“Lesson 55: Exodus 33–34,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 55,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
Because of Israel’s sins, the Lord declared that they had lost the privilege of seeing His face. God commanded Moses to make two new tables of stone and to ascend Mount Sinai. The Lord again gave Moses His law, but He withheld the higher priesthood and its ordinances from the children of Israel.
Read aloud the following scenarios concerning two young men. Ask students to listen for differences in their attitudes and beliefs.
A young man transgresses a commandment. He experiences guilt and shame. He believes that Heavenly Father will never forgive him of his sin.
A different young man transgresses the same commandment. He thinks the sin he has committed is not a big deal. He believes that because he is generally a good person, God will not punish him for his sin.
How would you summarize the differences between the attitudes and beliefs of these two young men?
What error do you notice in the belief of each young man? (The first falsely believes that God is not forgiving. The second falsely believes that God will not hold him accountable for his sins.)
What problems could arise from these false beliefs?
Remind students that the children of Israel sinned against God by worshipping the golden calf. Invite students, as they study Exodus 33–34, to look for truths that can help them understand how God works with us when we sin.
Ask a student to read Exodus 33:1–4 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for why the children of Israel mourned. You may need to explain that “evil tidings” means bad news.
Why did the Israelites mourn?
Invite a student to read Exodus 33:7 aloud. Ask the class to look for what Moses did to show that Israel had lost the blessing of the Lord’s presence. Invite them to report what they find. Explain that the “tabernacle” spoken of in verse 7 was not the tabernacle they were to construct for the performance of priesthood ordinances (see Exodus 25:8–9). It was a different structure called the “tent of meeting” (see verse 7, footnote b).
What does verse 7 teach us about the effect of sin on our relationship with the Lord? (Sin separates us from the Lord.)
How do we usually experience this separation from the Lord when we sin? (Among other things, we feel a loss of the Holy Spirit.)
Invite students to privately consider times when they have felt the Spirit of the Lord withdraw from them because of their choices.
Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Invite the class to listen for what we can learn from experiences when we feel the Lord’s Spirit withdraw from us.
“The promised blessing for honoring [the] covenant [of baptism] is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77). …
“… Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.
“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us” (“That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 29–30).
According to this statement by Elder Bednar, what can we learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Ghost?
Point out that because Moses had not participated in sin with the children of Israel, he was worthy to be in the Lord’s presence. Invite a student to read Exodus 33:9–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases that describe the relationship Moses had with the Lord.
What words or phrases in these verses describe the relationship Moses had with the Lord?
What do these descriptions imply about Moses’s worthiness and about his relationship with God?
You may want to encourage students to ponder their own relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and consider whether there is anything they could do (or stop doing) to grow closer to Them. Summarize Exodus 33:12–23 by explaining that Moses pleaded with the Lord to be with Israel as they journeyed toward the promised land. Because Moses found favor with the Lord, the Lord promised that He would be with the children of Israel. However, He also indicated that because of their sins, they would not be allowed to see His face at that time. He also added, “Neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live” (Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 33:20 [in the Bible appendix]).
Display the picture The Ten Commandments (Gospel Art Book , no. 14; see also LDS.org). As a review, ask students to explain what happened to the set of tables Moses brought down from Mount Sinai as recorded in Exodus 32.
Explain that the Lord commanded Moses to create another set of stone tables. Invite a student to read Exodus 34:1–2 aloud. Ask the class to look for what the Lord said He would write on the second set. Invite students to report what they find.
Using verse 1, footnote a, show students that the Joseph Smith Translation adds an important clarification to Exodus 34:1–2. Explain that it helps us understand that the Lord said He would not write all of the same things on the second set of tables. Invite a student to read aloud Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:1–2 (in the Bible appendix). Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord said He would withhold from the writings on the second set of tables.
What did the Lord say He would withhold from the children of Israel? (The priesthood and its ordinances.)
Explain that Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:1–2 (in the Bible appendix) refers to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Point out that although the children of Israel at this time were not given the ordinances and covenants of the Melchizedek Priesthood (which are necessary for us to become like God and dwell in His presence), the Lord allowed the Aaronic Priesthood to continue with them (see D&C 84:25–26).
According to Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:2 (in the Bible appendix), what law did the Lord say He would give to the Israelites? (“The law of a carnal commandment.”)
Explain that “the law of a carnal commandment” refers to what is known as the preparatory gospel, which includes the principles of obedience and sacrifice. This law came to be known as the law of Moses. The preparatory gospel administered through the Aaronic Priesthood—meaning “the gospel of repentance and of baptism” (D&C 84:27)—also continued with the children of Israel.
Why do you think it was important at this time for the children of Israel to focus on the principles and ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, such as repentance and baptism? (As students respond, help them identify the following principle: We must be faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the Aaronic Priesthood to be prepared to receive the ordinances and covenants of the Melchizedek Priesthood.)
Invite students to refer to the handout “Moses’s and Israel’s Experiences with Jehovah at Mount Sinai” (see lesson 48). (A completed version of the handout is located in the appendix of this manual.) In the space next to number 11 on the handout, invite students to write: God writes His law on new stone tables but withholds the higher priesthood and its ordinances.
Explain that Exodus 34:3–4 records that Moses made two stone tables and again ascended Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded. Invite a student to read Exodus 34:5–7 aloud. Ask the class to look for what the Lord taught Moses about His attributes. You may need to explain that in this context the word longsuffering refers to the Lord’s patience with and mercy for His children, and the phrase “by no means clear the guilty” means the Lord is perfectly just and will hold the rebellious accountable for their actions (see verse 7, footnote e).
What can we learn about the Lord from His teachings in verses 6–7? (As students respond, write the following truths on the board: The Lord is merciful and forgiving. He is also perfectly just and will hold us accountable for our sins.)
How is it possible for God to be both just and merciful? (Help students understand that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ [His suffering and death for us], we can repent and experience God’s mercy. However, if we choose not to repent, then we must suffer for our sins [see Alma 42:13–15; D&C 19:16–19].)
Read again the two scenarios discussed at the beginning of class.
How could the young men in these scenarios benefit from knowing the truths about God that we identified in verses 6–7?
Invite students to ponder how the truths in Exodus 34:6–7 can help them as they seek to repent of the things they have done wrong.
Ask a student to read Exodus 34:8–9 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what Moses asked the Lord on behalf of the children of Israel. You may want to suggest that students mark what they find.
What did Moses ask the Lord? (Explain that when Moses used the phrase “take us for thine inheritance” in verse 9, he was asking that the children of Israel might again be the Lord’s covenant people—His “peculiar treasure” [Exodus 19:5].)
Summarize Exodus 34:10–35 by explaining that the Lord responded to Moses’s request by declaring that Israel would be His people if they would cease from making and worshipping idols and would keep His covenant by obeying the commandments. Moses then descended Mount Sinai and taught the Lord’s words to the people.
Testify of the love God has for the students in your class. You may also want to testify of other principles identified in the lesson. You might ask if students would like to testify of some of the principles they learned.