Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now He said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.
2 “And Moses alone shall come near the LORD, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.”
3 So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has said we will do.”
4 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
5 Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.
6 And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.”
8 And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”
9 Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,
10 and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.
11 But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Exod. 24:1-11 NKJ)
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
Everyone has a relationship with God. Either the relationship is having Him as our loving Father, or having Him as our vengeful judge.
We do not enter into a loving relationship with God on our own terms. Rather it is on His terms, and really, it is God who does it. And we see a perfect example of this in our text from Exodus today.
God, here, is establishing a covenant with His people. It is what we call the Sinaitic covenant since it was established at Mt. Sinai, or the Mosaic covenant, since God established this covenant through Moses. We should rightfully understand what is going on.
Moses read the Book of the Covenant, the Law, and the people said, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.” Their obedience didn’t bring them into a relationship with God.
Rather, it is by grace that God establishes this covenant with the Israelites. God had chosen Israel by His grace. Moses said, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt”.
Therefore the people agreed to the terms of the covenant by faith in God’s grace. Their agreement to be obedient to the Law is the fruit of their faith, since good works must follow faith. Good works don’t save, and they don’t bring us into a relationship with God, but they are the fruit of those who are saved and in a loving relationship with God.
And then what ratified, or put this covenant into effect, is what follows. This covenant relationship they entered into with God is possible only through blood. Moses built an altar and with the help of the young men of Israel, he offered sacrifices. He offered a burnt offering. The burnt offering is the great shadow of Christ’s atonement. This is the sacrificial victim that is slaughtered pointing forward to the Messiah who would come to be slaughtered to answer for the sins of the people. Its blood is shed pointing forward to the shed blood of Christ that restores sinners to a relationship to God. Then there was also the peace offering, or the fellowship offering. This offering was partially burned, and partially eaten. It emphasized the fellowship the people had with God on account of the blood that had been shed for atonement.
Through the blood and death of the sacrifice, the Israelites are brought into a relationship with God. The blood establishes this relationship. The blood is splattered on the altar to prepare it for the service of the Lord. And then Moses splattered the blood upon the people with a hyssop branch covering them in the blood that pictured the atoning blood of Christ. With that blood they are rendered clean to serve God their Father. David understood the meaning of this blood, when he said, “purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean” (Ps 51:7).
It is only through the blood and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that we sinners are brought into a loving relationship with God. Our works do not do it, but through Christ whom we hold by faith alone, that we are forgiven, redeemed, are made God’s dear children, and are rendered clean to serve our Father, so that we can say in faith and gratefulness for His grace, Lord all that you command, we will do.
Yet we are tempted to say, “I’ll be in this loving relationship with you, O God, but I don’t care to do what you command.” We do not set the terms. Though our works do not bring us into the relationship with God, a refusal to obey God shows that our faith is dead, and shows that we reject the blood of Christ that bought us from wicked works.
Yet, God does not withhold His hand of grace from You, dear baptized. The hyssop branch is at the ready, and the blood of Christ that was shed for your atonement will still cover you.
But now, we get to the part that deals specifically with the theme for today. We get a remarkable sight at the end of our reading. God orders the prophet, Moses, the priests, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the governmental leaders, the 70 elders, to come up on the mountain and eat with Him. What a fantastic sight! “They saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.”
This is the throne of God, where He sits in glory. We get other images of this in Scripture. Ezekiel spoke of what he saw above the cherubim that appeared to him. He said, “The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures was like the color of an awesome crystal, stretched out over their heads…. Above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it” (Ezekiel 1:22,26). And John saw a similar sight of heaven which he recorded in Revelation. “Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal” (Rev 4:6).
So when the men went up Mt. Sinai to eat with God, they entered the threshold of heaven. Here heaven and earth converged. God was present with them. He didn’t lay His hand upon them as an angry judge over sinners. He was not present in the terrifying way, as He had been earlier when His glory was manifested in fire, smoke, thunder, and lightning. Rather He softened His glory, that they beheld His glory and enjoyed fellowship with Him in the meal. We can’t help but wonder if what they ate was the fellowship sacrifice.
As magnificent this meal of the Old Covenant was, it does not compare in power and magnificence as the meal of the New Covenant: the Lord’s Supper. For what is eaten is not the body of a beast which was only a shadow of Christ, but rather it is the true body and blood of Christ that is given us to eat and drink. Jesus said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt 26:28). This is the very body and blood that has redeemed you, covers you, cleanses you, and brings you into a blessed relationship with your heavenly Father.
When we come to this altar to receive this meal, it truly happens, as it happened on Mt. Sinai, heaven and earth converge. We are in the presence of God’s glorious throne, with angels and archangels and all the hosts of heaven, though that glory is hidden, and we enjoy a fellowship meal with our God.
We examine ourselves, 1. I must recognize I am a sinner. My fellowship with God is not based upon my works, for my sins separate me from God, thus I repent of these sins. 2. I must recognize that my blessed relationship with God is based upon the blood of Christ which atoned for my sins. 3. We must recognize that this fellowship meal is the true body and blood of Christ, which He sacrificed for my sins, and this body and blood grants me forgiveness. 4. Finally, we desire to amend our ways, and say, “All you command, we will do.” We strive to live godly lives in love towards God and towards our neighbor. We look for the strength to do this in the body and blood of Christ, and there we find forgiveness when we fail.
And so then we heed the invitation of Christ, who is both our host and our meal. And in faith we come to the threshold of heaven to eat before His sapphire throne, the fellowship meal, as His dear redeemed people, in a blessed relationship with Him through His blood. This is a foretaste of heaven! Thanks be to God for this blessed Communion! Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.