Book of Exodus Chapter Twenty-Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Into The Cloud
The preceding chapters have revealed God's laws for Israel, a gentler way of life than humanity's choices. And always remember that His laws remind us to do what faith and love should make us want to do. Now Moses would "come up to the Lord," encountering God who called him to lead this nation.
Can you imagine what it felt like to be Moses at the time of these verses? I'm not sure we can. And why Moses? Why not somebody else? We saw the choices he made that led to his exile and then forty years later we saw his reluctance in accepting the call of God. The reality is that Moses was the best candidate for the job and his credentials were simple but complete—he had honest faith in the Lord. As it was observed about him in Hebrews 11:27 & its context: "By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible." Was there no one else who could have been in the place of Moses at that moment? It may be he was the only one, but it is also likely that if he died or ran away, God would have selected someone else, just as He called Joshua, a few decades in the future from that moment. The truth is: He chooses ordinary people like you and me.
And so, in Verse 1 of this chapter, we find Moses and only a few others could approach the Lord: "Then He said to Moses, 'Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance." Millions looked on at the moment, but only seventy-plus wide-eyed trembling men were chosen, as the Lord continued to speak in Verse 2: "Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him." Notice that there is a faith that leads to eternal salvation, which we can accept or refuse, and there is a call of God to His service, to which we can respond in faith or not. God knows who and what we really are. His call and His gifts of grace are appropriate to each one. Nadab and Abihu were Aaron's two oldest sons, and would have been successors to the priesthood, except they offered "strange fire," as seen in Leviticus 10:1-2. The seventy elders represented the twelve tribes of Israel, for when you include Nadab and Abihu from the tribe of Levi, there were six men from each tribe.
In Verse 3, "Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, 'All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!'" Notice their enthusiasm. The excitement of a group setting can lead to such responses, but they would quickly find themselves deviating from God's plan for their lives. We need to learn from these people: Don't let the enthusiasm of a crowd and your emotions be the basis of your faith. Go to the Lord who leads you, as Moses did, and listen to the Lord in Matthew 11:28, who urges us: "Come unto Me..."
Symbolism is important. The written Word of God is necessary. An altar is needed, whether at the front of a church or deep in your heart...you need to meet the Lord and learn about Him. Verse 4: "Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel." Especially see that "Moses wrote." If you are called to attend a seminary or some such place for training, you will encounter theologians who follow each other, often teaching that Moses did not write the Books of the Law. But he did, and you are urged to underline the words in your Bible, remembering that "Moses wrote." He also built or ordered others to build an "altar" that would be a place where the millions in Israel at that moment could meet the Lord. In Verse 5, "He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord." Moses did what the Lord had revealed to him must be done, and we are at our best when we faithfully follow the Lord, as this man had learned to do.
A sacrifice must be made if we are to be acceptable to God. Every day, lives are abruptly ended so you can continue to live. If you eat a hamburger, an animal with cute eyes died so you can be fed and live. If you are a vegetarian, the life of fruits and vegetables is taken away from them, letting you live another day. And on an infinitely greater scale, Jesus Christ gave His life for us. As He said, "...I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:15). His gift of eternal life to humanity is prefigured here in Verse 6, as "Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar." The actions of Moses as God's representative and the enthusiasm of the onlookers continued in Verse 7: "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!'"
In Verse 8, "So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, 'Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.'" And we should read ahead to Hebrews 9:22 and learn, "...without shedding of blood there is no remission." Continuing in that chapter we find Verse 28: "so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many..." The Law showed us that we are sinners. The animals sacrificed under the Law were real, but also a parable, revealing that only a blood atonement for our sins can satisfy a holy God. That atonement was made flesh and came among us in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Verses 9-10: "Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself." These days we know that the streets we walk on and the objects we touch, including our own bodies, are actually comprised of spinning atoms with comparatively large spaces between them, based on ever tinier objects, some so small that we may never even know they exist. Moses, his brother, Aaron, and the others were now enabled, without special equipment of any kind to look right through apparently solid matter and see something of the place of God. Others, including the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel were to be given such glimpses, and at the moment of these Verses, this "pavement of sapphire" was a look at a tiny part of the Lord's view from the Throne of God.
To come into the Presence of God is "by invitation only." As Jesus said in John 15:16 to His immediate followers and to us as well: "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you..." That's what also is presented here in Exodus 24:11—these men were in the Presence of the Lord, "Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank." Amazing. Eternity will be the opposite of a fast—it will be a FEAST, filled with the Lord Himself and the good things of God. And He makes us safe—now and forever.
The Lord is infinite and those who have faith in Him can always go further into fellowship with Him. In Verse 12, "Now the Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.'" Those who are entrusted with the good things of the Lord can expect more. And note Verse 13—Moses was not completely alone: "So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God." The two, Moses and his young servant Joshua, continued upward together, as we encounter Verse 14: "But to the elders he said, 'Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.'" Just two now continue on, but the others were stopped from proceding further. Moses' brother, Aaron, and Hur, who supported Moses' hands in Exodus 17:10-12, would take care of any civil or criminal disputes in his absence. But note Verse 15: "Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain," suggesting that at some point, Joshua stopped and Moses continued alone.
The spectators down below could now see nothing of Moses, for "the cloud covered the mountain," as seen in Verse 15, and in Verse 16, "The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud." The human being who was supposed to lead the people now was gone from them. And notice that the Lord is not in any hurry, a fact that's true in relation to all of us. We likely would go to the top and come back instantly in our impatience, but it was a week before the Lord even called out to him.
The onlookers below could see something of the Lord, which is the condition of many in humanity, seeing something, but not sure what it is. Verse 17: "And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top." If individuals among the children of Israel had ideas about running up the mountain and joining Moses, the "consuming fire" would have discouraged them. But their human leader had little time for thoughts about what might be happening below, for in Verse 18, "Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights." Can you imagine?—"forty days and forty nights." We would never be the same after such an experience, and the beauty of our life with the Lord is that we are with Him right now, and we never would want to be the same as we were before. He is simply—wonderful.
Father, it was possible for Moses to see and even enter the "glory of the Lord." Moses was a person, a sinner like I am. I fear, but I also ask, please bring me into Your Presence. I confess my sins and ask that You will open the way and reveal Yourself even to me. In Jesus Name. Amen.