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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 24:9-18; Feasting in the Presence of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20120219_exodus24_9-18.mp3

2/19 Exodus 24:9-18 Feasting in God’s Presence

We are in Exodus 24, which is the hinge-pin of the book, linking the narrative of God’s redemption of his people with the instructions for worship in God’s presence. God is revealing himself to his people on the mountain. He is teaching about himself, declaring what he is like, preparing his people to be in his presence. God is entering into a covenant relationship with his people. But God is holy, and we are sinners. God has established sacrifice as a way to address our sin problem. The wages of sin is death, so blood must be shed; either our own, or God’s provision of a substitute. In this chapter, as we saw last time, the blood of the covenant is splattered all over the people, a foreshadow of Jesus, who offers his own blood, the blood of the new covenant, not applied externally and temporarily, but once for all effecting the forgiveness of sins, and causing inward transformation.

At the beginning of this covenant ceremony, we saw the sacrifices made and the blood applied. In the remainder of the chapter, we see the continuation of the covenant ceremony; the covenant meal, and the formal documentation of the covenant.

Lets look at the first two verses of Exodus 24 and then pick up in verse 9, where we left off last time.

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.”

Exodus 24:9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 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. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

12 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.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.” 15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

This gives the historical setting for the rest of the book. Chapters 25-31 record the details of the construction of the tabernacle given to Moses while he is on the mountain in the presence of God. Chapters 32-34 document the people’s violation of the covenant, Moses’ prayer of intercession, and the renewal of the covenant. Chapters 35-40 see Israel building the tabernacle according to the instructions given in 25-31.

Holiness of God

We saw in the book of Hebrews that the tabernacle is designed to be a copy of the real presence of God. The tabernacle was to be constructed with three main sections, the outer court, the holy place, and the most holy place, which is patterned after what is happening here on the mountain. God denied access to the people in general, but invited the leaders of Israel to come part way up, and Moses alone to come all the way up. This is designed to teach the holiness of God. That God is holy means that God is absolutely distinct, separate, other -he is not part of his creation; he is over and above, infinitely more excellent than his creation. He is holy in his being, in his very essence. His existence is different from our existence. He is eternal; we are temporal. He is infinite; we are finite. He is self-existent; we are dependent. God is morally perfect and pure; we are fallen and flawed, sinners by nature and by choice. God is holy, and he is to be approached only by those who are purified and authorized by him and only when and in the way that he himself proscribes. God is holy, he is not to be approached casually or carelessly, and never without blood.

God Initiates

Here we see this all-holy God initiate a relationship with his people. He invites them to come near. God is always the initiator; we are those who respond to his invitation. God defines who is to come and how far they are to come. Only the seventy elders, the three priests, and Moses are invited to come up. And then, Moses alone is invited to come near to the LORD. In the tabernacle, only the high priest, only once a year, only with the sacrificial blood, was allowed into the most holy place. Jesus took only three of his disciples up the mount of transfiguration with him.

Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (Jn.6:44); Jesus said “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt.11:28); and “let the little children come to me” (Mt.19:14); and “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (Jn.7:27); and “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (Jn.6:35); and “all that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (Jn.6:37). And at the moment Jesus finished his work on the cross, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mt.27:51; Mk.15:38; Lk.23:45).

Paul tells us:

Romans 5:2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Ephesians 3:11 …in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Hebrews tells us:

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God has initiated. You are invited. Come. Enter in. The way is opened to you through the blood of the spotless Lamb of God, Jesus. Draw near.

Seeing God

This section of Exodus is amazing, because it tells us that God invited, and

Exodus 24:9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 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. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

They beheld God! They saw the God of Israel! What does this mean? Because just a few chapters later, when Moses asks God to show him his glory, he is told:

Exodus 33:18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” …20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

“You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” This is the consistent fearful testimony of all who have had any kind of encounter with God. Jacob:

Genesis 32:30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

Gideon:

Judges 6:22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” 23 But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.”

The parents of Samson:

Judges 13:22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

Isaiah:

Isaiah 6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Alas! Woe is me! We shall surely die! Man shall not see me and live. Even in this passage, the exceptional nature of what happened is highlighted. It says “he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel.” It is a fearful thing for any person to be in the presence of perfect holiness.

But is there a contradiction here? We are told that they did see God, but Jesus teaches that God is spirit (Jn.4:24), and the unanimous testimony of the New Testament is that God is invisible (Rom.1:20; Col.1:15; 1Tim.1:17; 6:16; Heb.11:27). Twice we are told unequivocally “no one has ever seen God” (Jn.1:18; 1Jn.4:20). Jesus himself says that no one has seen the Father (Jn.6:46). So, what are we to make of this when it says they beheld God? First, lets look back at the text to see exactly what it was that the Israelite leaders did see. It says:

Exodus 24:10 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. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

They recognized that they were in the presence of God. But what they describe seeing was the pavement under his feet. It is as if they were not able to lift their eyes above the pavement in his presence. The pavement itself was staggeringly beautiful. It was like lapiz lazuli or sapphire; with depth and clarity like the heavens. The prophet Ezekiel describes something similar; he has a vision of four living creatures.

Ezekiel 1:22 Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. …26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Do you hear how many times he says ‘the likeness of, the appearance of, as it were? He is groping for adequate vocabulary to put into words what he saw. God is spirit, but he can manifest himself in a visual way to his people. God is spirit, as Paul says “who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no on has ever seen or can see” (1Tim.6:16). God is invisible, God is infinite, God is everywhere present, There is no way human eyes could ever take in all that God is.

So what of Job’s longing “yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold” (Job 19:26-27) or the longing of the Psalmist “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness”, and “One thing …will I seek after: …to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD” (Ps.17:15; 27:4)? If God cannot be seen, what of the longing in the heart of every believer to look into the face of God? This finds its fulfillment in Jesus. John tells us:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus is the ultimate visible manifestation of the Father. This has led theologians throughout the history of the church to conclude that any time in the Old Testament that God was seen in some way, it was God the Son, the second person of the trinity making his Father known.

So the leaders of Israel were invited in to the presence of God, to get a glimpse of his majesty, to enjoy a covenant meal. They beheld God, and ate and drank. Then Moses was invited to come up and receive the written copies of the covenant agreement. Covenants in that day were made between a conquering king and his new subjects. Two identical copies would be written, one kept by the king and one given to his subjects. This is what we see happening here.

Exodus 24:12 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.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.”

Aaron and Hur, who held up Moses’ hands on the hill while Joshua fought the Amalekites in chapter 17, are left to settle any disputes that arise in Moses’ absence. After an awesome manifestation of God’s presence like this, who would have disputes? This sets the stage for what we will find in chapter 32.

Exodus 24:15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

This is the awesome setting of the next seven chapters. The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai. This word ‘dwelt’ is the root of the word translated ‘tabernacle’, the sanctuary that Moses was instructed to build. God tabernacled on Mount Sinai, in preparation to dwell with his people (Ex.25:8). The glory of God appeared like a devouring fire, and Moses was invited up into the glory cloud. Moses spends almost a month and a half in the glory cloud, in the consuming fire, sustained by the covenant meal, being shown the heavenly tabernacle, of which he was to build a replica, to show that God indeed wants to dwell with his people.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

 

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February 19, 2012 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , ,

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