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This section connects to Exodus 20:21. The part in between shows the contents of what Moses has been told by the LORD.
Approaching, but at a Distance
Moses is called by the LORD to come to Him together with Aaron and Nadab and Abihu, his eldest sons, and a representation of the people. But “at a distance”. This distance is characteristic of the relationship between the LORD and His people in the Old Testament. For the New Testament church this distance is no longer there. The letter to the Hebrews shows in detail that the New Testament believers may approach God boldly in the sanctuary. This letter also shows how this is made possible: through Christ and His work.
The Covenant Made
The ordinances communicated in the previous chapters are communicated by Moses to the people. As in Exodus 19 (Exodus 19:8), the people promise to do everything the LORD has said (Exodus 24:3; Exodus 24:7). In Exodus 19 they say this before they have heard what the LORD wants. Now they have heard His ordinances and say the same. Unfortunately, there is no knowledge of themselves. They will gain this knowledge by the ordinances of the LORD. This will show how much they fail in their promise.
Moses puts everything down in writing and in that way records it for the generations to come. As soon as there is a redeemed people, a people that God has separated for Himself, He records His thoughts for and about them in the written Word. The first time an event has to be written in a book, we find in Exodus 17 (Exodus 17:14). God makes His thoughts known in the written Word. Everyone can know what God wants. His unchanging Word can be consulted over and over again.
Then Moses built an altar of twelve stones at the foot of the mountain. It is as if he realizes that the people will never be able to fulfil what they have promised and that they can only exist for God on the basis of a sacrifice. The sacrifices speak of the Lord Jesus and of the work He accomplished on the cross. The burnt offering is in its entirety for the LORD (Leviticus 1:1-Esther :). The peace offering is a communion offering in which the communion between the LORD and his people is expressed (Leviticus 3:1-Esther :).
He lets young men, probably the first-born, bring burnt offerings and peace offerings. This work will later be taken over by priests and Levites, who will take the place of the firstborn (Numbers 3:12). Moses takes young men, a new generation, to show the new generation, as it were, that this is the only true basis for God. The elders are bound by the law, and on that basis it will appear to be impossible to approach God.
Moses reads the contents of the Book to the people (Exodus 24:7). He informs them of the terms of the covenant. For the third time, the people declare that they will abide by it. They say it even stronger than in Exodus 24:3, because here they not only say that they will “do”, but add that they will also “obey”.
Then Moses takes the people at their word. As solemnly as the people have declared to keep the covenant of the LORD, so Moses records this covenant. This is done by sprinkling blood on the altar and on the people and the book. The sprinkling of the book is not mentioned here. Yet, according to what we read in Hebrews 9, this happened (Hebrews 9:19).
The sprinkling of the people seems to mean that they are reminded of death as punishment for disobedience. The sprinkling of the book shows that death is necessary as the basis of everything. Therefore, even the whole system of the law is not initiated without blood. The book contains the conditions for the covenant, the people are the covenant people, and the altar represents the LORD, the origin of the covenant.
Blood is God’s answer to the people’s repeated promise that they will do what God says. The blood is life poured out into death. This is what will happen to Israel if it violates the words of the LORD. This blood poses a threat.
This blood stands in contrast to the blood of the new covenant. From that blood flows reconciliation, forgiveness and blessing. With this we, New Testament believers, are sprinkled (1 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 12:24). In the value of that blood, we, who are no better than those who were under the old covenant, can stand before God. That is what the letter to the Hebrews makes clear.
The Representatives of the People See God
Although at a distance, they still see something of God’s glory. Ezekiel saw something similar: “Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, [was] a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and [there was] a radiance around Him” (Ezekiel 1:26-Daniel :).
What Moses, and later Ezekiel, see, is not the glory of His grace, but the glory of His holiness. It is also not so much related to the glory of His Person. What Moses and others see of Him is connected with His feet, which speaks of the way He goes in holiness. In it something becomes visible that is “as clear as the sky itself”. The sky in all its brightness is seen in the way that He goes. What He does, makes visible what it is like where He lives.
That is perfectly seen in the life of the Son of God Who came from heaven to earth. “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9; Colossians 1:19). God has come to men in a way that they are not consumed by His holiness, but attracted by His grace. Only in this way God, “who … dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16), could come to men (cf. John 1:18).
The fact that God does not send out a consuming fire to this company, but that they may behold this scene while eating and drinking, is a ray of His grace in the midst of the darkness and threat of Sinai. He tempers, as it were, the full glory of His majesty by hiding most of it (cf. Job 26:9).
Moses and Joshua Climb up Higher
Moses is called by the LORD to come to Him and also to remain with Him. He will remain there for a longer time. Moses does not come, as it were, only to visit, but takes up residence with the LORD. Not that he will always stay away, because he tells the people left behind to wait until he and Joshua return to them. But even when he is back, he remains in the spirit with the LORD. He lives and acts from his relationship with Him.
It seems that Joshua may accompany him a little further. After Exodus 17 (Exodus 17:9) we find here the second mention of Joshua, and again in connection with Moses. He may gain the experience of coming closer to the LORD. The others have to stay behind. They may not climb any further up to the LORD.
During his absence Moses does not leave the people to their fate. He arranges deputies. The people can go to them if they have situations they cannot sort out among themselves. In the same way, the Lord Jesus gave gifts to the church during His absence, such as those of “administrations” (1 Corinthians 12:28). In certain cases, they can resolve a dispute with the wisdom that has been given to them.
Moses Alone Meets the LORD
Eventually Joshua has to stay behind and Moses goes on alone. For six days the cloud, the symbol of the dwelling place of the glory of God, covers the mountain. Moses is waiting all this time. He does not become impatient like Saul, later, who also has to wait, but acts impatiently and thereby forfeits his kingship (1 Samuel 13:8-2 Chronicles :).
On the seventh day the LORD calls him. Then Moses enters the cloud; he enters the glory of God, to abide there forty days and forty nights. In that time, he gets to hear and see beautiful things from God in view of God’s dwelling among His people.
The glory that Moses enters seems to be a consuming fire for the Israelites. Here we see the big difference with the time we live in. Whoever is made fit for the presence of God will feel at home there. Whoever believes that he can please God on the basis of the law will always think of God’s presence with fear and trembling.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Exodus 24". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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