Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Hidden, Glorious God

And all the craftsmen among the workmen made the tabernacle…These are the records of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of the testimony, as they were recorded at the commandment of Moses, the responsibility of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses; and with him was Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, an engraver and designer and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen.

All the gold that was used for the work, in all the construction of the sanctuary, the gold from the offering, was twenty-nine talents and 730 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary.

From the blue and purple and scarlet yarns they made finely woven garments, for ministering in the Holy Place. They made the holy garments for Aaron, as the LORD had commanded Moses. (Exodus 36:8-39:1, ESV)

This lengthy step-by-step description of how the Tabernacle was made shows that it indeed followed the instructions given to Moses based on the model Moses saw on the Mountain, the heavenly version of what was being built on earth (Exodus 25:40; Hebrews 8:5; 9:23-24). And God used these skilled craftsmen to accomplish the job. They must have felt very privileged to be included in this holy enterprise. No doubt craftsmen of cathedral projects have felt the same way. But are we supposed to be building such structures today?

It would seem in principle that it is not wrong to spend amazing amounts of the peoples’ money on such buildings as we long to honor God with everything we have and show Him to be glorious. But we have not been so instructed as Moses was to do such building. The church building we most frequently erect is decidedly not a temple or sanctuary, despite how much we use those terms. The people of God are the temple, not the building. We are the intersection of heaven and earth because the Holy Spirit indwells us. People meet God in us, not a building. The way into the Most Holy Place has been opened by Jesus and His sacrifice and we are living testimonies that the sacrifice availed for us.

We hope that in the building we erect for the purpose of meeting, if such a thing is deemed wise, people will meet the living God in us and the building itself will not be a deterrent to that.  If we can make it attractive or suggestive of the glory of God, and the Spirit so directs us to invest in that, we have freedom to do so.  But we must count the cost of such architecture and décor to make sure that it is not something that puts us in debt, prevents us from really ministering to the needs of our community, or even distracts from realizing that the people are the church, not the building.

If we think about how the Tabernacle functioned in ancient Israel, it did give a sense of how glorious the God of the universe is, though even in its beauty it could not approach that fully.  But it also created a mystery about God and how things functioned inside, hidden from all but the high priest.  It mostly communicated that you could not approach this holy God without following His precise instructions.  Humans are too intent on creating their own path to God, believing that we have that capability and that God is okay with that, even endorses it.  Just the opposite is true.

“If God had wished to overcome the obstinacy of the most hardened, He would have done so by revealing himself to them so plainly that they could not doubt the truth of his essence, as he will appear on the last day with such thunder and lightening and such convulsions of nature that the dead will rise up and the blindest will see him. This is not the way he wished to appear when he came in mildness because so many had shown themselves unworthy of his clemency that he wished to deprive them of the good they did not desire.  It was therefore not right that he should appear in a manner manifestly divine and absolutely capable of convincing everyone, but neither was it right that his coming should be so hidden that he could not be recognized by those who sincerely sought him. He wished to make himself perfectly recognizable to them.  Thus wishing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart, he has qualified our knowledge of him by giving signs which can be seen by those who seek him and not by those who do not.  There is enough light for those who desire only to see, and enough darkness for those of a contrary disposition.” [Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 79-80]

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Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Jealousy

The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

“Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

“You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

“You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. All that open the womb are mine, all your male livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed.

“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

“You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:1-28, ESV)

Yahweh shows his “back” to Moses and confirms that He is going to go up with these people to the land of promise. He writes, on the stone tablets Moses’ has had fashioned, the ten commandments once again and rehearses who it is that Israel is entering into covenant with. He is the one who is compassionate and forgives, the only reason the Israelites are not destroyed.

But the covenant must be rehearsed, if only in a small representative fashion, as Yahweh notes several key aspects of how Israel must live before Him. And Yahweh makes the astonishing promise that if Israel observes His law foreign nations won’t even have a desire to attack and take the land Yahweh is going to give them.

Most of all they must know He is a jealous God. For us, this seems a potentially petty way to speak, making God seem self-centered. But He is the most properly self-centered being in the universe whose love is absolutely best for us and without Whom we are entirely lost. He loves us so much that He must warn us against falling for anyone else. Such falling for another will cause our ruin. No one else can fulfill our deepest needs or guide us more truly in the path of life.

Human jealousy can be like this, but it is most often not, coming not from a place of unselfish love but from a place of fear and desperation.   We are most often jealous because we feel we lack something we need and fearfully grab for it by any means necessary.  Like God, however, we might be jealous in the sense of knowing that we are best for someone else and yearn for their well-being without putting our well-being first, without falling apart if that person doesn’t see our worth the way we do.

Today, serve Him only. All of your needs are important to Him, but He is your biggest need.  If we are filled by Him nothing can destroy us.

The marital relationship may be the best way to help us understand the difference between sinful jealousy and righteous jealousy. I can be jealous over my relationship with my wife in a wrong way or in a right way. For example, if I feel resentment or anger merely because I see her talking to another man, that would be self-centered possessiveness and unreasonable domination—in other words, sinful jealousy. It would stem from my own selfishness or insecurity rather than from my commitment to her and to what is right.

But, on the other hand, if I see some man actually trying to alienate my wife’s affections and seduce her, then I have reason to be righteously jealous. God gave her to me to be my wife. Her body is mine just as my body is hers. I have the exclusive right to enjoy her fully, and for someone else to assume that right would be a violation of God’s holy standards. I am zealous for the exclusiveness and purity of our marriage, and that is a righteous jealousy. Jehovah feels the same way about His relationship with His “wife.” There is no selfishness in His jealousy. It is the appropriate expression of His holiness. [https://bible.org/seriespage/21-jealous-god]

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: The Face of God

The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33, ESV)

Moses intercedes again on behalf of the people and Yahweh listens to him because Moses has favor with God. God has been speaking face to face with Moses (though the fact that Moses asks to see God’s face tells us that this is an expression of the close contact he had with Yahweh, not a literal face to face talk). Moses has used a tent to interact with Yahweh and he goes there again to present his case to God for going up with them rather than just sending an angel.

Interestingly, the tent was for anyone who sought Yahweh to meet with Him, presumable via Moses intercession.  Joshua would stay in the tent seeking Yahweh even after Moses left.  This is a model for us in our prayer.  But now Moses goes to intercede on behalf of the people and himself.

The people are in proper mourning about their misbehavior and rebellion and when Moses gets the answer he wanted he seeks to trade on his favor with Yahweh to see Yahweh’s face. Yahweh says no, I believe, because what Moses is really asking is to see all of Yahweh’s glory, which would likely kill the human being who experiences it, overwhelming the bodily system in ways it could not recover from. But Yahweh shows him His “back” or a form of His glory that Moses can handle, and declares His glory, His character, as Moses experiences this vision of God.

What do we care about enough to beseech God’s throne the way Moses did? And are we in such favor with God that He would grant it?

Never give up prayer, and should you find dryness and difficulty, persevere in it for this very reason.  God often desires to see what love your soul has, and love is not tried by ease and satisfaction.  (John of the Cross)

God is still on His throne, we’re still on His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between.  Cold prayers, like cold suitors, are seldom effective in their aims. (Jim Elliott)

As St. Augustine says, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.  Knowing this is the essence of prayer.  The posture our body and the words we use have no significance in themselves and are only pleasing to God as they express the feelings of the heart.  For it is the heart that prays, it is to the voice of the heart that God listens to, and it is the heart that he answers. You ask me what this voice of the heart is. It is love which is the voice of the heart. Love God and you will always be speaking to Him.  The seed of love is growth in prayer. If you do not understand that, you have never yet either loved or prayed. Ask God to open your heart and kindle in it a spark of his love, and then you will begin to understand what praying means. (Jean-Nicholas Grou, Devotional Classics)

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Hard, Yet Worth It

“You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood… You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns… And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations… It is most holy to the LORD.”

The LORD said to Moses, “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the LORD when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary… The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less… You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives.”

8_3_laverThe LORD said to Moses, “You shall also make a basin of bronze, with its stand of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it, with which Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet. When they go into the tent of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn a food offering to the LORD, they shall wash with water, so that they may not die…”

The LORD said to Moses, “Take the finest spices… and a hin of olive oil. And you shall make of these a sacred anointing oil blended as by the perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand…’”

The LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices…with pure frankincense…and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy… And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30, ESV)

The small table that becomes an altar for burning incense is covered in gold because it is in the Holy Place, right before the veil that leads into the Most Holy Place, and cannot be used for any kind of offering or sacrifice. It itself is atoned for by the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, once a year. It would have provided a very sweet fragrance in the tent, a reminder of God’s holy presence. We are to think of our prayers as the incense that wafts into heaven (Revelation 5:8), a delight to God.

A tax for support of the Tabernacle, presumably taken once a year, makes sure that the Tabernacle is always provided for and its personnel provided for. No one pays more or less than the prescribed amount, but everyone 20 or older must pay or Yahweh will send a plague. The seriousness of maintaining the Tabernacle is thus assured. We must have that same seriousness about maintaining our relationship to God.

The bronze basin (laver in the King James translation) is for the priests to wash with right before they enter the Tabernacle. Purity is expected in our relationship to Yahweh. And the anointing oil with a unique aroma that is not to be duplicated for any other purpose than anointing the Tabernacle, is also a reminder of the uniqueness of this avenue of approach to Yahweh and how special He is. The priests would have a sensory experience with these aromas and visions of beauty every day, offsetting, we may suppose, the unwelcome aromas of slaughtered animals and blood. This strange tension was a powerful symbol of how difficult yet rewarding it was to enter into covenant with God. To enter in to covenant with Him required death that led to forgiveness. The deplorableness of our rebellion is matched by the greatness of God’s grace.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Respecting God

“You shall make the court of the tabernacle…

“You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil that is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening to morning before the LORD. It shall be a statute forever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel.

priest-costume--stones“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests. They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth… And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for remembrance…

“You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it. It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth. You shall set in it four rows of stones… There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel… So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD. And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the LORD. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the LORD regularly.

“You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear. On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the LORD, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD…

“For Aaron’s sons you shall make coats and sashes and caps. You shall make them for glory and beauty. And you shall put them on Aaron your brother, and on his sons with him, and shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. You shall make for them linen undergarments to cover their naked flesh. They shall reach from the hips to the thighs; and they shall be on Aaron and on his sons when they go into the tent of meeting or when they come near the altar to minister in the Holy Place, lest they bear guilt and die. This shall be a statute forever for him and for his offspring after him. (Exodus 27:9-28:43, ESV)

The courtyard of the Tabernacle kept a certain separation between the tribes of Israel and the Tabernacle itself. This is the interplay of intimacy with Yahweh and yet recognition that He is holy and other. The oil for the lampstand is to keep a light on continuously in the Tabernacle.

Aaron and his sons, the priests of Israel, must have garments that show their connection to the Tabernacle and speak of the glory of Yahweh, hence the colors and beauty of the garments. The ephod, which holds the breastplate and bears on it the two stones, one on each shoulder, with the names of the tribes of Israel, and the breastplate, which holds 12 stones, one each for the 12 tribes of Israel, are worn before Yahweh when they enter the holy place and the most holy place to represent Israel and atone for Israel.

In the breastplate is something called the Urim and the Thummim, which later are described as in some way giving indication of Yahweh’s will concerning various decisions that need to be made. We don’t know how they functioned to accomplish this.

Aaron also has to wear bells on his clothes to make a noise as he enters the holy place. This was a sign of respect for Yahweh. You don’t just enter in with casual purpose or you will die. Entering in must be done in all respects as Yahweh has prescribed. The priests must be anointed for this service and even their undergarments are prescribed to maintain purity.

We are told to come boldly to God (Hebrews 4:16) but this does not mean flippantly. We are under no judgment for being familiar with God but we also treat the relationship with respect. Part of that respect means being absolutely transparent with Him when we converse. He already knows us intimately but it is important for us to come to Him in complete honesty as well as humility.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Investing Value

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. (Exodus 25:1-9, ESV)

Just as Yahweh had a meal with the priests and Moses, so He wants to have fellowship and communion with the nation of Israel as a whole. He wants to dwell in their midst. His “dwelling place,” however, cannot be just any place. For the people to understand and acknowledge just how amazing He is there must be a tent of His design and that is costly to put together. And they must make an investment in it. God enriched them through the gifts the Egyptians gave them as they left the country. What they received from the hand of God they may now offer for this tent.

It is often observed that what people get for free they treat with less value. If I’m going to pay you $500 for advice I’m more likely to take your advice. We value what we invest in. This doesn’t mean that our places of meeting as the church have to be ornate like the tabernacle, but we must have an investment in them. And even more importantly, we must have an investment in the Lord. Our hearts must move us to contribute to the things He values, especially His work in the world to see the gospel of the kingdom made known. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also” (Matthew 6:21).

Andrew Fuller was a British preacher seeking money for a Christian orphanage in London. He went to a businessman he knew and explained the need. The businessman said, “Andrew, here’s 5 lbs. seeing it’s for you.” Fuller wisely tore up the check and said, “It’s not for me.”  The businessman wrote another. “Here’s 10 lbs, seeing it’s for Jesus Christ.”

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Obedience and Seeing God

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. Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”

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

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

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.” So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 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.”

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 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. 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. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. (Exodus 24, ESV)

Yahweh now gives the priestly leadership a chance to experience or “see” Him, though what they see appears to be Him taking human form (note his “feet”) with an aura of glory around him (crystal clear pavement like sapphire). They sit down and eat with Him in fellowship, a foretaste of the kingdom and a precursor to His presence in the Tabernacle that will soon be built. Because His presence is mediated in some way they do not die.

All this, however, cannot take place without sacrifice being made and the blood atoning for the people. God is making covenant with them through blood. The people assent to the covenant with one voice in unison, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”

Joshua has become Moses’ assistant and he accompanies Moses further up onto the mountain where God will give him the 10 commandments written on stone. Moses has already been writing down the Law as God has given it to him, but now he will spend 40 days alone with Yahweh in the midst of a powerful display of Yahweh’s glory. Moses is still the designated leader of this nation.

God longs to fellowship with His people but it is a fellowship which requires obedience and sacrifice. Jesus has become the sacrifice that gives us entrance into God’s presence and His obedience has been credited to our account so that we may boldly come before His throne. The Father has made a way for us to be Moses on the mountain top. Let’s come to Him and let’s “see” Him and vow our obedience to Him, all the while recognizing that we cannot give it unless He works it in us and that we are nevertheless responsible for the obeying.