The Golden Calf – Exodus 32-34

These passages vividly demonstrate the basics of the Gospel story. We see the absolute depravity of man as the people of Israel quickly forsake God (who had so recently saved them from the Egyptians) and begin worshiping a total lie. We see the wrath of God demonstrated as God makes clear that what the people deserve is death and destruction. This was the completely just response of a holy God, and it is what we all deserve for our sin.

Moses’ conversation with God in 32:9-14 can be easy to misunderstand. On the surface it looks as though Moses is the one who must remind God to keep His promises to His people and that it’s Moses who gets God to change His mind about destroying them. However, this cannot be an accurate interpretation of the passage because other passages in Scripture remind us that God doesn’t change His mind (Num. 23:19) and He never forgets (Isa. 49:15); He is always faithful even when we are faithless. He always keeps His promises. Instead, the interaction between God and Moses prompts Moses to act as Christ did. Like Christ, Moses mediates between the wrath of God and the people. Moses intercedes for God’s people just as Christ intercedes before God the Father for those who belong to Him. The interaction enhances Moses’ love for the people and teaches him that God’s forgiveness and grace requires a mediator.

We see God’s forgiveness and mercy extended to people who didn’t deserve it, but we also see that there can be hard consequences for sin. We see God demonstrating that He is a gracious and compassionate God, who is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.

Finally, Moses realizes that it is not enough for him to know about God; he asks God to reveal Himself so that he can truly KNOW God. God does reveal Himself to Moses, not as the Almighty Creator, the Powerful Omnipotent God or even as the Wrathful God, but as the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, forgiving and loving. This is the same God who beckons each of us to know Him.


  • Activity – Playdough Idol – give each child some playdough and ask him/her to form it into a calf. Aaron told Moses that he threw some jewelry into the fire and out came a calf. Do you believe that? Why do you think Aaron lied? What if someone said that these playdough calves were gods … what would be some problems with these “gods?” Nowadays, we aren’t usually persuaded to worship idols made with hands, but we do struggle with idols – anything we make more important than God. What are some present-day idols and what is the problem with them? Sports, video games, friends, money, good grades, family members, ourselves, etc. None of these things are truly powerful like God is; none of these things are perfect; they will always let us down; they don’t deserve to be God. Idolatry is ALWAYS a sin; we must make sure that God is the MOST important thing in our lives. He is the only one who deserves that place in our hearts.

2. DISCUSS THE STORY (some possible answers in italics)

  • What did you like about this passage?

  • What didn’t you like about this passage?

  • What do you learn about God from this passage? 
  • - God is full of grace and mercy; He is tender towards His people.
  • - God is forgiving.
  • - God is understanding.
  • - God always keeps His promises.

  • What do you learn about people from this passage?

- People are not loyal to God.

- People lie to themselves and each other.

- People need God’s grace.

- People learn to love others when they serve God and talk honestly to Him.


  • What do you learn about yourself from this story?
  • - I want to know God, not just know about Him.
  • - I often am unfaithful to God.
  • - I want to experience God’s forgiveness and mercy.