cracked up to be. Sure, you get all those great perspectives, but what happens when someone doesn’t pull their weight? In this story, Israel is effectively trying to figure out if God is like all the other group partners it has had (i.e. other gods). When God seems to disappear, they want to make sure he’s doing his part so they start treating him like they did all their old  partners. They sacrifice, they party, all in the hopes of getting God to do his fair share. Sadly, they miss the bigger picture that God is actually doing all the work for them, and that the only thing God needed from them is a little patience. In our own lives, we often forget what kind of partner God is, we put on shows and squirm in our seats, all the while missing the bigger picture of what God is trying to do.

Icebreaker

What is your worst/best group project story? What made it the worst/best?

 

Scripture Reading

Exodus 32

 

Discussion Questions

Read Exodus 32:1-14.

  1. Can someone sum up where we are in the story of Israel up to this point? Why are the people waiting here and why is Moses on the mountain alone?
    Leader’s Note: Exodus 19 tells the story of the people coming to Mt. Sinai to receive the law from God. God visibly descends on the mountain in what can best be described as a ‘reverse volcano’. The people tremble at the base of the mountain and Moses goes up to God on their behalf.
  2. What do you think of the people’s request? What is the purpose and intention behind it?
    Leader’s Note: Ancient sacrificial systems usually operated on systems of reciprocity. If one does something for the god, the god would do something for you. Similarly,sacrifice usually entailed a subsequent meal from the sacrificed animal. Thus, you could read this action by Israel to by an attempt to manipulate God , a self-centered indulgence, or both.
  3. Think back on the story of Exodus. Where would this enslaved people have gotten gold? What is significant about their use of this material?
    Leader’s Note: Exodus 12:35-6 says that the Egyptians gave their gold and precious stones to Israel as it left Egypt. These spoils are in essence the gifts God had given to the people as he saved them.
  4. How might the Israelite’s actions mirror our own interactions with God?
  5. What do you think of God’s reaction? Was he justified in what he threatens to do?
  6. What does Moses do to convince God not to punish the people? What does it say about God that he relents?

Read Exodus 16:15-24.

  1.  Considering he just intervened on their behalf, what do you think of Moses reaction to Israel in these verses?
    Leader’s Note: Moses’ strong desire to intercede for them is only matched by his strong hatred of their disobedience. Like God, his anger stems from his strong compassion for them. He wants them to choose the better option, but they fail to.
  2. Who is Aaron and how do you compare his story of the golden calf with the narrator’s story of the golden calf? What is the difference?
    Leader’s Note: Aaron is Moses’ brother and the one chosen to serve as Israel’s priestly representative . It was his job to actually keep this sort of thing from happening. He was meant to show Israel how and who they should worship.
  3. What do you think about Aaron’s response? Do you think he’s cowardly, or can you relate to his response?
  4. When you mess up or things go wrong, do you think you respond like Aaron or Moses?

Read Exodus 16:25-35.

  1.  God relents and decides not to wipe Israel out, yet Moses calls for a cleansing of the camp. Why would Moses do this, was it justified? Importantly, think about who he calls to his side.
    Leader’s Note: The Levites are the sons of Aaron, the people responsible for ritual sacrifice and religious leadership. In essence, Moses’ is trying to control the problem of idolatry from the top-down. These were the people who were supposed to be protecting this community from error, but they were derelict in their duty.
  2. Moses returns to the mountain and asks God to either forgive the people or blot him out. What do you think of God’s response to this formula?

 

Diving Deeper: God’s Wrath

  1.  This story contains many seemingly contradictory pictures. God forgives, then sends a plague. Moses pleads, but then in fury orders a slaughter. What is it that makes God and Moses so angry?  How does anger work in this story?
    Leader’s Note: Throughout the story, God and Moses’ anger is fueled by Israel’s  ingratitude towards God’s grace. Despite God doing so much for Israel, they continue to want to do their own thing, effectively spitting in God’s face.
  2. Is God’s and Moses’ fury justified in this story?
    Leader’s Note: God, as the Creator of the Universe and  Savior of Israel, has done more than enough to win Israel’s trust and affection, yet they continue to disobey. He is trying to give them a beautiful gift (the Law), but they disgrace it before they even get it. Moses’ anger mirrors God’s .
  3. What are some things that you think one can be justifiably angry about? What should be our response to that anger?

 

Helpful Resources

Dr. Joel Baden on the Sin of the Golden Calf

Summary of G.K. Beale’s We Become What We Worship

The Reunion Team