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.