THE RATIFICATION OF THE COVENANT IS ROOTED IN THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT AND IS DESIGNED TO MANIFEST THE GLORY OF GOD
The structure of this important transitional chapter in the book of Exodus is very intentional. There are two main sections. Each begins with an upward call (v. 1, v. 12) and each ends with a significant meeting with God (v. 11, v. 18). This important ratification of the Old Covenant ties the knot on the previous revelation of the Book of the Covenant and opens the door to the emphasis on the tabernacle and approaching God in worship in the latter chapters. There is both continuity between the Old and New Covenants and discontinuity. So this passage has great application to believers today. It reveals much about our covenant relationship with a holy God; about our commitment to obey God’s commandments; about our vision of who God is; and about how we can approach God in worship. Kevin DeYoung [see notes at the end] structures his sermon on this chapter around:
– The Book of the Covenant
– The Blood of the Covenant
– The Bread of the Covenant
J. Ligon Duncan: Exodus 24 is a transitional passage that shows the great covenant confirmation ceremony. Israel has now received the Ten Commandments from God’s own mouth, and Israel responds, now confirming for the third time that she would indeed embrace God in covenant, in obedience, and follow in His ways and be loyal to Him. There were several things emphasized in verses 1-11. God’s holiness was emphasized by the fact that Moses alone was allowed to approach Him, not even the rest of the elders were allowed to come into the presence of God. We also saw the significance of the law highlighted by the fact that Moses recounted and wrote down all the laws of the Lord that had been recorded for us in Exodus in 20-23. Then, we saw Israel’s understanding of God’s grace in the Exodus placed a requirement upon them to be holy, to be set apart. The very fact of God’s grace claimed an obligation from Israel to be uniquely loyal and faithful to Him. We saw something of the binding fellowship and obligation of the covenant expressed in the sacrifices that were offered up in Exodus 24, and Moses’ words of institution in Exodus 24:8 indicated the sacramental nature of the sprinkling of the blood on the altar and people. A divinely instituted ritual, an outward action designed to illustrate and confirm an inward spiritual reality, the union between God and His people.
Finally, in verses 9-11, the amazing theophany, that vision of feet of God, as it were, sitting on the heavens of the earth, was designed to illustrate the kind of awesome God in which Israel enjoyed an intimate communion, even being invited to bring their knees up under the table for fellowship with the living God. Above all, that covenant made there, confirmed in Exodus 24:1-11, serves as a vehicle for our worship of the living God, and worship entails both communion, that is meeting with God, and adoration, or giving to God the glory due His name, praising His name. And the rest of the book of Exodus is really given over to that very theme, of meeting with God, and giving to Him the glory due His name. . .
Exodus 24 is the swing chapter in the book of Exodus. On the one hand, it records for us the people of God’s response to the law which had been given in Exodus 20-23. We see there the response of the people of God to God’s giving of the law. They agree to embrace the covenant and be loyal to Him. But on the other hand, we see in Exodus 24, a preparation for everything else that happens in the Book of Exodus. Specifically, in the text before us, we find the hints of two themes that will preoccupy the remainder of the chapters of Exodus. First, the theme of the building of the tabernacle is hinted at in Exodus. In fact, the reason for the building of the tabernacle is explained by two things that happen here, and secondly, even the incident of the golden calf, which is going to be recorded in Exodus 32-33, and which will interrupt the focus of the rest of Exodus, just on worship positively, and illustrate negatively how not to worship, even that incident is hinted at here in Exodus 24. So Exodus 24 looks back at everything that has happened so far in Exodus, and looks forward to everything that will happen in the remainder of Exodus.
John MacKay: Chapter 24 brings to a completion the inauguration of the covenant which had begun in Exodus 19. Moses has now received greater detail regarding the commands and promises of the covenant King, and so the way is open for the covenant to be ratified by solemn ceremony (verses 1–8) and sacred meal. The people had earlier indicated their preliminary acceptance of the terms of the covenant when they all responded together and said, “We will do everything the Lord has said” (19:8). The repetition of these words here in verses 3 and 7 links this scene with the earlier one as an integrated act of acceptance of the covenant. This is followed by the representatives of the people being privileged with an audience with God, where the God who cannot be seen permits himself in some way to be viewed (verses 9–11). But more than that Moses, the covenant mediator, is summoned into even closer fellowship with the Lord for forty days and forty nights (verses 12–18).
Philip Ryken: Exodus 24 is one of the most important chapters in the whole Old Testament. It lays out the Biblical pattern for worship. It establishes God’s covenant with his people on the basis of blood. It tells how God gave his law. It shows how mortal men met their Maker face-to-face … and lived to tell about it. But the climax comes at the end, when Moses entered into glory. . .
God revealed his glory many times during the exodus. He showed it to his prophet back at the burning bush. What Moses saw in those unquenchable flames taught him about God’s self-existence and self-sufficiency. God revealed his glory again when the Israelites escaped from Egypt. He led them in a fiery pillar of cloud, which was another visible manifestation of his invisible glory. He revealed his glory yet again when they reached his holy mountain. God descended in fire and smoke, “and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai” (Exod. 24:16). When the people looked up, they saw what “looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain” (v. 17). God was there, indwelling and inhabiting the cloud of his glory. In the exodus God revealed glory upon glory.
Chapter 24 ends at the climactic moment when Moses entered God’s cloud of glory. It was his unique privilege not simply to see glory or merely to admire it but actually to enter it. He was drawn closer and closer to the glory of God, until finally he was swallowed up inside.
I. (:1-11) THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT ALLOWS GOD’S PEOPLE TO ENTER INTO A RELATIONSHIP OF WORSHIP AND OBEDIENCE
A. (:1-2) God’s Holiness Constrains His Accessability and Requires Mediation
1. (:1) Upward Call — Priority of Drawing Near to God to Worship
“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.’”
Tension between drawing near and maintaining appropriate distance in our worship.
John Currid: God directs three different groups to go up the mountain: Moses, as covenant mediator, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, as leaders of the future priesthood, and seventy ruling elders of Israel. They are representative of all Israel in their leadership positions. In fact, in Scripture the figure of ‘seventy’ is often symbolic of totality—i.e., the wholeness of Israel. This is an exceptional scene, considering the stricture of 19:12 that ‘Anyone who touches the mountain shall certainly die.’
Douglas Stuart: Here begins the invitation from God to Moses to ascend Mount Sinai yet another time, for the special purpose of ratifying the Covenant Code. God’s holiness must still be protected; so only Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s two oldest sons, and the seventy elders of Israel were allowed to form the ratification meal party, representing the rest of Israel through their leadership status. Everyone other than Moses in the leadership group (addressed as “you”—the Hb. is plural—in the statement in v. 1, “You are to worship at a distance”) was required to stay away from the most direct contact with the presence of Yahweh. That nearest proximity was granted to Moses exclusively (“Moses alone is to approach the Lord,” v. 2), as had been the pattern since the first encounter with Yahweh on Sinai in chap. 3.
In the ancient biblical world, covenants were normally concluded with a special covenant meal in which animals were symbolically cut in half (symbolizing the shared responsibility of the two parties as well as the severity of the penalty for breaking the covenant), then the parties to the covenant walked between the pieces, and then the meal was eaten together as a sign of friendship and alliance.
John MacKay: Moses’ special position as covenant mediator is acknowledged in that the command is addressed to him, and the others are merely associated with him. ‘Come up’ is a natural consequence of the location of the camp at the foot of Sinai below where the Lord was revealing himself on the mountain. But this situation had not arisen accidentally. It was intended to emphasise that even when the Lord has condescended to draw near to his people, there is still a gulf between them. The language of ascent was used for approach to the Lord at other times not just because of the physical location of the sanctuary but because of the privilege of drawing near to one who is majestic and exalted in his own being (34:24; Ps. 24:3; 120–134, titles).
John Oswalt: By starting with the reference to worship and the covenant meal in 24:1–2, 9–11, Moses was underscoring the ultimate goal of covenant obedience: personal relationship with God. Although the actual meal would follow the sealing of the covenant, the notice of it at the beginning of the discussion prepares the reader not to see the sealing as an end in itself. As elsewhere in the Old Testament, the word translated “worship” actually refers to prostrating oneself on the ground. “Worship from a distance” may refer to the custom of approaching a great person with a series of prostrations, the first one being at some distance (cf. Jacob approaching Esau, Gen 33:3). There can be no question about the greatness and majesty of God. Manifesting himself to people in an expression of his desire for fellowship with humanity does not signal even the tiniest diminution in his terrifying holiness (see 24:15–18). Prostration in awe, gratitude, and praise is the only way to approach him.
2. (:2) Principle of Representation Due to God’s Holiness
“Moses alone, however, shall come near to the LORD,
but they shall not come near,
nor shall the people come up with him.”
Spurgeon: Nearer to God than the people were allowed to come, but still at a distance from him. It was a covenant of distance, — bounds were set about the mount lest the people should come too near. Yet they were near unto God as compared with the heathen, but far off as compared with those who now, by the teaching of the Spirit of God, have been brought near to God through the precious blood of Jesus. Moses alone could come near to Jehovah on mount Sinai, the people could not go up with him, — nor even with the man who was their mediator with God, for such Moses was; but you and I, beloved, can go up with him who is far greater than Moses, —with him who is the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ at Jesus, for God “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
J. Ligon Duncan: He’s the singular representative for Israel, for Moses to go up to meet with God is for Israel to go up to meet with God, because he’s the mediator. You see, God is teaching us something. In one man, all of Israel is represented. Moses. God had promised to commune with His people, and by Moses alone coming up the mountain, the people of God are communing with God, because he is the representative.
B. (:3-4a) God’s Word Dictates the Terms of the Relationship = Obedience
1. (:3a) Recounting Orally the Words of God
“Then Moses came and recounted to the people
all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances;”
2. (:3b) Responding in Commitment to Obey the Words of God
“and all the people answered with one voice, and said,
‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’”
David Thompson: Here we go again. As one writer said, this is “commendable enthusiasm” but frankly it is delusional. Israel is in that self-trusting fog and she actually believes that she will obey all the Word of God. As we have said, she will not even make it past commandment number one. What really should have happened here and what should have happened in the Garden of Eden, where they had just one commandment, is that the people should have said–God, please help us to obey you because we can’t do this ourselves and we won’t do this ourselves. Had Adam and Eve or had Israel really drawn near to God, she would have seen God help her. But she was self-sufficient and self-reliant and that is when we fall flat on our faces. But we do see something that is important. If we want fellowship with God, we should have a desire to obey the Word of God. It is true we will not ever totally measure up, but that should be our desire. We should want to know the Word of God so we may apply it to our lives.
3. (:4a) Recording in Written Form the Words of God
“And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD.”
Constable: Moses first related the content of God’s covenant with Israel orally, and the people submitted to it (Exodus 24:3). Then he wrote out God’s words to preserve them permanently for the Israelites (Exodus 24:4).
J. Ligon Duncan: From those four verses alone we learn two glorious principles. We cannot worship God without a mediator because we are sinners. Like the children of Israel, we can’t touch that mountain. We need a mediator, a mediator counted as holy in the sight of God, and Moses serves as the peoples’ mediator in this place. The fact that the people themselves cannot come in behind the curtain, they cannot ascend the mountain, they cannot go up with God, shows the distance and it also shows the imperfection of that mediatorial relationship. But it does teach us clearly that you cannot worship God without a mediator because of sin. This passage also teaches that you cannot worship God without honoring and obeying His word. . .
C. (:4b-8) God’s Propitiation Depends on the Blood of the Covenant –
7 Key Actions:
1. (:4b) Building the Altar for Covenant Sacrifices
“Then he arose early in the morning,
and built an altar at the foot of the mountain”
2. (:4c) Erecting Twelve Stone Pillars
“with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.”
MacArthur: Unlike pagan stone markers (23:24), these were built to represent the 12 tribes and were placed alongside the altar Moses had erected in preparation for a covenant ratification ceremony. They did not mark the worship site of a pagan deity.
Douglas Stuart: Five elements centered the people’s focus on their new relationship with God: an altar, twelve stone pillars, animal sacrifices, blood application, and the reading of the covenant. All this was to prepare the people for yet another—and this time the most “official”—verbal agreement to the newly revealed covenant with Yahweh.
John MacKay: Altars had been a feature of worship since earliest times, the first recorded in Scripture being that of Noah (Gen. 8:20). It was on the altar that slaughtered animals were offered as sacrifice to a deity, and round it various sacred rites would be performed. Altars were more essential to worship than structures such as temples. An altar could exist without a temple, but no temple could exist without an altar. Frequently altars were built at sites where there had been a theophany (Gen. 12:7; 26:23–35; 35:1–8). In such situations the altars commemorated the divine appearance (17:15). The altar mentioned here would have been constructed according to the regulations given in 20:24–26. ‘At the foot of the mountain’ indicates that the altar lay on the camp side of the boundary fence (19:17). It represents the Lord in the ritual enactment of the covenant ceremony.
3. (:5) Offering Covenant Sacrifices
“And he sent young men of the sons of Israel,
and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD.”
Walter Kaiser Jr.: The “young Israelite men” were the firstborn, who officiated until the Levites were appointed in their place in Numbers 3:41.
J. Ligon Duncan: That slaughter of the animals represents the principle of vicarious sacrifice, that we cannot come into fellowship with Go apart from a sacrifice on our behalf, because we’re sinful and we’re in need of atonement.
Douglas Stuart: “Burnt offerings” are offerings dedicated entirely to God, burnt to ashes on the altar. “Fellowship offerings” are offerings eaten by priests and worshipers alike, with a portion of fat from the animal being sacrificed symbolically dedicated to God and burnt to ashes on the altar.
4. (:6) Pouring Blood in Basins and Sprinkling Blood on the Altar
“And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins,
and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.”
Walter Kaiser Jr.: The division of the blood points to the twofold aspect of the blood of the covenant: the blood on the altar symbolizes God’s forgiveness and acceptance of the offering; the blood on the people points to a blood oath that binds them in obedience. In other words, the keeping of the words and laws was made possible by the sacrificial blood of the altar.
Douglas Stuart: Since without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Heb 9:22), making a visible display of the blood from an animal killed for sacrificial purposes highlights for all to see the concept of atoning death. Such vivid reminders helped the Israelites keep in mind the source and nature of their forgiveness and acceptance: God and his grace (as he allows the slain animal to substitute for the sinner, based on the eventual perfect sacrifice of Christ to which all OT sacrifices point and upon which all OT sacrifices depend for their ultimate validity).
5. (:7a) Reading the Book of the Covenant
“Then he took the book of the covenant
and read it in the hearing of the people;”
6. (:7b) Committing to Obey the Covenant
“and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do,
and we will be obedient!’”
Constable: There is some disagreement among the commentators about the meaning of “the Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 24:7). Most take it to mean the “Bill of Rights” that God had just given (Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33). [Note: Wolf, p153.] Some feel it included “the whole corpus of Sinai laws.” [Note: Childs, p506; Johnson, p74.] Others hold that “. . . it denotes a short general document, a kind of testimony and memorial to the making of the covenant.” [Note: Cassuto, p312.] I prefer the view that it refers to the covenant stipulations God had made known to the Israelites at this time including the Decalogue and the “Bill of Rights.” This seems most consistent with other references to this book in the text.
Walter Kaiser Jr.: The Book of the Covenant includes in its narrowest meaning in scholarly use today words from 20:22 to 23:33 but more fully, here, the contents of chapter 19, the Decalogue of chapter 20, and the case laws of 20:22 to 23:33.
Philip Ryken: Next Moses read the law again. The Bible says that after offering sacrifices (more on this in a moment), Moses “took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people” (Exod. 24:7a). This is the verse that gives the Book of the Covenant its name. It is also a verse to which some scholars object, on the grounds that it is redundant. If Moses read “all the Lord’s words and laws” in verse 3, why did he do it again in verse 7?
There are at least two good answers. One is that reading the law was a necessary part of the ceremony for confirming the covenant. Moses read God’s law the first time so the people would know what they were getting into. As soon as the Israelites heard what God wanted, they decided to accept his terms: “When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do’ ” (v. 3). But even after they decided to accept God’s covenant, they needed to hear the law again to confirm the covenant. The second reading of the law was part of the ceremony. The law was read once to help the people understand what God demanded; it was read a second time so they could promise to do it.
7. (:8) Final Sprinkling the Blood of the Covenant on the People
“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.’”
Walter Kaiser Jr.: The blood by which the covenant was ratified and sealed was the basis for the union between Yahweh and the people. This phrase becomes most important in the NT in its reappearance in the Lord’s Supper (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 9:20; Heb 10:29; also Heb 12:24; Heb 13:20; 1 Peter 1:2).
J. Ligon Duncan: This is the blood that seals the covenant. This is the blood that shows that you have been brought into covenant relationship with God. This is the blood that spares your judgment. This is the blood that unites you with the family of God. And on the night that Jesus was betrayed, on the night in which He stood in that upper room and the account of it is recorded in every one of the gospels and in John, Jesus lifts up the cup to explain what He is about to do for the disciples the next day. He uses this phrase, this language from Exodus 24, and He says, “Behold, this is the blood of the covenant.” No, He doesn’t! He says, “Behold, My blood of the covenant.” Jesus is saying that it is “My blood which is going to seal this covenant.”
You see, the author of Hebrews, in Hebrews 10:4, explains to you that “the blood of bulls and goats cannot forgive sin and cannot cleanse the conscience.” And Jesus is looking to His disciples, He’s looking into their eyes, and He knows that they know this passage, and He knows that they know the significance of that blood bringing the people of God into fellowship with God Himself, and He’s saying, “My friends, that blood couldn’t bring you into fellowship with God, but My blood can and will. Behold, My blood of the covenant.” And He adds in Mark, “which is shed for the forgiveness of your sins.” You can’t worship God without that Mediator. There is no way into fellowship with the God who rules over heaven and earth, but by the name and merits and blood of Jesus Christ.
MacArthur: By this act [sprinkling of the blood], Moses, in response to the positive acceptance and assertion of obedience by the people after hearing the Book of the Covenant read to them, officially sealed the treaty with blood; a not uncommon custom (cf. Ge 15:9-13, 17). Half of the blood used had been sprinkled on the altar as part of the consecration ceremony. The representatives of Israel were thereby qualified to ascend the mountain and participate in the covenant meal with Yahweh (24:11; cf. Heb 9:20).
Philip Ryken: At the same time, the blood was a sign of God’s mercy. God was not simply showing his people what would happen if they failed; he was also showing that there was a way for them to remain in his favor, even after they sinned. To put this another way, although the relationship God established with his people under Moses had a legal basis, it was a covenant of grace. This was shown by the sprinkling of the blood. First Moses sprinkled it on the altar of God, which showed that the people’s sins were forgiven. This is what a bloody altar always signifies: the forgiveness of sins. Atonement has been made; God has accepted a sacrifice as payment for sin. The blood was also a propitiation: It turned aside God’s wrath. Then the blood was sprinkled on the people. This showed that God had accepted their sacrifice and that they were now included in the covenant through the forgiveness of their sins. The blood—and therefore its benefits—was applied directly to them.
God’s relationship with his people was maintained on the basis of a sacrifice. Since there were two sides to this relationship, the blood was sprinkled on both parties, tying them together. The covenant was a blood relationship, “a bond in blood” between God and his people. It is significant that the blood was put on God’s altar first. For the people to have any kind of relationship with God at all, God had to accept the sacrifice they made for their sins. Notice as well the way Moses describes this relationship: “the covenant that the Lord has made with you” (Exod. 24:8). There were two sides to the relationship, but it all started with God. The Israelites did not go to God and say, “Look, Lord, we’d really like to have a relationship with you.” On the contrary, the whole arrangement was his idea in the first place. Peter Enns thus notes that “this covenant is essentially not a matter of a mutual agreement or pact made between God and the Israelites. It is, as we read, ‘the covenant that the Lord has made with you.’ It is by his initiative. He is the instigator. What the Israelites are to do is to accept and agree to live by the terms of the covenant that God and God alone has stipulated.”
D. (:9-11) God’s Appearance Inspires Both Fear and Intimacy –
Meeting with God
1. (:9) Approaching God
“Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,
and seventy of the elders of Israel,”
John MacKay: Audience with the King — As the final stage in the covenant ratification ceremony the representatives of the people are permitted an audience with the covenant King. In chapter 19 the people had been banned from approaching the mountain, but now they have fully entered into the office of the priestly nation, their representatives are permitted to have fellowship with God. The Lord presents himself in a way that is quite different from the awesome darkness of the theophany of chapters 19 and 20, but there is no diminution of the otherness of God in this scene of peaceful majesty and bright grandeur. It could not, of course, be a direct perception of deity, nor was the experience at the same level that Moses would subsequently be privileged to have. But the remarkably restrained language shows the Lord’s appearance to have been a profound and elevated experience.
2. (:10) Facing God and Seeing His Majesty
“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.”
Wiersbe: this doesn’t mean they beheld God in his essential being, for this isn’t possible (John 1:18). They saw some of God’s glory and they probably saw the throne of God on the sapphire pavement (see Ezek. 1:26), but the invisible God was hidden from them. After this vision of God, they shared a fellowship meal that climaxed the ratifying of the covenant. To eat together was a mark of friendship and agreement. God is glorious and high and lifted up, but He also condescends to fellowship with us!
John Hannah: Apparently the sight was so grand and awesome that their eyes saw only below His feet.
Philip Ryken: Skeptics often say, “If only I could see God, then I would believe in him.” But the skeptics have it backwards. God has revealed enough of himself in his Word and in creation for us to know him and love him. But his existence still has to be taken on faith, and the gift of seeing him is only given to those who believe. When it comes to religion, people often say, “I have to see it to believe it.” But God says, “You won’t see it unless you believe it. If you believe, then you’ll see! You’ll see me in the person of my Son, when he comes in glory at the end of days.”
John MacKay: The description of the pavement would then correspond to the expanse that Ezekiel saw supported by the cherubim and itself supporting the divine throne (Ezek. 1:22–26). The expanse in Ezekiel is here described as being like a pavement, a paved area of brick work. But this was an extraordinary pavement because the bricks were not made from sun-dried mud, but from clear, deep-blue sapphire (or, as the margin notes, from ‘lapis lazuli’ which is azure blue). Clear as the sky itself suggests there were no imperfections in the gem stones. ‘Clear’ is literally ‘cleansed’, presumably in the way in which the wind can blow away a heat haze from the skies of the east and leave them so intensely bright that it is difficult to look directly up. The whole scene is an appropriate emblem of the vast extent of the rule of the heavenly King, whose throne is higher than the heavens and who rules over all beneath him.
Bob Deffinbaugh: I therefore understand that the revelation of God in each of these three passages [Ezekiel and Revelation] is similar, but that God is progressively more closely and more intimately revealed, and from a slightly different perspective. I believe that the elders of Israel (Exodus 24) saw God enthroned high above them, from under the crystal floor, looking through it. They would thus have seen only the feet of the God who was enthroned, since the throne would have obscured the rest of Him. Since the floor was crystal clear, they could see God above them through the floor, with the throne sitting on the floor, and God on the throne. Ezekiel’s vision describes God as enthroned on the crystal expanse, above the heads of the four living creatures, but more of Him is seen. Thus, Ezekiel must have been closer, and perhaps elevated and looking at the throne of God from a different angle. John, on the other hand, sees God enthroned “from heaven,” so that his view of God is not restricted. Appropriately, those who behold God at later times see more of Him.
3. (:11a) Fearing God and Experiencing His Mercy
“Yet He did not stretch out His hand
against the nobles of the sons of Israel;”
J. Ligon Duncan: the expectation is that when a sinful human sees the awesome, the holy, the mighty God, it means death. It means certain death. But God in His mercy spares them.
4. (:11b) Fellowshiping with God and Eating Together in the Context of a Covenant Ratification Meal
“and they beheld God, and they ate and drank.”
J. Ligon Duncan: And that meal that they eat symbolizes the sweetness of union and communion, the enjoyment of the presence of God which the people of God enjoy because of the covenant.
II. (:12-18) THE COVENANT RELATIONSHIP IS DESIGNED TO MANIFEST THE GLORY OF THE LORD
A.. (:12-14) God Initiates and Defines the Covenant Relationship
1. (:12-13) Upward Call – Priority of Drawing Near to God to Worship
a. (:12) Invitation to Approach God to Receive His Word
“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.’”
J. Ligon Duncan: Behind the law of Israel, behind the instruction of Israel lies, not Moses but God. It is divine authority, it is transcendent authority that lies behind the instruction that Moses gives to Israel simply as a messenger.
Douglas Stuart: Yet another trip up to the top of Mount Sinai now commences. It may be assumed that Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s two sons, and the seventy Israelite elders had descended the mountain once they finished the covenant meal described in 24:11. The present trip, involving only Moses and Joshua (v. 13), was of a very different nature from the previous one: it was for a lengthy stay atop the mountain (v. 18), with special attention to receiving God’s own written guidelines for Israel’s relationship to him (v. 12). This stay on the mountain continued through the events described in 32:1–16; Moses’ sojourn atop the mountain would be cut short this time by God’s own command (32:7).
b. (:13) Key Leaders Allowed to Approach God on the Mountain
“So Moses arose with Joshua his servant,
and Moses went up to the mountain of God.”
Significance of the role of Joshua introduced here
2. (:14) Instructions to the Elders
“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.’”
B. (:15-18) God Manifests His Glory in the Context of Covenant Relationship —
Meeting with God
1. (:15-17) 3 Manifestations of the Presence of God = His Glory
a. (:15-16a) Glory in the Cloud
“Then Moses went up to the mountain,
and the cloud covered the mountain.
And the glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai,
and the cloud covered it for six days;”
Douglas Stuart: The cloud had already served as a protection and guide for the Israelites in their flight from the Egyptians. It was the same cloud previously indicated in 19:18. In Exodus as elsewhere in the Bible it represented God’s glorious presence: awesome, multifaceted, partly mysterious but also protective and encompassing.
J. Ligon Duncan: The great blessing of worship is the presence of God. The great blessing of worship is meeting with God. The great blessing of the Christian life is knowing and meeting and fellowshipping and communing with the living God. And all through these verses we have intimations of the presence and the glory of God. . .
And it will not be until Exodus 32 when Moses comes back down from the mountain. A quarter of the book later it will be before he comes down. What’s the point? The point is the presence of God is the central reality and the central blessing of the book of Exodus, and Moses is representatively as the mediator, coming into the presence of God. And without that presence of God, nothing else matters. Without communion with God, without fellowship with God, without the presence of God, without the favor of God, without meeting with God, nothing else matters.
John Oswalt: Here, just as previously, the “cloud” (24:15–18) and the “consuming fire” (24:17) were symbols of the transcendent holiness of God that creatures can never cross over. But the remarkable thing about the biblical understanding of transcendence is that while it forever limits creaturely initiative to participate in God, it places no conditions whatsoever upon God. He is able to come across the boundaries and to take creatures into his presence. And in doing so, he in no way compromises his transcendence. At this point, merely human understandings of logic give out, but there it is. God does not change himself to come to us, but he does intend to change us so that we can live in the midst of the fire as Moses did. In fact, that is the direction of the entire book of Exodus: While the goal of the people might be the Promised Land, God’s goal is that he may dwell in their midst, in effect bringing the “mountain of God” (24:13; cf. 3:1; 19:1) into the center of the camp (40:34).
b. (:16b) Glory in the Voice of God
“and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud.”
c. (:17) Glory Appearing as a Consuming Fire
“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.”
2. (:18) Moses Enters Into the Presence of God
“And 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.”
Constable: Having given directions clarifying Israel’s obedience in the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33), God now summoned Moses up into the mountain again to receive His directions regarding Israel’s worship. The Book of the Covenant specified how the Israelites were to live with one another, but the tabernacle showed them how God wanted them to worship Him.
John Davis: During this entire time he was without food (Deut. 9:9). The whole purpose of this long time of fellowship was to receive the tables of stone on which the law would be written (v. 12; cf. Deut. 9:9).