EXODUS 24: 1-18
Then 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. Moses alone shall come near to the Lord, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”
Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. 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. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.
The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” So Moses
Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
We all have heard a story that is too good, causing us to doubt its truth. You’ve received that email or phone call congratulating you on your expense paid trip to the Bahamas and you know the drill. That being said, we do have a taste for the fantastic and the unbelievable. Think about the superhero movies that come out every year–usually stories being retold. We watch these stories and understand they are not true, but yet, in some ways we long for them to be true. We want a hero who can rescue people from darkness.
In Exodus, we see the narrative telling of the progression of the Israelites exiting slavery in Egypt to entering into deep fellowship with God on their way to a land of promise. It is important for us to first of all realize that this story actually took place. This is a historic accounting of a particular people, in a particular time, in a particular location. Also important for us to realize is that this story has a more profound truth within it than simply a historic accounting. This story is a part of what God has chosen to reveal to us in the Bible.
This story in many ways is our story and although indeed historical, becomes an allegorical picture allowing us to more clearly see the holiness of God, our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. We are tempted when progressing through this story to doubt its truth because it is so unbelievably good.
The moment that we are focused on today is a moment when the goodness of this story shines very brightly. This is the moment when God shows himself to Israel as a God of Promise as He confirms His covenant with Israel. The ‘too good’ message of this section of Exodus is this: The Holy God pursues hard-hearted rebels and enters into relationship to redeem and restore.
the Holy God Pursues hard-hearted rebels
We like to re-write the story a bit when it comes to the nature of who God is and who we are. We like to take the harshness out of our descriptions of both God and mankind–thinking maybe God is not that mad and we are not that bad. There can exist within us a tendency to minimize the biblical weight of God’s glory and our sinfulness.
Moses and a relatively small group are invited by God to come up to be with him and Moses as a type of mediator of the people is invited further up the mountain to meet with God. Our text speaks about this moment and talks about the glory of God being on display “like a devouring fire” (Exodus 24:17). The imagery here is frightening and looming. We see a glimpse of God’s glory and it surrounds a mountain. However, this God has shown himself to be the God who comes after the Israelites–saving them from slavery, providing for them, giving them his law and commands, inviting them into fellowship, etc. He is actively pursuing them.
When we understand the dynamic of the story, we can better appreciate this pursuit. This story begins with a good creation that was willingfully destroyed by our rebellion and disobedience. In order to see the ‘too good’ of this story, we need to that God has pursued us while we were running away.
He Enters into relationship to redeem and restore
A vital word for this portion of Scripture is the word “covenant”. In fact, this word is essential for all of Scripture, because the meaning of this word describes the way in which God comes after us. God establishes covenant (an oath-bound promise) with us to state his intentions toward us.
The Israelites had been graciously given the commands of God (Exodus 20:1-21) and a set of very specific culturally applicable laws (Exodus 20:22 - 23:19) to guide their activities as a people and restriction their harm of others. God graciously comes after his people and forms them like a potter forming clay to function in ways that will help them flourish. He puts in promises on their minds and in their hearts–promises to bless, restore and rebuild a broken creation.
The law and commands however can never accomplish this restoration for us. Their purpose is different. The law points our attention to the fact that we need saving. God’s loving law is loving because it shows us what God requires and through experience we see clearly that we do not measure up to God’s requirements. The Israelites are a prime example–only forty days later they would create another god to worship (Exodus 32).
The Gospel is the Story that is ‘too good to be true’ but remarkably, it is true. God enters into relationship with us–he comes to us. The Author enters the story himself because we need that kind of saving. Moses did mediate between the people and God, but we need a much better mediator. The oxen did supply a sacrifice, but our sin requires a better sacrifice.
The redemption found in Jesus means that not only are we made right with God and enter into fellowship with him but God is remaking all of creation so that his presence (heaven) will dwell with us fully again as in the beginning.
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?