The Pursuit of Holiness (Leviticus) - Lesson 2

By Glen Pemberton

Exod 32-34,40

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student can explain the necessary background information for a profitable study of the book of Leviticus.
    1. God desired to pitch his tent and live with his chosen people in order to bless the world.
    2. The presence of God among his people was a great privilege, but also an incredible danger.
    3. The book of Leviticus is a response to the crisis created by the presence of a holy God living among an unholy people.
  2. The student will affirm that God's desire today is to live among his people, the church.
  3. The student realize that the God's presence among his people is a great blessing, but also a great danger. God's presence demands holiness.


  1. A Bible for each Student.
  2. A chalk board or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #2 ("The Danger of Holiness")


The nation of Israel was called to be priests to the world. As apart of their special relationship to God, God wanted to pitch his tent and live with his people (Exod 25-31). The enormous danger this presented is illustrated in the crisis at Mount Sinai(Exod 32-34). God is holy; the people are unholy and stubborn.If the holy Lord tries to live with these people, he will destroy them before they get to the land (Exod 33:5). After some uncertainty about whether the Lord will or will not pitch his tent and travel with the people, the Lord agrees to go and the construction of the tabernacle is carried out. This lesson poses the key question addressed by the book of Leviticus: How can an intimate relationship between a holy God and an unholy people exist? How can God safeguard his holiness and still live with the people he loves and has chosen?

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Welcome visitors and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests and leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences:

  1. Review and set the stage for today's study.
    1. In the book of Genesis God responded to the problems created by human sinfulness (Gen 1-11) by putting a plan into motion. This plan began with a single family (Abramand Sarai) and three promises. Q. What were the three promises? A. 1) I will make you into a great nation; 2) I will give you land; 3) I will bless the world through you.
    2. Q. What is the status of each promise at the beginning of the book of Exodus? A. 1) They have become a numerous people; 2) they do not have land of their own; 3) they have been a blessing to surrounding nations, but this has been sporadic.
    3. Turn to Exodus 19. God rescues the Israelites from Egypt and leads them to the promised land via Mt. Sinai. Once they arrive at the mountain, God invites the people to enter a special covenant (relationship) with him.
      1. Read Exodus 19:3-6
      2. Q. What does God call Israel to be or become? A. A priestly kingdom and a holy nation.
      3. Q. As a priestly nation, what is Israel supposed to do?A. Reach out to the rest of God's creation (19:5, "the whole earth is mine").
      4. Q. What is the connection between the call to be a priest to the world and the demand to be a "holy nation"(19:6)? A. If Israel is to fulfill her responsibilities, she must be holy. An unholy nation cannot fill the role of a priest to other nations.
    4. Israel agreed to enter this special relationship with God(19:7-8). Israel certainly viewed this relationship as a great blessing. Unfortunately, as we will see today, Israel failed to understand the danger involved in this special relationship.
  2. (The disaster at Sinai)
    1. In Exodus 19-31, Moses goes up Mount Sinai several times to receive instructions from the Lord and comes back down to report to the people (e.g., 19:3,8,14,20,25; 20:21; 24:1-2,9-18).
      1. During the last of these trips (introduced in 24:9-18),Moses stays for an extended period of time on the mountain (40 days and nights, 24:18) and receives extensive instructions for the construction of the tabernacle (25:1-31:11).
      2. Q. Why was the construction of the tabernacle such an important issue? A. God's desire is to live with his people (Read Exod 25:8). (WKSH ? God wanted to live with his people) In order to live with them, at least symbolically, God needs a tent! The construction ofGod's tent and the maintenance of this tent is no light matter.
    2. Read Exodus 32:1-6
      1. Q. While God is giving Moses instructions on how to construct his tent, what goes wrong in the camp? A.Everything!
      2. Q. What two requests do the people make of Aaron(32:1)? A. 1) Make new gods for us; 2) we need a new leader (Moses has disappeared).
      3. Q. What does Aaron do in response? A. He took gold from the people and made a calf. He then declared"these are your gods, who brought you out of Egypt"(32:4).
      4. The next day the community held a festival to the Lord(32:5-6). Note to the Teacher: This action is ambiguous.Aaron may have intended the calf to represent the Lord or he may be introducing other gods to worship along with the Lord.
      5. Q. How many of the ten commandments (spoken inExodus 20) has the community violated? A. 1) No other gods before me (20:3); 2) no idols (20:4-5); and possibly 7) no adultery (20:14) ? they "rose up to revel"has some sexual overtones (32:6).
      6. The people have violated the essence of the special relationship with the Lord!
    3. The severity of the situation cannot be over stated.
      1. Read Exodus 32:7-10
        1. Q. What does God threaten to do with these people? A. Destroy them and start over with Moses.(WKSH ? God threatens to destroy the people)
        2. Moses successfully intercedes for the people by,among other things, reminding God of his promises to Abraham (32:11-14).
        3. God punishes, but does not completely destroyAaron and the people (32:15-35).
        4. Nonetheless, the crisis created by this event is not yet resolved.
      2. Read Exodus 33:1-6
        1. Q. What is the crisis? A. God has announced his refusal to go with the people from Sinai to the land(33:5). (WKSH - God threatens to not live with the people)
        2. Q. Why? A. Because they are "stiff-necked" and if God goes with them he will kill them all. Ironically,God loves them and the world too much to go with them.
        3. The significance of this announcement cannot be overstated!
          1. God will send an angel to lead the people,but he will not be with them personally.
          2. The building plans for the tabernacle can be thrown away because God is not going to live with his people! There will be no tabernacle now,no temple later!
        4. While the presence of God among his people is a tremendous blessing and privilege, this event demonstrates the danger of living in the presence of a holy God.
          1. Sin cannot coexist in the presence of God(cf. Isa 59:2).
          2. If sinful people live with God, eventuallyGod will destroy them.
        5. Moses, again successfully intercedes on behalf of the people by reminding God that 1) they are still your people (33:12-13), and 2) if you will not go with us, we will not go at all (33:15-16).
        6. God relents and promises to go. Read 33:14and 34:8-10.
    4. Now (that God has resolved to live with these people), the construction of God's tent (tabernacle) can move ahead.
      1. Exodus 35-40 document the construction of the tent and its furnishings. Two observations:
        1. Q. Does anyone recall where the resources for the tabernacle came from? A. The people gave all that was needed (Exod 35:21-24). In fact, the people brought so much - and kept bringing so much that Moses had to order the people to stop giving! (Exod 36:3-7)
        2. Exodus 35-40 emphasize that the tabernacle was built precisely according to the plan given by God toMoses (e.g., 39:1,7,21,26, 29,31,32,43).
      2. Finally, in Exodus 40, the tent is finished and God moves in. Read Exod 40:33-38
        1. Q. What happened when Moses finished the work? A. The glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle,an awesome sight. (WKSH ? God moves in)
        2. But not all is well. God has agreed to live with his people, but the problem of a holy God living with an unholy people has not been resolved, only postponed.
  3. (Looking towards the book of Leviticus)
    1. Leviticus follows the crisis at Sinai and the completion of the tabernacle.
    2. The connection between Leviticus and these preceding events must be emphasized.
      1. It is an incredible blessing that
        1. God has called the people of Israel to be his chosen people
        2. God has chosen Israel to be his priestly nation to the world
        3. God has committed himself to live with his chosen people
      2. But the incredible blessings also bring incredible dangers
        1. Although God calls his people to be holy, they are not!
        2. God, by nature, cannot live with unholy people.He will eventually destroy them! The holy and unholy cannot mix. God's anger towards stubborn rebellion will destroy the sinner (32:9-10).
        3. Q. How can this relationship ever work? How willGod be able to live with these people and accomplish his work through them? What can they do to keepGod's tent in a holy status so that he does not move out? What can they do to live in the presence of thisGod from day to day without being killed? How can they be holy - when they are not? (WKSH ? How can a holy God live with an unholy people?)
        4. A. These are the questions that the book ofLeviticus will address. These are questions, I hope you see, that are far from being irrelevant to the modern Christian.


Please discuss item I) first and, then, if time permits discuss item II). Just a reminder: While it is important to establish the problem to which Leviticus will respond, it is vital that this class (and each class) provides significant time for application.

  1. Today, as in ancient Israel, God's greatest desire is to live among his people.
    In Jesus, God pitched his tent and lived among the people(John 1:14) and, not surprisingly, the people killed him.
  1. Q. Has God's special presence abandoned the world today?A. No. The presence of God among his people is promised and expressed in many texts.
  1. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus promised that wherever "two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." In Matthew 28:20, Jesus urged the disciples to remember that he "will be you always, to the end of the age."
  2. In Acts 2:38, Peter promised that the Holy Spirit would dwell within each person who was baptized.
  3. Read I Cor 6:15-20. Q. What is the church called? A.The temple of the Holy Spirit. (WKSH ? The Temple of the Holy Spirit)
  1. It is a tremendous privilege and blessing to live in the presence of God and even be a part of God's earthly temple today!
  2. Q. How often do we consider the unique dangers associated with being the dwelling place of God? Are there such dangers? What are they? A. (Allow time for discussion then direct the students' attention to the following texts.)
    1. I Cor 6:15-20. This text identifies certain actions that are incompatible with being God's temple. Q. What are these actions? A.Prostitution and all types of sexual immorality.
    2. Acts 5:1-11.
      1. 1. Q. What did Ananias and Saphira do wrong? A. They lied to the Holy Spirit.
      2. 2. Q. Why was this such a terrible thing? A.They were supposed to be part of theTemple of the Holy Spirit! This action is incompatible with their status as God's children.

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