As we study the Book of Exodus, I would like you to remember that these laws were given specifically to the Israelites. They were a covenant for the Jewish people for a specific time. The Lord had brought them out of Egypt to be His special people. To be His special people, they would need to voluntarily agree to abide by His laws as given to them by Moses.
“The covenant stipulations—including the Decalogue and the ordinances—whereby the people of Israel were to be regulated as the people of the true God had been given. It now remained for the people to ratify the pact” (Hannah 145).
After all the grumbling and complaining that had happened thus far, you would be right to wonder if the Israelites would agree to follow the Lord’s commands. In this chapter, we will see how they responded.
- Distant worship (1-2)
[Read Exodus 24:1-2.]
The Lord instructed Moses to bring Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders to worship from a distance. But only Moses was allowed to come close to God at a later time.
a. The Lord wanted them to worship Him.
I find it interesting that the Lord wanted the leaders to worship Him. It reminds me of what Jesus told the Samaritan woman. “ But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23).
b. The Lord wanted them to keep distant.
“All 73 of them, except for Moses were to keep their distance from the Lord out of respect for His majesty and holiness” (Hannah 145).
In the Old Testament, there was a definite distance in worship. At this point, only Moses was allowed to speak closely with the Lord. Only the priests were allowed to offer sacrifices. Only the high priest could enter the most holy place once per year.
What was the reason for this distance? Perhaps the Lord was trying to instill in them a proper understanding of His holiness and their sinfulness. Even these dignified leaders (chosen from the millions of Israelites) were to recognize their sinfulness and God’s holiness.
But when we come to the New Testament, are we to remain distant from the Lord? The answer is complicated. We are still to recognize our sinfulness and God’s holiness, but we have been brought near to God through the blood of Jesus.
Eph. 2:13 – “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Matt. 27:50-51 – “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom… .”
“So, what do we make of this? What significance does this torn veil have for us today? Above all, the tearing of the veil at the moment of Jesus’ death dramatically symbolized that His sacrifice, the shedding of His own blood, was a sufficient atonement for sins. It signified that now the way into the Holy of Holies was open for all people, for all time, both Jew and Gentile” (GotQuestions).
Though our sin distances us from God, Jesus’s once for all death on the cross enables us to draw near to God. Sinners need not worship from a distance. Instead, we can be close to God through the blood of Jesus.
- Unanimous agreement (3-8)
[Read Exodus 24:3-8.]
Moses told the people the Lord’s laws. Surprisingly, the people were unanimous in agreement. Moses sealed their agreement with sacrifices and sprinkling of blood.
a. Moses read the Lord’s judgments to the people (3).
“Moses rehearsed before the people all the Lord’s words and laws (20:22-23:33), called ‘the Book of the Covenant’ (24:7). After hearing these laws the people heartily submitted themselves to obey them” (Hannah 145).
To be sure that they understood what they were agreeing to obey, Moses read the Law to them. When the people heard the stipulations, they unanimously agreed to abide by them.
Does this surprise you? Based on the way they responded in the past, it is surprising. But this is because we forget the circumstances surrounding God’s meeting with them. Remember the dark cloud, the fire on the mountain, the earthquakes, and other symbols of God’s power. The people were awe struck with God’s greatness that day and were willing to do whatever He commanded them.
Now that they had agreed to obey the Lord, “Moses prepared the people for the ratifying of the Law” (Hannah 145).
b. Moses wrote down the covenant (4).
When you purchase a home, there is a large amount of papers that need to be signed—especially if you are borrowing money to buy the home.
When it came to this covenant between the Lord and his chosen people, Moses wrote down what God required of them. This would enable them to read and know what God required of them.
c. Moses offered sacrifices (5-6).
Moses initiated the covenant with burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. The blood of the oxen was divided into two basins and first sprinkled on the altar representing the Lord’s part of the covenant.
d. Moses read the Book of the Covenant (7-8).
“He read it that their memories might be refreshed, and their consent given with full knowledge and due deliberation” (Bush 61).
Then Moses sprinkled the people (probably the representatives) with the blood. “This is the only time in the Old Testament when people were sprinkled with blood. … The sprinkled blood, then, symbolized the legal transaction between God (represented by the altar, Ex. 24:6) and the people (represented by the stones). Israel was thus ceremonially set apart through blood (the blood of the covenant) as the people of the true God” (Hannah 145).
Commentator George Bush indicates that the blood made the promise all the more important. It was like saying that I should be killed if I don’t keep my part of the covenant.
The blood of the Old Testament covenant was a picture of what Jesus would later do for us. “Later the New Covenant, established by Jesus, was also ratified by blood, His own (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25-26)” (Hannah 145-46). There Jesus shed his own blood to ratify his new covenant between God and all who believe.
- Seeing God (9-11)
[Read Exodus 24:9-11.]
Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders saw God and lived.
a. Why were these people present?
“This company was selected in order that they might be witnesses of the glorious appearance about to be made, and of the communion with God to which Moses was admitted, that their testimony might confirm the people’s faith in their leader and teacher” (Bush 58).
If anyone had any questions, these people could verify that they had seen God and that He was real.
b. Did they actually see God?
“As we are assured upon the authority of inspiration, 1 Tim. 6.16, that ‘no man [has] seen or can see’ God…, this language undoubtedly denotes that they were privileged to behold the visible sign, symbol, or demonstration of his presence” (Bush 62).
“Apparently the sight was so grand and awesome that their eyes saw only below His feet” (Hannah 146).
Ezek. 1:26-28 – Ezekiel saw the appearance of a brilliant throne and a glorious man.
Isaiah 6:1 – Isaiah saw the Lord on the throne.
Did they actually see God? It seems that they saw a representation of the Lord that was so brilliant that all they remember was the sapphire-like stones under his feet. Whatever the saw left a big impression.
c. Why did God not strike the nobles?
For sinful men to be in the presence of holy God is a serious thing. And yet, despite their sinfulness, God did not judge them for appearing in his presence.
This should make us think twice before acting foolishly when coming into God’s presence when we sing or pray, etc.
d. Why did they eat on the mountain?
“It was common to symbolize the ratifying of a covenant with a meal (cf. Gen. 26:30; 31:54; Luke 22:15-20)” (Hannah 146).
Gen. 26:30 – Abimelech’s covenant meal with Isaac
Gen. 31:54 – Jacob’s covenant meal with Laban
Luke 22:15-20 – Jesus’ New Covenant meal with His disciples
“The Mosaic Covenant had been confirmed (24:1-11) and Israel was then a theocracy, a government or commonwealth under God. Having been redeemed from bondage by God and now in a covenant under His laws, God’s people were then enlightened as to the proper way to worship Him” (Hannah 146).
Now that the covenant was completed, the Lord wanted to meet with Moses alone to explain and provide stone tablets with his laws written on them.
- Moses Only (12-18)
[Read Exodus 24:12-18.]
The Lord called Moses up to the mountain to receive the laws written on stone tablets. Aaron and Hur were put in charge until he came back.
a. The Lord called Moses to the mountain (12-13).
As Moses was going to be the Lord’s representative to Israel, he was called to meet with God to receive the words he would later give to the people. Surprisingly, Joshua was allowed to accompany Moses.
b. Moses put Aaron and Hur in charge (14).
Knowing that he might be gone for a while, Moses put Aaron and Hur in charge of the people. If there were any problems, they would be the ones to see. If you know your Bible well, you may realize that this didn’t turn out very well.
c. Moses was with the Lord for 40 days (15-18).
Moses (and Joshua) went up onto the mountain to meet with God. But the Lord did not speak to Moses immediately.
“After six days God communed with Moses from within the cloud. … While there 40 days Moses ate and drank nothing (cf. Deut. 9:9)” (Hannah 146).
What must the people have thought when Moses disappeared into the cloud at the top of the mountain? The elders had seen a portion of God’s glory but what would Moses see in the very presence of God?
I began the message with a disclaimer. What we read in this chapter was the old covenant made between the Lord and the Israelites. The relationship was distanced. The presence of God scared the people. Only Moses had a close relationship with the Lord.
While we understand the holiness of God, our relationship with Him is quite different. Are we any less sinful than the Israelites? No, we are just as sinful. Are we more likely to keep our promises than the fickle Israelites? No, we are just as fickle. Are we more obedient than them? No, we have the same propensity to disobey the Lord. Then what makes the difference between then and now?
Jesus makes all the difference. The Lord knew that none of us could keep all of his laws and that we could never be holy like Him. So, he sent His own Son Jesus who would initiate a new covenant with His own blood. This covenant does not demand that we obey God’s laws. Instead, Jesus shed his blood for us to cleanse us and make us God’s children apart from any works that we could do (Titus 3:5-6).
Today, we can rest in what Jesus accomplished for us once and for all on the cross. When we turn from our sin and place our faith in Jesus, God the Father forgives our sins and makes us His children. This is all made possible through the blood of Jesus. No more distant worship. No more sinful guilt. We have been brought near by the blood of Jesus and can now have a close relationship with God.
Bush, George, Notes on Exodus Volume 2, Minneapolis: James & Klock, reprint 1976, orig. 1852, 57-70.
“What was the significance of the temple veil being torn in two when Jesus died?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=670 on 7/30/2022.
Hannah, John D., “Exodus,” Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1985, 145-46.