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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Exodus 24

Verses 6-8

DISCOURSE: 96
GOD’S COVENANT WITH ISRAEL

Exodus 24:6-8. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.

OF such terrible majesty is God, that none could behold his face and live. Even in his most condescending intercourse with men, he has made them to feel, that he is “a God greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him.” When he descended on Mount Sinai, to proclaim his law, all the people of Israel entreated that he would not speak to them any more, except through the intervention of a Mediator. He was graciously pleased to make further communications to his people, and to enter into a covenant with them: but here a select number only were permitted to approach him, and of them none but Moses was suffered to “come near unto him.”
The covenant which he made with them, is the subject now before us: and we shall consider it in a two-fold view:

I.

As made with Israel—

An altar being built, together with twelve pillars, the one to represent Jehovah, and the other the twelve tribes of Israel, the covenant was,

1.

Made—

[God, as the author of that covenant, declared by Moses the terms on which he would acknowledge Israel as his peculiar people. Moses had written In a book the laws which God had made known to him, the moral, the ceremonial, the judicial; and all these he read in the audience of the people. To these, in the name of God, he required a cheerful and uniform obedience: and, upon their obedience to these, God promised on his part to favour them with his continued protection, and with the ultimate and peaceful enjoyment of the promised land. Thus was care taken that they should know to what they were to subscribe, and that their future welfare depended on their fidelity to their own engagements.

The people on their part gave their consent to the terms prescribed: and this they did in the most solemn manner. In declaring their acceptance of the covenant they were unanimous, cordial, unreserved. There was not one dissentient voice. They had repeatedly before engaged to do whatever the Lord should enjoin [Note: Exodus 19:8; Exodus 24:3.]: but here they do it with additional force and emphasis [Note: “We will do, and be obedient.”]. Nor do they make the least exception to any one thing as burthensome or oppressive. In the most unqualified manner they bind themselves to a perfect and perpetual obedience; “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.”]

2.

Ratified—

[From the very time that God first set apart Abraham to be the progenitor of his peculiar people to the time when that people were carried captive to Babylon, it seems to have been customary to confirm covenants by sacrifices; which, when slain, were divided into parts placed opposite to each other; and then the parties covenanting passed between those parts, and thereby pledged themselves to a faithful observance of the covenant [Note: In Abraham’s time, Genesis 15:9-10; Genesis 15:17; in David’s, Psalms 50:5; in Jeremiah’s, Jeremiah 34:18-20. A similar custom obtained also among the Greeks.]. But in this instance solemnities were used, which shewed that the sacrifices were essential to the covenant itself. God could not enter into covenant with sinners till an atonement had been offered for their sins. And now that this atonement was offered, one half of the blood of the sacrifices was poured upon the altar, to evince that God was reconciled to them; and the remainder was sprinkled upon the book and upon the people, in order to seal upon their hearts and consciences his pardoning love, and to remind them, that all their hope in that covenant depended on the blood of atonement with which it was sprinkled.]

After having duly considered this covenant as made with Israel, it will be proper to view it,

II.

As typifying that under which we live—

That it was a type of the Christian covenant we are sure, because St. Paul quotes the very words of our text, to prove that the death of Christ was necessary to give efficacy to his mediation, and to secure to us the blessings of his covenant [Note: Hebrews 9:17-19.]. He mentions also some additional circumstances not related in the history: but of them we forbear to speak, that our attention may be confined to the point immediately before us. The connexion between the two is that which we assert, and which we wish to illustrate. Let us then return to the covenant made with Israel, and notice more particularly,

1.

The nature of it—

[The covenant made with Israel was a mixed covenant; partly legal, for it contained the law of the ten commandments delivered on Mount Sinai; partly evangelical, for it comprehended many ceremonial institutions whereby the people were to obtain remission of their sins; and partly national, because it comprised many civil restrictions which were peculiar to that people. But the covenant under which we are, is purely evangelical, having not the smallest mixture of any thing else with it. Our covenant does not prescribe laws, by obedience to which we are to obtain mercy; but offers mercy freely as the gift of God through Christ, and promises grace, whereby we shall be enabled to fulfil the will of God. Sanctification is not required of us as a ground for our justification, but is promised to us as a fruit and evidence of our justification. In this covenant we are not to obey in order that God may give, but to obey because he has given, and will give. We are not first to give to God that he may afterwards give to us; but he gives all, and we receive all.]

2.

The ratification of it—

[The blood of sprinkling used by Moses was a mere shadow; it had of itself no value whatever: it could neither satisfy the justice of God, nor bring peace into the consciences of men. But the blood with which our covenant is ratified is called “the blood of God [Note: Acts 20:28.],” because it was the blood of Him who was God as well as man. That blood has indeed an efficacy that transcends all conception. It has reconciled God to a guilty world: and, when sprinkled on the hearts of men by faith, it fills them with “a peace which passeth all understanding.” And as Moses, in the quality of God’s high-priest, sprinkled the blood both upon the altar and the people, so does our “great High-Priest,” the Lord Jesus, now sprinkle his blood for us before the throne of God, and sprinkle it also on our hearts, whensoever we go to him for that purpose. The covenant too itself is continually exhibited to us as sprinkled with his blood; so that we may be certain that God will fulfil it to us in all its parts. If only we accept it, and rely upon it, all its blessings shall be ours, both in time and in eternity.]

3.

The acceptance of it—

[There was much in the people’s acceptance of that covenant worthy of our imitation: but there was also much which it becomes us carefully to avoid.
In the first place, guard against their ignorance. They were evidently not acquainted with the requisitions of the covenant to which they subscribed. They heard its contents read to them indeed; but they did not enter into their full meaning, neither had they duly considered them. Let not this be the case with us, lest we “begin to build without counting the cost.” Let us consider that it requires us to receive every thing as persons wholly destitute, and to receive it in every part without the smallest partiality or reserve. Let us remember, that though it does not require holiness as a meritorious condition of our acceptance. it promises holiness as one of its chief blessings [Note: Ezekiel 36:25-27.]: and that, if we do not desire, and strive, to be “holy as God is holy,” and “perfect as God is perfect,” all our professed hope in the covenant is vain and delusive. We can no more be saved by the covenant without holiness, than we can without faith. Let this be known, and weighed, yea and be wrought into the soul as a fixed principle, before we presume to think that we have any interest in Christ, or in the covenant which he has sealed with his blood.

In the next place, guard against their self-righteousness. They imagined that they could so fulfil their obligations as to earn and merit all the blessings of the covenant. Let not us make so fatal a mistake. Let us rather acknowledge, that “if we had done all that is commanded us, we should be only unprofitable servants.” But who will say that he has done all that is commanded him, or indeed any one thing, in which God could not discern some imperfection and defect? If this be so, then do we need mercy and forgiveness even for our best actions; and consequently can never merit by them the salvation of God. Let this then be also engrafted in our minds, that we may be accepted with the publican, and not be rejected with the Pharisee.

Lastly, let us guard against their self-dependence. They never doubted but that they were able to do all that was commanded them. They thought it was as easy to perform as to promise. But in a very few days they provoked God to jealousy with their golden calf: so little did they remember the precepts that had been given them, or the vows that were upon them. Let it not be so with us. Let us bear in mind, “we have not of ourselves a sufficiency even to think a good thought;” and that “without Christ we can do nothing.” If we embrace the covenant as they embraced it, we shall fail as they failed.]

We cannot better conclude this subject than by addressing you as Moses addressed the Israelites: “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you,”—or, as St. Paul quotes the words, “the covenant which God hath enjoined unto you!”

1.

Behold the covenant itself—

[It is “ordered in all things and sure:” there is not a want which a human being can feel, for which ample provision is not made in it. And it is free for every creature under heaven. Whatever you may have been in times past, you may at this moment partake of all the blessings of this covenant, if only you be willing to receive them freely, and without reserve. On the other hand, if you disregard this covenant, and “count the blood of it an unholy thing,” “there remains no other sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation to consume you.” God has shut you up to this, and enjoined it unto you by an irreversible decree. Receive it therefore, and live; reject it, and perish.]

2.

Behold the blood of the covenant—

[What instruction does that blood convey! Did the Israelites see their bleeding sacrifices, and not discern the desert of sin? How much more then must we discern it in the precious blood of our incarnate God! And surely we may also see in it the transcendent love of Christ, who submitted to “make his soul an offering for sin,” that, the covenant being sealed with his blood, we might be partakers of its richest blessings.

What comfort too does it convey to the soul! Look on that blood, thou doubting Christian, and then say whether God will not fulfil all the promises that he has ever made: say whether, in such a mode of ratifying his covenant he has not provided “strong consolation for all who flee to the refuge set before them” in the Gospel.

Finally, What a stimulus does it give to all holy and heavenly affections! Shall not that question be continually upon thy mind, “What shall I render unto the Lord?” Look on that blood, and grudge God your services, if ye can. Think much of any duties you can perform, or of any sufferings you can endure for him, if ye can. Only keep your eye fixed upon that blood, and you shall be irresistibly constrained to exult and glory in God, and to consecrate unto him all the faculties and powers of your souls.]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 97
A SIGHT OF GOD IS A FEAST TO THE SOUL

Exodus 24:11. They saw God, and did eat and drink.

GOD is every where present, but no where visible, unless he please to draw aside the veil, and reveal himself to us. It is in heaven alone that his unveiled glory is continually seen. There have however in former times been many occasions whereon he has discovered himself to men, sometimes in human, sometimes in angelic form, and sometimes in a bright appearance, in which no similitude could be traced, and of which no representation can be made. The manifestation of which the text speaks, seems to have been of the last kind. It was vouchsafed to a great many persons at once: and while they beheld his presence, they feasted before him.
In discoursing upon this interesting event, we shall notice,

I.

Their vision—

The circumstances of the vision are particular, and deserve an attentive consideration—
[The persons to whom it was vouchsafed were Moses, and Aaron with his two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the “elders of Israel,” who are also called “nobles.” Who these nobles were we cannot absolutely determine; but it is most probable that they were persons of consequence in the different tribes, who were selected to represent the nation at large; and, if six were taken out of each tribe, they might in round numbers be called seventy, though strictly speaking they would amount to seventy-two.

The time at which they were thus favoured, was after they had consented to the covenant which God had made with them. Subsequent to the publication of the moral law from Mount Sinai, God ordained a variety of statutes, which were peculiar to Israel as a nation; and at the same time made with them a national covenant, partaking of a covenant of works, and partly of a covenant of grace. In this, they undertook to serve God; and God undertook to protect and bless them. This covenant had been confirmed by a sacrifice, in which the different parties had met, as it were, and given their consent to it. God was represented by the altar; and the twelve tribes were represented by the twelve pillars which Moses had erected near the altar, as well as by the seventy elders, who had been chosen out from among them. The blood of the sacrifice had been sprinkled on them all; on the altar, the pillars, and the people. The book of the covenant also had been sprinkled with it [Note: Hebrews 9:18-23.], to shew, that, though God did not relax the demands of his law, he would not be extreme to mark the unallowed violations of it. After this covenant had been thus made and ratified, God called Moses and the others to come up higher on the mountain; and revealed to them his glory.

The manner also in which God revealed himself, is worthy of notice. There had been a manifestation of the Deity prior to this: but O! how different from it! That display which God made of himself at the giving of the law was in “blackness and darkness, and tempest; and attended with such tremendous thunderings and lightenings, that all the people, yea, and “Moses himself, exceedingly trembled and quaked.” But, in this vision all was light and serene, and calculated to inspire the beholders with joy and confidence. The appearance of the Deity was beyond the brightness of the meridian sun; and underneath it “the pavement, as it were, upon which he stood, was like the sapphire” stone, or like the azure sky, bespangled with stars [Note: 0.].

Thus the vision altogether was suited to a new-covenant state, wherein the people were introduced into communion with their God, and honoured with these astonishing tokens of his love and favour.]
Such a vision is now vouchsafed to us under the Gospel—
[We shall not indeed behold God precisely as they did; for such visions have long since been discontinued. But there is a spiritual view of the Deity, which we may, and must, partake of; and which. we are authorized to say, was typified by the vision before us. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the preceding context is expressly quoted, and that too with some additional circumstances not related by Moses [Note: Hebrews 9:18-23.]: and we are told that the event there referred to, was “a pattern of the heavenly things,”, which we enjoy under the Gospel. The view which we have of the Deity, prior to our embracing the new covenant, inspires us with nothing but terror: but when we have accepted the covenant of grace, which was confirmed by the sacrifice of Christ, and have sprinkled on our consciences die blood of that sacrifice, then we shall be admitted to a more clear, but less terrific, new of God: his justice will appear more awful in the sacrifice which it demanded, than even in the curses it denounced: but it will be seen tempered with mercy; and ready to harmonize with mercy in every act of love. This vision we are to enjoy, not through the medium of representatives, but every one of us for himself. It is of Christians in general, and not of some distinguished favourites only, that the Apostle says, “God hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6.].” Here, by the way, we see where we are to have this vision: it is to be “in our hearts:” it is an object of contemplation to the mind; and not of sight to our bodily organs.]

Together with their vision, it will be proper to notice also,

II.

Their feast—

It was generally supposed that none could see God and live [Note: Genesis 32:30.]: but here the seventy elders, as well as Moses and Aaron, beheld him, and yet “he laid not his hand on any one of them” to hurt them [Note: This is the meaning of the words preceding the text.]. On the contrary,

They feasted on their sacrifice in the divine presence—
[They had sacrificed burnt-offerings, and peace-offerings. Of the latter, the offerers were allowed to eat, in token of their acceptance with God. Indeed it had long before been customary for parties covenanting with each other, to feast together at the ratification of their covenant [Note: Genesis 31:54.]. And here, if we may so speak, the different parties feasted together: God’s part of the sacrifices had been consumed upon his altar; and the remainder was eaten by the offerers. And doubtless it must have been a precious feast to those, who had so lately trembled at the thunders of Mount Sinai. Their souls must have been yet more refreshed with a sense of the divine favour, than their bodies by the provision thus allotted for their support.]

But their feast was. no less typical than their vision—
[Christ, who is our sacrifice, calls all his people to “eat his flesh, and to drink his blood.” But we must not imagine that this refers to corporeal food: our Lord speaks of spiritual food, of which our souls are to partake by the exercise of faith on him. Yes, his atonement is indeed a feast to the soul: in this sense it may be truly said, “His flesh is meat indeed; and his blood is drink indeed [Note: John 6:53-56.].” On this we are to feed in the immediate presence of our God. However “far off we are, we may draw nigh by the blood of Jesus [Note: Ephesians 2:13.],” yea, “we may have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus [Note: Hebrews 10:19.]:” we may see God reconciled to us in him; and may rejoice in him as our God and portion for ever. The wonders of his love are to be the continual banquet of our souls. His “exceeding great and precious promises” are “a feast of fat things, of wines on the lees well refined [Note: Isaiah 25:6.].” Of these we are to “eat freely, and abundantly [Note: Song of Song of Solomon 5:0 :l.]:” we are to “sit under his shadow; and his fruit will be sweet unto our taste [Note: Song of Solomon 2:3.]:” yea, “we shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness [Note: Psalms 63:5.] ;” enjoying a “peace that passeth all understanding,” and being “filled with joy unspeakable and glorified [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.].”]

Address,
1.

Those who are afar off from God—

[The prohibition given to the Israelites, is cancelled with, respect to you. The veil of the temple was rent in twain at the death of Christ, in token that a new and living way was opened to all, and that all who believed, were constituted “a royal priesthood [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.].” Will ye then decline the invitation that is sent you? We are commissioned to go forth into the highways and hedges to call you to the feast, which a God of infinite love has prepared for you. O come, and partake of it. But remember that, in order to enjoy it, you must first accept, the new covenant, and submit to be saved by the free mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Sprinkle yourself with the blood of Christ, your all-atoning sacrifice; and then you may have fellowship both with the Father and the Son, and feast before God for ever on the provisions of redeeming love.]

2.

Those who are inclined to rest in external privileges—

[Such was the case with the greater part of those to whom the text refers. One would have supposed that they could never have forgotten their obligations to God, or have ceased to serve him: but, alas! in a very little time, Nadab and Abihu were struck dead for their impiety; and of the seventy elders, not one, as far as we know, held fast his integrity. They were ready, as indeed were all the people also, to profess their allegiance to the Deity; “All that the Lord hath said, will we do, and be obedient:” but they soon forgat their pious resolutions, and revolted from their duty. Beware, Brethren, lest it be so with you. It will be to very little purpose to say at last, “Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunk in thy presence [Note: Luke 13:26.] ?” If you have “not been steadfast in his covenant.” your outward professions, or past experiences, will avail little. Maintain therefore continually your dependence upon Christ; and, in his strength, exert yourselves to fulfil his holy will.]

3.

Those who are coming to the table of their Lord—

[We ask not whether you have a deep experience of divine truth, but whether you have fled to Christ from the terrors of the law? Have you seen yourselves condemned by the covenant of works: and are you seeking mercy through the covenant of grace? Are you really sprinkling yourselves with the blood of Christ, your great sacrifice, and coming to God through him alone? If so, behold, there is a table spread, and you are called to come and feast upon your sacrifice in the presence of your God. Come thither in faith; and your God will make his glory to pass before your eyes; yea, Christ will “reveal himself to you in the breaking of bread [Note: Luke 24:31; Luke 24:35.],” “and fill you with “his loving-kindness, which is better than life itself.” Thus shall you be strengthened for all future services, till at last you shall be called to “eat and drink at Christ’s table in the kingdom of your Father. [Note: Luke 22:30.].”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 24". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/exodus-24.html. 1832.