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Exodus 24:1. “And he said unto Moses.”] These words should be read in connection with Exodus 20:18. The order of events seems to be this—After Moses had received the ten commandments, he drew near again “where God was,” and then he received the book of the covenant (Exodus 20:19 to Exodus 23:33); and before leaving the presence of God he was asked to appear again, accompanied by Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, together with seventy of the elders of Israel (Exodus 24:1, &c.)
Exodus 24:6. And half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.] This preliminary to the act of communication of the book of the covenant to the people signifies that God pledged Himself to fulfil His part of the covenant independently of the acceptance of it by the people.
Exodus 24:7. And he took the book, &c], i.e., after God had declared Himself bound to the fulfilment of the covenant.
Exodus 24:8. And sprinkled it on the people,] i.e., after the book of the covenant had been read out “in the audience,” bê-osney = into the ears. Thus they were not asked to declare their willingness to do and obey the words until they had heard them distinctly read. Amid all the awful grandeur of the scene God dealt with them as intelligent agents. The objection that Moses could not have made himself heard by so vast a multitude, 600,000, besides children, is met by the fact that the covenant was made not with individuals but with the whole Jewish nation, so that there could be no ground found for dissent on the part of individuals from the engagements of those who heard the words of the covenant and promised obedience to them. The same argument is applicable to the sprinkling of the blood “on the people,” which, in all probability, was only sprinkled on some few individuals who were considered as representatives of the whole nation.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 24:1-8
THE RATIFICATION OF THE DIVINE COVENANT
There are divine regulations in nature, but these are not sufficient for man’s guidance. Nature teaches only in symbol, and these symbols cannot always be clearly read and interpreted. Nature’s teachings are not adequate as a rule of life for man as a moral agent. The scientific man and the philosopher would not be satisfied without a book revelation. And the moralist, who should be the true philosopher, will ask for a direct revelation on morals. And this requirement is met. The true guide for man in the realm of morals is the revelation of God as found in the Bible; taken in its completeness, read and interpreted under the guidance of a discriminating wisdom. The old covenant will tend to illustrate the new; and the new will declare what part of the old is perpetually binding.
I. God makes a covenant with His people. Though the terms of the old covenant were strict and severe, yet they were evidently designed for the good of the people to whom they were delivered. We cannot possibly imagine any advantage that might accrue to the Divine Being from this ancient covenant. But from time to time we have seen that great advantage would result to the people, in so far as they followed the divine rules for life and conduct. Here, again, the divine mercy may be marked in that God makes a covenant with His people. He does not at once destroy, but labours for their social and national prosperity.
II. God reveals the terms of His covenant by specially endowed messengers. Moses was specially endowed as a messenger of God. He displayed the possession of those qualities fitting him in an eminent degree to be a legislator. He ruled with a wise spirit. He stands forth as one of the master spirits of humanity. He was further fitted for his office by special divine communications, and by special disclosures of the divine glory. He alone stands in the divine presence. The people must stand afar off. The elders must worship at a distance. And even the gifted Aaron—the progenitor of a noble priesthood—must not come nigh. In solitude, Moses must approach the mysterious realm. This Moses was the one to tell the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments. Those lips, touched with the divine hand and made reflective of the divine glory, must read the book of the covenant in the audience of the people. The old covenant was given by Moses who reflected the divine glory, but the new is given by Him who was the incarnation and visible manifestation of the divine glory.
III. God gives definiteness and permanence to the covenant. “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.” Yea, God Himself is represented as writing, and we find reference made to the commandments which God had written. Oral instruction is not sufficient. The voice of tradition is vague. As time advances that voice becomes feeble and wavering. The moral code must be clear and definite. This writing of the covenant may be taken as symbolical of its permanence. To this day the broad spirit—the true essential—of the covenant is working in all legal codes and religious systems.
IV. God gives solemn emphasis to the covenant by sacred ceremonials. We may suppose that Moses acted under divine direction. The hands of Moses built the altar, but the mind of God directed the human movements. The altar raised as indicative of the divine presence, and the twelve pillars representative of the dwelling place of the twelve tribes. Moses sends the young men, the life and vigour of the people, to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice peace offerings, the divine and human sides of the great solemnity. Part of the blood was sprinkled on the altar, an act of solemn dedication of their humanity in its completeness to God, and then the other part was sprinkled upon the people, which may be regarded as the divine response and acceptance. The first Testament was dedicated with blood. Thus the covenant was rendered emphatic by solemn observances. The blood sprinkled on the altar and on the people would be calculated to inspire deep reverence.
V. God requires a voluntary assent to the terms of His covenant. There was something of the nature of an appeal to the people. In fact, the whole circumstances, in connection with the promulgation of the covenant, constituted an eloquent appeal. The reading of the book of the covenant by such a reader, and on an occasion so deeply impressive and affecting, was plainly calculated to draw forth the universal utterance: “All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.” The whole people joined in the declaration. There was a pleasing unanimity in the promise, but there was unpleasant difference as to the performance. The man who at first refuses and then performs is nobler than the man who too readily acquiesces, and then fails to fulfil his vows.
VI. Man’s highest wisdom is to promise and perform obedience to all the terms of God’s covenant. Well would it have been for these people if they had kept to their brave resolve—“All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” There are poetical states in peoples, and then they are apt to be free with their promises. But the prosaic condition soon arrives, and then the promises are broken. God’s covenant ever commends itself to man’s higher nature, or to man’s nature in its loftier and holier moods. The temptations of life, and the weakness of the flesh, render us unwilling to practice, and then unbelieving as to the virtue of the divine covenant. Obedience is the pathway of light, the pathway of true divine knowledge, and the pathway to the realisation of divine benedictions. Let us obey, and then shall we know the blessedness of all divine covenants.
There is a slight disarrangement in this chapter, as Ewald and speakers commonly shew. Exodus 24:3 logically follows Exodus 23:33 of previous chapter, and Exodus 24:1-2 should be inserted between Exodus 24:8-9.
—W. Burrows, B.A.
THE COVENANT.—Exodus 24:3-8
This was one of the most impressive acts of a most impressive dispensation. It was also one of the most important, inasmuch as
(1) God used this opportunity to “avouch Himself to be the God” of Israel, and Israel “avouched themselves to be His people.” And
(2) it is the great fact upon which the New Testament lays stress as typifying the great covenant work of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 8:9 For some valuable remarks in this latter application, see Dales’ “Jewish Temple and Christian Church,” p. 163).
I. The covenant was divinely revealed. “And Moses came and told the people.”
1. It was revealed faithfully. “All the words of the Lord and all the judgments.”
(1.) It consisted of “words” for their direction and encouragement.
(2.) It consisted of judgment for their warning: so the covenant of Jesus Christ consisted of “beatitudes” and “woes.”
2. It was revealed intelligently. Moses had no interest in suppressing anything. He was a good man, and would not suppress anything.
(1.) It was not an appeal to their superstition and credulity. It consisted of laws upon the wisdom and beneficence of which 2000 years of legislation have not improved.
(2.) It was revealed in language which they could all understand.
(3.) It was revealed under circumstances which attested its divine origin.
(4.) It was an appeal to their reason, piety, and interest.
II. The covenant was accepted by man.
1. Unanimously. “All the people … with one voice.”
2. Heartily. “We will do.”
3. Specifically. “All the words which the Lord hath said.” There had been a general acceptance before (Exodus 19:8).
4. Speedily. “Moses rose up early in the morning.”
III. The covenant was permanently embodied. “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord.”
1. A written revelation is necessary. Memory is not to be trusted. Traditions from a long past are apt to be vague or to diminish or be added to. Books fix facts.
2. A written revelation is advantageous.
(1.) A perpetual direction for obedience and warning against disobedience.
(2.) A standing witness of the divine wisdom and goodness.
3. A written revelation is important. An everlasting record for man’s benefit of what has proceeded from the mind of God.
IV. The arrangements for the covenant were carefully and impressively prepared.
1. (1) An altar was built to represent God, and
(2) pillars to represent His people.
2. Young men were selected for special service as symbolising the strength and earnestness that should be exerted in keeping our covenant engagement.
3. Sacrifices were offered.
(1.) Burnt-offerings, to signify the dedication of the people to Jehovah.
(2.) Peace-offerings, as typifying Jehovah’s reconciliation with His people.
V. The covenant was ratified with blood.
1. Half the blood of the sacrifices was sprinkled on the altar to signify Israel’s dedication to God.
2. One more opportunity was given to the people to withdraw from their engagement. The law was read and the people renewed their vows.
3. Then the other half of the blood was sprinkled on the people, signifying the purification of the people and the certainty of the divine favours, and the whole ceremony closed with the memorable words, Exodus 24:8.
1. Christ is the mediator of a better covenant.
2. That His blood is sprinkled on the altar of God (Hebrews 9:12), and in the heart of His people (Hebrews 9:13-15).
3. That He has instituted a “perpetual memorial of His previous death until His coming again” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
—J. W. Burn.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Exodus 24:1-8. Again, I see the seventy left at some little distance; I see Moses alone go up into the mount; and I see the affairs of the people committed to Aaron and Hur. It appears to me this is a beautiful presentment of what is going on in the present dispensation, when the affairs of the Lord’s kingdom are administered through subordinate instrumentality. The 4th of Ephesians tells us that, when the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of God, “He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” But, meantime, higher transactions are going on in the mount—transactions of which you and I know nothing except through the precious lattices of the promises. By and by the time will come when we shall see our glorious Head; see Him in His glory, see Him as he is.—Krause.
We may search from end to end of the legal ritual, and not find those two precious words, “draw nigh.” Ah! no; such words could never be heard from the top of Sinai, nor from amid the shadows of the law. They could only be uttered at heaven’s side of the empty tomb of Jesus, where the blood of the cross has opened a perfectly cloudless prospect to the vision of faith. The words, “afar off,” are as characteristic of the law, as “draw nigh” are of the Gospel. Under the law, the work was never done which could entitle a sinner to draw nigh. Man had not fulfilled his promised obedience; and the “blood of calves and goats” could not atone for the failure, or give his guilty conscience peace. Hence, therefore, he had to stand “afar off.” Man’s vows were broken and his sin unpurged; how, then, could he draw nigh? The blood of ten thousand bullocks could not wipe away one stain from the conscience, or give the peaceful sense of nearness to a reconciled God.—C. H. M.
REV. W. ADAMSON
Elders! Exodus 24:1. Pierotti says that, among the Jews, the elders exercised great authority, and were held in high respect. At a later period the word became a regular title, irrespective of age or experience, being conferred generally on those who, by their wealth or wisdom, could head a tribe or lead in public affairs:
1. From Deuteronomy 21:2 it would appear that in certain expiatory rites they represented the city or the whole nation. In Deuteronomy 22:15 they formed a court for trying crimes; while in Numbers 11:16 they were selected by Moses to aid in supporting his authority. Joshua, in Joshua 7:6, relates how, after Israel’s defeat, he and the elders fell down before the ark.
2. In the New Testament we have the seventy disciples; and in the apocalyptic scenery of heaven are twenty-four lesser thrones around about the throne of God—occupied by four and twenty elders. These, sitting in the symbols of priesthood and royalty, of endurance and victory, clothed in white raiment, and having on their heads crowns of gold, are supposed to be the representatives of the twelve tribes under the Mosaic and Christian dispensations:—
“For the Lord their God hath clothed them with
A new and glorious dress.
With the garments of salvation, with the robes
Covenant! Exodus 24:3. Awa, on the lofty mountain-summit is a spring which breaks into two parts, one flowing down one side, the other adown the other. A man, climbing up the wild and rocky side, traces the river up to its source. There he sees the other flowing. He follows down the grassy soft slope, until he traces its descent into the ocean. Even so with Christ’s salvation on the Mount of Love. This is not a new covenant, but the renewal and fuller development of the everlasting covenant with Abraham, Abel, Adam, &c. Its living stream flowed on one side to David and Israel, Abraham and Abel; on the other side to the apostles and martyrs, &c., and so on to the eternal ocean.
“Jehovah’s covenant shall endure,
All ordered, everlasting, sure!
O child of God, rejoice to trace
Thy portion in its glorious grace.”
Law’s Province! Exodus 24:3. In Galatians 3:17, the apostle says that law, in its Mosaic development, was added because of transgression. He does not say that there was no law before Adam sinned, much less does he assert that there was none before Moses received it here. There is law in heaven, i.e., the moral law of love, and that law Adam had. In the free state of Liberia certain judicial enactments were absent. After the African Republic had existed a few years, some of its subjects committed offences. To prevent their repetition Government passed certain laws. The moral law was there before, and the Liberian freed-men were as morally bound to obey it before as after its judicial enforcement. God renewed the covenant more stringently, because of previous breaches of its provisions. The purpose of the law was to
(1) Point out clearly the rule of human duty to tread the path of righteousness; to
(2) Press home man’s natural inability to keep the law in his own strength; and to
(3) Prepare the way, like John the Baptist, for Christ to enter the sinner’s heart, as the end of the law for righteousness.
“By His life, for that fulfilling God’s command exceeding broad,
By His glorious resurrection, seal and signet of thy God.”
Morning-Prayer! Exodus 24:4. Milton speaks of the breath of morning being sweet, “Her rising sweet with charm of earliest birds.” Vaughan quaintly says that mornings are mysteries. Mysteries of good are they when well used, but mysteries of evil when, as too oft, much abused. Mornings are well used when prayer ushers them in. Beecher says, “Let the day have a blessed baptism by giving your first waking thoughts into the bosom of God.” The first hours of the morning is the rudder of the day. Carlyle says we have a proverb among us that “the morning is a friend to the muses,” i.e., a good time for study. Is it not more true that it is a great friend to the graces—that it is a good praying time! Therefore
“Serve God before the world; let Him not go
Until thou hast a blessing; then resign
The whole unto Him, and remember who
Prevailed by wrestling ere the sun did shine.”
Gospel and Blood! Exodus 24:6. Foss says that he once heard a very earnest and evangelical minister say that he had been accosted by a man who had heard him preach with this remark: “I do not like your creed; it is too bloody,—it savours of the shambles. It is all blood, blood, BLOOD.” To this the faithful ambassador replied, “Well, it is so, for it recognises as its foundation a very sanguinary scene—the death of Christ, with bleeding hands, and feet, and side. And without shedding of blood is no remission of sins.”
“Jesus, our Great High Priest,
Has shed His blood and died;
Our guilty conscience needs
No sacrifice beside.
His precious blood
Did once atone,
And now it pleads
Before the throne.”
Covenant-Obedience! Exodus 24:7. Obedience is our universal duty and destiny, says Carlyle, and whoso will not bend must break. Upon which Watson adds that to obey God unwillingly, as Balaam did, is to resemble the devils who came out or the man possessed, at Christ’s command, but with reluctancy and against their will. If a willing mind be wanting, there wants that flower which should perfume our obedience and make it a sweet-smelling savour to God. The hireling prophet’s obedience was deficient in this respect, that it lacked the frequent odours of voluntary or free-will offering. Israel’s apparently full self-surrender to covenant-obedience—however earnest for the nonce—afterwards turned out signally deficient in this voluntary grace. Their vehement covenant-protestations of obedience here are a vivid example of the Divine testimony, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” None but God, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins.
“Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone—
Thou must save, and Thou alone.”
Exodus 24:10. And they saw the God of Israel.] The words—“they saw” = Vâyiruh—in this verse is qualified in its ordinary meaning by the word “saw” in the following verse
(11). There the word Vâyechsuh = they saw—means literally “they visioned,” that is, they had a vision of God clear enough to be assured of His actual presence.
Paved = libnath in this construction (stat. constr.)—does not mean brick-lebenah, and hence pavement, but should be rendered white or transparent-splendour. The translation of “a paved work of a sapphire stone”=kimâseh libnath hassappir, like a work of transparent sapphire.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 24:9-11
A GLORIOUS VISION
There was an indication of unity in the Old Testament Church, Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up together. Prophet, priests, and representatives of the people were united together on the great occasion. And there must be this practical unity on the part of the modern Church if there is to be any great work accomplished, if there is to be any glorious divine vision obtained. The primitive Church was united by the spirit of love. We need the welding power of this gracious spirit.
I. Glorious ascension. This united body went up to the mount of divine manifestation. The Church must not stay in the plain. There are mountains to climb. “Upward” should be the Church’s motto. It may be difficult work to climb, but difficulties brace up the energies. Mountain climbing is always wholesome. The more we climb the less will be our difficulty. On the summit of divine mountains are gracious manifestations to reward the praying climbers.
II. Blessed vision. “And they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” “No man hath seen God at any time.” It may be that they saw no objective image, but only the place where the God of Israel stood. Certainly it was a vision that gave them very exalted views of the divine nature. The very place of the divine feet was glorious. “A paved work of sapphire stone, as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” The clear blue stretched itself out as a divine pavement. This is suggestive of calm repose. We may rest sweetly on the divine fidelity. If the footstool be thus glorious, how glorious must be the throne! If the fringes of the divine vesture are thus splendid, how much more splendid the nature that is thus enshrined! Blessed visions are most surely the portion of those who climb the divine mountains. The pure in heart shall see God. Waiting spirits shall not wait in vain. Praying souls shall receive special disclosures of divine love.
III. Gracious preservation. “Upon the nobles of Israel He laid not His hand.” Sinners may well fear lest the hand of justice crush; but saints may believingly clasp the hand of divine mercy. Faith may venture where tear cannot approach. The nobles who trust the hand of God will find that it is a saving and not a destroying hand. God’s hand will never be laid upon the spiritual nobility. The earthly ignoble may become spiritually noble. The nobles of the spiritual Israel are under God’s protecting, preserving care.
IV. Wondrous festivity. “Also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” These two short sentences must be connected. They saw God, and yet they did eat and drink. Fear says that the sight of God is death, but faith finds that the divine vision is feeding and sustaining. Blessed are they that did thus eat and drink after, and close upon, such a vision. Here is a wondrous festivity indeed. It is prophetic. The saints shall eat and drink in the Divine Presence. Their food will be heavenly manna. Their drink the new wine of the upper Paradise. Their banqueting chamber the courts of heaven. The banner over them will be love. The attendant music will be struck from golden harps. The song will be that of Moses and the Lamb. May we stand amid prophets, priests, elders, and the great company of the redeemed!
—W. Burrows, B.A.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
MAN’S APPROACH TO GOD.—Exodus 24:1-2; Exodus 9-11
From these words we learn—
I. That man’s approach to God is commanded, Exodus 24:1. This is both reasonable and necessary. Servant to master; scholar to teacher; child to parent; sinner to Saviour.
II. That man’s approach to God must be through a mediator; “worship thou afar off, and Moses alone shall come near unto the Lord.” So Jesus has entered into the Holy place for us. He is the “one mediator,” &c., “the new and living way” (John 14:6). We must remember that this was in answer to their own prayer (Exodus 20:19).
III. That man’s approach to God must be reverent. “Worship ye afar off.”
IV. That man’s approach to God is rewarded by a manifestation of the divine glory, Exodus 24:10. Not a literal or physical vision of “the king” … invisible (Deuteronomy 4:2; 1 Timothy 6:16); but spiritual (Isaiah 6:0; Acts 9:3-4, and refs.; 1 Corinthians 12:2).
V. That man’s approach to God is not to be dreaded, but welcomed and enjoyed. “They find His presence no more a source of disturbance and dread, but radiant in all the bright loveliness of supernal glory: a beautiful sign that the higher religion and state of conformity to law, now established, shall work onward to eternal blessedness.”—Ewald.
—J. W. Burn.
REV. W. ADAMSON
Covenant-Blood! Exodus 24:9. Doddridge, in his “Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul,” suggested a solemn covenant being entered into with God. Samuel Pearce acted upon it by writing it with blood drawn from his own body. But he soon afterwards fell into sin, and thus broke his covenant. Driven into more close examination of the question, he was led to see that it was not his own blood, but that of Jesus. Carrying the blood-stained covenant to the top of his father’s house, he tore it into pieces, and scattered them to the winds, resolved thenceforth to depend upon the peace-making and peace-keeping blood of Jesus.
“Thy blood, not mine, O Christ,
Thy blood so freely spilt,
Can blanch my blackest stains,
And purge away my guilt.”
Sapphire-Pavement! Exodus 24:10. “Paved stone” should be “whiteness, clearness.” “Splendour of sapphire,” says Wordsworth. Kalisch calls it “pellucid sapphire.” It is one of the brightest and most valuable of jewels. “Born of darkness,” says Macmillan, “it yet holds in its core of focussed rays the blue of heaven.” There is one variety, of a singularly soft pure azure, which has the power of retaining its lovely memory of heaven even by candlelight, when an ordinary sapphire looks black. It formed the throne of glory which appeared to Ezekiel in visions; and here it forms the pavement, like the body of heaven in its clearness, under the feet of the God of Israel, as seen by the elders of Israel. God’s throne is “Love,” its foundations are “Love,” and the treadings of His feet are “Love.” Such an interpretation is in strict accordance with the symbolism of nearly all rations, among whom sapphire-blue has always been associated with ideas of “Love.”
“In heaven’s starred pavement at the midnight,
In roseate hues that come at morning dawn,
In the bright bow athwart the falling showers,
In woods and waters, hills and velvet lawn,
One truth is written, all conspire to prove,
What grace of old revealed, that “GOD IS LOVE.”—Davies.
Sapphire-Symbolism! Exodus 24:10. During the Belfast revival of 1859, one of the converts who had previously been crying out under the crushing burden of an evil heart of unbelief said, “If they would but look up at the blue sky, would not that be enough, Jesus? I used to think it was only the blue sky; I did not know that THOU reignedst up there.” How came she to connect the blue sky with the Lord’s loving tender mercies? Was it not because she was Spirit-taught? And is not the blue sky a most beautiful emblem of the pavement of love, on which the King’s throne rests?
“I know He reigneth now
In yonder heaven of love;
And He will quickly come again,
To carry me above.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exodus 24:12-18
Through all the ages the Divine hand is at work. In the kingdoms of nature and of grace we notice vast preparatory processes. And the Almighty has to do with individuals as well as communities. He brings forth His chosen instruments when the fit time has come. But He does not bring forth until they are fitted for their work. Moses must dwell forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai. As nature has its barren winter and fruitful harvest, so God’s heroes have the winter of seclusion, and the autumn of golden productiveness.
I. Each one has his proper position to occupy. Moses must go up into the Mount, be hidden in the cloud, and hold communion with the Infinite. Joshua must attend as the minister. Aaron and Hur must act in the place of Moses, and be the administrators of justice; and the elders must tarry. They may serve who only stand and wait; and this is sometimes the most arduous service. Tarry is very often an unwelcome word. Tarry when the cloud conceals a sublime mystery, and when Moses is about to penetrate that mystery. The man who can tarry in a right spirit has a well-disciplined nature. However, let each seek his proper position.
II. Each man has his own divine vision. There was one vision to Moses, and another to the children of Israel. Moses entered the cloud; but the children of Israel stood outside the cloud. And this is still true. The Almighty is differently revealed to different natures. And differently revealed to the same natures at different periods. There is the revelation of the cloud, and there is the revelation of the devouring fire. To-day we may experience Divine chidings, and to-morrow we may be on the Mount of Beatitude.
III. But there are specialities of work. Moses was the lawgiver. He was to teach unto the people the law and the commandments, which God delivered unto him on the Mount. Moses stands out in solitary grandeur as the great lawgiver of the Old Testament. His name stands high in the historic scroll. Grandest and noblest of men! His words and works speak and influence through all time.
IV. Therefore there must be speciality in the preparation. This we see in the whole of the chapter; and it has already been a subject of remark. Whatever may have been the nature of the vision vouchsafed to Moses, it must have been of a special nature. He entered the cloud and conversed with God. He breasted the devouring fire, and was not consumed. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and yet did not perish of hunger. The Bible does not satisfy an idle curiosity. No history writes the tale of that forty days and forty nights’ retirement. The deep things of spiritual retirement cannot be written. But their sublime influence will be felt. Moses was brighter, nobler, and truer for the mountain retirement. In all true life there must be seasons of disappearance and of reappearance. The man of action must be also the man of prayer. The man of mighty words must be the man of prolonged meditation. A man may have high swelling words, which are only sound and nothing more, who has never been guilty of half an hours’ deep meditation. Moses was not an empty rhetorician. Aaron was the fluent speaker, and yet the words of Moses are more powerful and vital than the words of Aaron. Learn to be much in thought, much in prayer, much in mountain solitude; but much also with the people. Be not the empty-headed demagogue; and be not the useless, selfish recluse. Let waiting and working go hand in hand. Above all things, obey the Divine voice. Wait even six days for the Divine utterance; and it may be that on the seventh, God will call to thee out of the midst of the cloud.
—W. Burrows, B.A.
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
COMMUNION WITH GOD.—Exodus 24:12-18
All great lives have been characterised by close and frequent communion with God. Enoch, Abraham, Moses, David, our Lord, &c., &c. All Scripture and Christian history testify to the importance and benefit of communion with God. Our text teaches us—
I. That communion with God is necessary.
1. Moses went up after the solemnities of the covenant. Religious teachers, beware how your duties interfere with your devotions. You can only give what you get, and you can only get what you give by communion with God.
2. Moses went up after the performance of his official duties as judge and general of the people. Men of business, beware how your engagements interfere with your prayers. Parents, &c., you can only perform the duties of life well by the “faith and fear” which you can alone get from God.
II. That special places are appointed for communion with God. “Come up unto the mount.”
1. God’s house is appointed as the place where God records His name and vouchsafes His blessing (Hebrews 10:25; Matthew 18:20).
2. The privacy of our own chamber (Matthew 6:6).
True, where there is a praying heart there is a sanctuary; but warehouses, counting-houses, &c., are hardly places where the soul can pour itself out to God.
III. That preparation should be made for communion with God, Exodus 24:14. “Shut to the door” (Matthew 6:6).
1. Arrangements should be made so that this communion may not be interrupted. Let not servant, nor family, nor callers take you away from this important business; let all those matters be settled before you commence.
2. Make such preparations that all worldly and anxious thought may be left outside, and give yourselves entirely up to the business in hand. How often are we half through the service before we begin to reap any benefit. It was not without significance that the Jews had a day of preparation (Mark 15:42).
IV. That communion with God should be most frequently alone. The elders were to tarry behind. This is necessary.
1. Because the presence of others may distract the mind or embarrass the thoughts.
2. Because the presence of others may call our attention away from those intensely personal matters which concern our own souls alone.
3. Because there are sins and wants to confess, about which we should not like our dearest friends to know.
V. That in communion with God the presence of others is sometimes helpful and even necessary. “And Moses rose up and his servant Joshua.”
1. There are occasions on which we should take a friend, our wives, our children, separately with us to the throne of grace. There are matters which concern us in common, want, interest, &c. Two Christian workers, e.g., two partners in business, husband and wife about the family, &c.
2. The same applies to family worship and prayer meetings.
VI. That communion with God is the condition upon which man may witness the Divine glory. “And the glory of the Lord abode on Mount Sinai” (Exodus 24:16-17; Isaiah 6:0)
VII. That communion with God may be protracted, and man must not weary of it (Acts 1:0; Luke 18:1-6; Acts 12:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Man’s duty is “to wait upon the Lord.”
1. Sometimes God delays to test His people’s faith.
2. Sometimes in order that the course of His providence may not be abruptly interfered with.
VIII. That among the purposes of communion with God are recognition of the divine authority and preparation for future work. Moses waited for further divine instructions (chaps. 25–31.) In conclusion—
(i.) Psalms 62:5; (iii.) Isaiah 60:21.
—J. W. Burn.
REV. W. ADAMSON
Two Tables! Exodus 24:12.
1. Like that remarkable architecture still found amid Porter’s “Giant Cities of Bashan,” where a door will be hewn out of the solid rock, and door, rock, and hinge are all a single stone, the two tables make but one law. The fifth commandment is the axis or hinge on which they open and close—the connecting point where you pass from the one to the other.
2. According to the Talmud, these two tables were formed of sapphires; and it is certainly remarkable that the Hebrew word sappir is derived from the same root as the words that signify a book, writing, or engraving. God’s law, like His throne, is based on “Love.” Christ is Incarnate Love—blood-besprinkled blue—sapphire soaked in sardine.
“Alone, O Love ineffable!
Thy saving name is given;
To turn aside from Thee is hell,
To walk with Thee is heaven.”
Covenant-Mediation! Exodus 24:12. A mediator’s hands receive the tables, thus establishing signs that grace is in the Law of Sinai. God states His claims that we may see our need of help to pay them, while our sense of ruin is designed to make us prize the gospel. Is it not grace to urge us onward towards the Cross—towards Him who is the Mediator of the New Covenant? To bring us to Christ, the law displays God’s holiness, sin’s heinousness, hell gaping at our feet. It shows that God’s whole nature abhors evil, and is pledged to execute just wrath. Peter was not alarmed to sink him fathoms deep in Galilee’s blue waters, but to persuade him to lean on Christ—“Save me, I perish.” So the law convicts the sinner that he may seek the Mediator’s help; for there is such help in Christ, and Christ alone.
“For Christ is given to be
The covenant of God to thee;
In Him—God’s golden scroll of light—
The darkest truths are clear and bright,”
Forty-Days’ Food! Exodus 24:18. Clarke and Paxton Hood allude to a conversation between Rabbi Meir and another on this subject. “Is it possible that any man can fast forty days and forty nights?” To this Rabbi Meir replied, “When thou takest up thy abode in a particular city, thou must live according to its customs. Moses ascended to heaven, where they neither eat nor drink; therefore he became assimilated to them. We are accustomed to eat and drink, and when angels descend to us, they eat and drink also.” As Grozart says, truly it was a heavenly not an earthly life in the case equally of Moses, Elias, and our Lord.
“Lo! He feeds on living bread,
Drinks the fountain from above,
Leans on Jesus’ breast his head,
Feasts for ever on His love.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 24". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26