Exodus 33

These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 33 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

I. God tells them to depart to the Promised Land (1-3)

II. The people respond to God’s statement (4-6)

III. The tent of meeting (7-11)

IV. Moses intercedes for the people again (12-16)

V. God answers Moses’ request and allows Moses to see His partial glory (17-23)

I. God tells them to depart to the Promised Land (1-3)

What did God command the people to do now?

Why was God still willing to give them the Promised Land even after they sinned?

Why did God not want to go up in their midst? What does this teach us about their character?

1. God now commanded the people to depart their camp and start heading for the Promised Land. Keep in mind that God hadn’t yet banned them from it for 40 years. That would come later. Although God was angry with the people and punished them for their sins, He didn’t forget the promises He had made to their ancestors. These were promises that He would not break no matter what happened. It is important to remember when interpreting the Bible, that all of the promises God made to the Israelites He will fulfill. If some haven’t yet been fulfilled (see for example Zechariah 14:2-4), it means that He will still fulfill them. 1 Kings 8:56, Matthew 5:18, 24:35.

2. God still intended to send His angel before them as promised in Exodus 23:20, but He expressed His intention that He would not go up in their midst with them. The reason that God didn’t want to go in their midst was what? Their sin. This shows us once again of God’s holiness. He hates sin. He cannot tolerate it, especially when it is shown in such heinous, rebellious, and filthy ways as what they had just done. Since we are in the world, we don’t have the option to just leave, but we should be careful to avoid to hate sin wherever it exists and be sensitive (not apathetic) towards it. Possible applications would be not to make business partnerships with companies or factories who are unethical and immoral, to avoid putting our name to experiments that are sinful (as doctors), and so on, basically to avoid yoking ourselves with unbelievers. At the same time, it appears that God is once again testing Moses’ response since we see that He did eventually agree to go with them. It didn’t mean that His standards were compromised, but simply that He chose to show compassion to them in this instance and extend even more patience. For hating sin, see Hebrews 1:9, Psalms 97:10.

II. The people respond to God’s statement (4-6)

How did the people react to this news? Why would they not put on their jewelry? Do you think remorse was genuine? How can you tell if remorse/sorrow is genuine or not? How do we know if it is real repentance?

Is there any times when we can follow the Israelites’ examples to put off our own makeup, jewelry, etc.?

How long did they go without their ornaments?

1. Matthew 5:4. Mourning over sin is the correct response. We see that their mourning was shown by their plain appearance (no ornaments). True sorrow over sin will always accompany true repentance. You can’t repent without feeling sorry that you sinned. However, sorrow doesn’t necessarily guarantee repentance either. Why not? They could be sorry that they were caught, sorry they were rebuked, and sorry that they lost some benefits because of their sin. In other words, they might be mourning over their own loss instead of mourning at the hurt they caused God. Do you think their mourning was genuine? It is very hard for us to judge since we cannot see their hearts. I would expect that for some it was genuine (and there were no more recorded sins by the nation for a period of time after this). For others, it probably wasn’t. True repentance will manifest itself in additional ways to just mourning. For example? The most important is changed action. If one day you are mourning over sin and the next you are repeating the same sin, it was clearly not true repentance. We must also make sure that we mourn for the right reasons. Peter and Judas make excellent case studies. Both mourned. One changed and went on to have a productive life serving Christ. One committed suicide because of his intense guilt without ever repenting.

2. Taking off their ornaments was God’s idea as a visible symbol of their mourning. It is kind of like a widow wearing a black dress. There are some times in our lives when it is appropriate to visibly show our mourning out in order to let others know of our grief. Notice that they obeyed God’s way to mourn. This is also a good sign that they were doing it His way, and not their own.

III. The tent of meeting (7-11)

What tent does this refer to?

What was the purpose of this tent?

Why would Moses go out to the tent? Who else could go out and why?

What happened when Moses went into the tent? What did the people do when they saw the cloud?

What does verse 11 show us about Moses’ relationship to God? How does God speak with us?

1. Before the tabernacle was finished, Moses apparently used his own tent to meet with God. It was called the “tent of meeting” because Moses met with God in it. Everyone who sought the Lord could go there, evidently to beseech Moses to intercede on their behalf or give them some words from the Lord as to what they should do. This shows us that although Moses was God’s spokesman, God also cared for all the people. Anyone who sought Him, could find Him. This has always been true for all of history. If you seek God, you will be able to find Him. Isaiah 55:6. God is knowable through His revelation and wants us to know Him better. God is always there. He is always ready to show Himself to us more. We just need to take that step of faith. We need to practice what He has already told us. We need to actively seek Him and His will instead of just sitting back and making excuses that we don’t what to do. There will be a time when it is too late. That time will come for each individual when either he or she dies or Jesus comes back as judge and calls them before the Great White Throne..

2. As the peoples’ representative, Moses normally met with God in middle of a public place where everybody could “take part” in this meeting with their own family worship.

3. For a period of time, it appears that Moses met with God outside the camp (perhaps because of His intent to not dwell in the midst of the people). We don’t know how long this time frame was, but it would have been a poignant reminder that their own sin caused this further separation from God.

4. By worshiping the Lord, whenever the cloud descended on the tent, all of the people could in some way take part in the meeting. This was a way to unify all the people and to encourage a proper reverence and fear for God’s holiness.

5. We see in verse 11 the extremely close and privileged relationship Moses had with God. He met with YHWH face to face just as we are meeting now. This was a an amazing blessing God gave to Moses. It shows us the great love God had for Moses and His great patience and grace. Although Moses was certainly more faithful than the others there, he was still a sinner. Yet God forgave him. Certainly Moses made mistakes, but he was faithful to God even when others weren’t. We must strive to be faithful to God as Moses was so that we can have an even deeper an more intimate relationship with Him.

6. We see that Joshua stayed in the tent even when Moses went back to the camp. This is the second time he is mentioned and it is becoming more and more evident that God has special plans for him. It could almost be viewed as an apprenticeship. God was preparing Joshua to take over Moses’ position when Moses died.

IV. Moses intercedes for the people again (12-16)

What was Moses’ reaction to God’s statement? What are the basics of Moses’ “argument” to God?

Is it OK for Moses to “argue” with God?

Did Moses have any guanxi? What did he do with his guanxi? What is Moses saying in verse 15?

What would distinguish the Israelites from all the other people in the earth?

How would you describe Moses here? What lessons can we learn from Moses here? Have you been interceding for others more since the last two weeks when we have learned we should intercede? If not, what should you do?

1. Hebrews 4:16 – Moses boldly entered into to God’s presence. When reading this text it is almost as if he is arguing with God. At the very least he is like a lawyer strongly arguing his case to the judge. Do you think this is too forward? Is it impertinent? We see that many of the great men of faith like Abraham and David and Moses talk to God in this type of way. God never blames them for this, but instead normally listens to their prayers. Why? They have a close relationship with God. They have established this relationship over a long period of time. In a sense, they feel comfortable with each other. Someone who has been married a long time might feel more comfortable doing or saying certain things around his wife than someone who hasn’t been married long. Also, God doesn’t mind because their motives are right and pure.

2. Moses is using the guanxi he has with God, not for himself, but for others. He could have used it for himself in the last chapter when God offered to make a new nation with him as the patriarch. He could have been thinking of himself when he interceded the second time, but offered to give his own life in exchange for the people. I believe God listened to Moses’ bold prayers because they weren’t for himself. They were for others. Many times when people demand things of God, they do so selfishly. God is not likely to listen to these types of prayers. But if we use the relationship we have with God (we do all have guanxi with God) for others, God will hear us.

Ephesians 1:17-18
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and
revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that
you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his
incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ephesians 3:16-19
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that
Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have
power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know
this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Philippians 1:9-12
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you
may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of
righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.

3. Perhaps God was once again testing Moses’ resolve. Moses responded with firm commitment and dedication to the people. In verse 15 he straightforwardly tells God not to lead them forward unless He is going to go up WITH them. He is unwilling to move forward without God’s presence among them. Moses clearly knew the importance of God being with them. It was so paramount that if God would not be in their midst, then nothing else even mattered. He further argues that this is what makes the Israelites be set apart from other nations. This is what distinguishes them from all of the pagan nations. God being with them is like their mark.

4. What sets us apart from others? The Holy Spirit dwells in us. Also, our love is to set us apart from others. We are followers of Christ. If you remove the Christ part (His presence in and with us, we become like everybody else). Modern day believers would do well to reach the same understanding that Moses did. Christians are not just church goers. They are not just rule followers. They are not just people who bow and speak words to the sky. They are not just people who meet together in groups and sing warm fuzzy songs. We are followers of Christ. It is our relationship to Christ that makes us unique and that gives our faith meaning. Heaven is not great because there are streets of gold. It is great because God is there.

V. God answers Moses’ request and allows Moses to see His partial glory (17-23)

Did God listen to Moses? Why? What does it mean that He knew Moses’ name? Does God know our names too? How do you?

What was Moses request of God this time? Why do think he asked this request of God?

What does verse 19 show us about God’s character? Who deserves God’s grace or compassion? So who are the ones whom He shows His grace and compassion to?

Did God agree to Moses’ request? Why did He not allow Moses to see His face? What did Moses see? How did Moses describe it (he didn’t). Why do you think Moses didn’t describe what he saw there? Since God is a spirit how then could He have hands and a back?

1. God listens to Moses and answers positively. Why does it say He agrees to do it? He agrees to do it because He favors Moses and Moses requests it. This is why guanxi is so powerful. You get favors from people you don’t know because they know someone who knows you and this person stands up for you. Spiritually we should use our guanxi to intercede for others. In this world, we should also use the influence we have to help the people around us.

2. God knew Moses by name. This implies a very intimate and personal knowledge and relationship. It is not knowledge from a third party or a history book. It is direct knowledge of someone learned from a relationship with that person. This is how God knows all of His followers.

3. Moses boldly asks to see God’s glory. Why? It is natural that a person who loves God will want to know more and more about Him, to learn every aspect of His character, nature, power, glory, and strength. We must also make the same petition for God to show Himself to us (not necessarily physically see, though you can try, but spiritually). Don’t be content with your current level of understanding about God. Always seek to deepen your love and understanding for God. If you don’t understand something in the Bible, study it deeper. Strive to find out everything you can about the object of our worship. Proverbs 25:2

4. God agrees, but famously says that no man can see His full glory (face) and live. There are some things that we can never know or see about God on earth (mysteries), probably some others that we will never know even once we go to heaven. This shows us God’s perfect holiness and awesome power. Somehow His glory is so dazzling that it will kill whoever beholds it. This is not that hard to imagine because we know that a person who views the sun during an eclipse (when we can see the sun most truly) can have permanent eye damage or blindness. God agrees to show Himself because of His graciousness and compassion. It is not because Moses deserves it. Even though Moses is extremely faithful he is still a sinner and doesn’t deserve this honor. God, in His great love, chooses to grant his request.

5. Moses never described what he saw here. Perhaps it was literally indescribable. Or perhaps it is a secret that the rest of the world is not ready for or cannot know. Either way it must have been amazing. When we go to heaven we will have the chance to see God for ourselves. Are you ready?

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