Reader: “Moses carefully wrote down”
Response: “all the Lord’s instructions.”
Scripture: Exodus 24:1-11
Then the Lord instructed Moses: “Come up here to me, and bring along Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. All of you must worship from a distance. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the Lord. The others must not come near, and none of the other people are allowed to climb up the mountain with him.”
Then Moses went down to the people and repeated all the instructions and regulations the Lord had given him. All the people answered with one voice, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.”
Then Moses carefully wrote down all the Lord’s instructions. Early the next morning Moses got up and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He also set up twelve pillars, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent some of the young Israelite men to present burnt offerings and to sacrifice bulls as peace offerings to the Lord. Moses drained half the blood from these animals into basins. The other half he splattered against the altar.
Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey.”
Then Moses took the blood from the basins and splattered it over the people, declaring, “Look, this blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you in giving you these instructions.”
Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain. There they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there seemed to be a surface of brilliant blue lapis lazuli, as clear as the sky itself. And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence!
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
This is a most interesting passage as recorded by Moses. Mt. Sinai had a God declared boundary which guarded the sanctity of his presence and protected the people from the full force of God’s holiness which would have been lethal. Among other things, it demonstrated gradations of holiness in regard to Mt. Sinai. In terms of approaching God, those farthest away were the non-Jews, then the Israelites, then the seventy elders, then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, then Moses alone. It is interesting to me that these two of Aaron’s four sons, would be the ones God called to come to worship him. Nadab and Abihu should have picked up on the exclusive nature of God’s holiness, yet it was these two sons who later offered unholy fire and were struck dead as a result. You can’t say they didn’t know! In the bigger picture, this whole section is about God making a covenant with his people, a covenant that is a shadow of what was to come later. At this point, God is ratifying his covenant with the people of Israel. You noticed twelve pillars were erected representing the twelve tribes. These pillars served as historical witnesses of this significant transaction, a common use of columns in the culture of those days. The Scripture says that Moses took the blood from the sacrificed bulls and divided it in half. The first half was sprinkled on the altar symbolizing God’s commitment to keeping this covenant. One of the aspects of making a covenant is that the terms and regulations are put in writing and are read aloud to the people. Following sprinkling the blood on the altar, Moses then read the covenant to the people who responded with one voice pledging loyalty to God. Moses then sprinkled the people with the other half of the blood of the bulls confirming the Israelites’ part of the agreement. Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy went farther up the mountain and saw some representation of God since no one can see God in his full glory and live. As part of the covenant process, a fellowship meal is shared between the parties. Moses records this group and ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in God’s presence. Did you notice Moses’ words when he spattered blood over the people, “This blood confirms the covenant the Lord has made with you . . .” In Matthew 26:28 Jesus’ words at the Last Supper with the twelve disciples were, “this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice (on the altar) to forgive the sins of many.” Everytime we take communion, we are again partaking of the covenant meal and are again affirming the New Covenant in the blood of Christ, the seeds of which go back thousands of years. Remember Moses the next time you receive the eucharist.
Music: “There is Power in the Blood” Fernando Ortega
Gracious Lord, you are perfectly faithful always in every place and in every time. You are as alive and vigorous now as you were when Moses and his contingent went up the mountain to eat a covenant meal with you. I don’t want to read it simply as biblical history. Help me to better grasp that account in light of the next time I take communion. Lord, I’m amazed over and over the myriad of connections throughout the Scriptures. Help me to better grasp the significance of every part of your Word, and in growing in faith, may I come to know you more deeply and significantly. This I pray in the name of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp