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Exodus 24:1-8; The Blood of the Covenant

2/12 Exodus 24:1-8 The Blood of the Covenant

We are in Exodus chapter 24. This is the hinge pin of the book, linking the two halves of Exodus together. The first half of Exodus is the narrative of God rescuing his people from slavery in Egypt, bringing them into relationship with him. The second half of the book is primarily taken up with God’s instructions for the construction of a portable worship center for his people, known as the Tabernacle. This chapter brings to a climax the giving of the Law and the people’s response to God’s revelation, formally entering into a covenant relationship with him.

Foreshadow of the Tabernacle

Exodus 24:1 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. 2 Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”

This three-tiered arrangement, that we will see unfold in greater detail, foreshadows the Tabernacle, with its outer court, holy place, and most holy place. Or, more accurately, the Tabernacle was intended to replicate what God’s presence, as experienced here on the mountain, was like. The author of Hebrews makes this clear to us:

Hebrews 8:5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)

…23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.

This is why the construction of the Tabernacle is so significant that it takes up the majority of the remainder of Exodus. This structure was patterned after God’s presence, and was designed to communicate what he is like to his people. What is happening here on the mountain will be memorialized in the design of the tabernacle, showing that God is holy, and is to be approached only by those who are authorized by him, and only when and in the way that he defines. More on this later.

Covenant Commitment

In the next verses we see the formal covenant ceremony unfold. Lets step back and take in the big picture. God rescued his people out of slavery. He has demonstrated his love toward them. He chose them, he has cared for them, and he is forming them into a community of people who will be what they were created to be, to live in relationship with him, to be in his presence, to follow him and obey him and enjoy him forever. He put his fear in them as he thundered out his ten words to them from the mountain. He has given clear and practical instructions on what life lived in the community of faith should look like. God has given his people promises, promises to be with them, to lead them and provide for them, promises to fight their battles, promises of abundant blessings. And he has warned them of the dangers of straying from him, the dangers of rebelling against him, the dangers of neglecting to follow him.

Chapter 24 is the culmination of this covenant relationship between God and his people. Back in chapter 19, God brought his people to the foot of the mountain.

Exodus 19:2 …There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7 So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

That was before God had laid out all the details of what this relationship would look like. After this God revealed himself to the people directly when he thundered out his ten words, and they were terrified and requested that Moses mediate for them so that they would not die in God’s presence. God then communicated the book of the covenant to Moses, and now in chapter 24, Moses is relaying its contents to the people.

Exodus 24:3 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.”

The initial response of the people, when God had invited them into a covenant relationship with himself, before they knew all the details of this agreement, was:

Exodus 19:8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.

Now, having heard 5 chapters worth of detail spelling out exactly what this covenant would look like and what was expected of them,

Exodus 24:3 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.”

Covenant Ratified in Blood

And now the covenant ratification ceremony began. God had initiated and offered to enter in to relationship with them. They responded positively. God then communicated to them all the details of the relationship, and they reaffirm their commitment to this relationship. Now, it is put in writing. Verse 4 says:

Exodus 24:4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. …

A verbal agreement leaves room for dispute over what exactly was agreed to. A written contract removes much of this.

Exodus 24:4 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. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 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.” 8 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.”

Now, having heard the written copy read to all the people, for the third time the people respond by saying “all that the LORD has spoken we will do, and be obedient.” Three times God’s people respond with their commitment to obedience.

But this is not just a covenant entered with a handshake or by signing on the dotted line. Moses built an altar, a place to interact with God. He erected 12 pillars, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. He had a bunch of animals slaughtered. He got the young men involved. They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings. They caught the blood in basins. They splattered it all over. This was a bloody scene. All this bloody mess is because the people God is entering into a relationship with are sinners who have rebelled against their Creator. God is holy. He hates sin. His response to sinful people is holy hatred (Ps.5:5; 11:5; 139:21-22) and just punishment. So their sin must be addressed. First, burnt offerings were offered, then peace offerings were sacrificed. The burnt offering (Lev.1:4) was given to atone for or to cover sin. The offerer would lay his hand on the head of the animal, symbolically transferring guilt to the animal, and the animal would die in his place, because the wages of sin is death. The whole animal would then be burnt on the altar to appease God’s wrath against sin. The peace offering (Deut.27:7), or fellowship offering, was a celebration of reconciliation with God, produced by having sins atoned for. Hebrews highlights the importance of the blood.

Hebrews 9:18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

In order for a holy God to enter into any kind of relationship with sinful people other than judgment, the blood of a substitute had to be shed. Moses’ words are “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” The blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you. The blood was applied to the people, splattered on the people. They had entered into a covenant with God. The people promised, but they did not follow through. A mere 40 days later, as we will see in chapter 32, the people are already violating their covenant, turning away from God and his commands, running after other gods. They promised obedience, but their hearts were not changed. They broke this covenant. This makes room for a new covenant. In Hebrews 8, the author quotes Jeremiah 31 and compares these covenants.

Hebrews 8:6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34)

The New Covenant

The old covenant was broken. The people promised, but they could not follow through. God promises a new covenant, and he says “I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts.” No longer written externally in a book or on tablets of stone, but now inscribed in the transformed hearts of his people. Ezekiel puts it this way:

Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This is the promise of the New Covenant; inward transformation by the Spirit of God. We hear Moses’ words “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you” taken up on the lips of another.

Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (cf. Mk.14:24; Lk.22:20; 1Cor.11:25)

Luke records “this …is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk.22:20). Moses said “this is the blood of the covenant”; Jesus said “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” The blood Moses sprinkled on the people was the blood of animals. Hebrews tells us “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb.10:4). Jesus said “this is my blood”; the blood of the only Son of God, the God-man. The blood of Jesus, poured out once for all is infinitely precious and does indeed take away sin.

God had said:

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

God had given the blood of animals as a substitution; life for life. But the life blood of animals applied externally was never sufficient to cleanse the conscience. Moses put the blood in basins and sprinkled it on the people, but Jesus said “Drink of it, all of you.” Under the old covenant, the blood was applied externally. In the new covenant, the life of Jesus is transferred inside of his people. Paul says:

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is the new covenant! It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me! This is limitless power for a life of obedience! The book of Hebrews concludes with this blessing:

Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~


February 12, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , ,

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