Now we start to see why we are doing this as a group. Chapter after chapter about how to build an ark, how to make a priest's robe, how to sacrifice an animal, how to decide which animals to eat (the kosher food laws!), how to treat a skin disease – it's enough to make us throw up our hands and toss in the towel. No! Don't do it! Now is when you need to commit to just keep going. So skim! Skim to get a sense of what's going on, but remember, this is a group project - you're in it together, so do it for each other. You can literally just keep turning pages and looking at the headings if you're really flagging or running out of time. Focus, though, on the story of the golden calf, Israel's immediate turn to idolatry – this is an important part of the story of the difficulty of becoming a particular kind of people with a particular kind of faith in a particular kind of God. Note that many of the laws about diseases and sacrifices are about how to restore someone to the community. And just take a quick look at all those instructions, all those laws in Leviticus about how to do things: these are records of the development of ritual, the development of the practice of religion among a people still creating their own identity. Finish with a glance at the observance of a Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the practice of the scapegoat.
Questions to consider as you read/glance over/skim:
- The people of Israel understood these rituals and laws to come directly from God, lending the practices enormous weight – does the history of the church institution and its traditions lend similar weight and importance to our rituals and our religious laws?
- The golden calf is such a tangible image of idolatry – defined broadly as treating anything as God that is not God – how is it that God's people can be so quick to lose track of God?
- Why does Aaron acquiesce to the demands of the people for an idol so quickly and so easily? What does this tell us about the difficulties of leadership in a faith community?