I hadn’t intended to post anything this week since I’m spending every day sitting in a seminar on Old Testament Biblical Theology; however, we spent the better part of two hours examining Exodus 24, and that discussion was so fascinating that I couldn’t resist pointing out some interesting features in the text here at Southern Reformation.
Let me provide you with the Hebrew text of the salient verses from Exodus 24, and then I’ll ruminate on the most intriguing features of the text.
וְאֶל־מֹשֶׁ֨ה אָמַ֜ר עֲלֵ֣ה אֶל־יְהוָ֗ה אַתָּה֙ וְאַהֲרֹן֙ נָדָ֣ב וַאֲבִיה֔וּא וְשִׁבְעִ֖ים מִזִּקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑לוְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶ֖ם מֵרָחֹֽק׃
וְנִגַּ֨שׁ מֹשֶׁ֤ה לְבַדֹּו֙ אֶל־יְהוָ֔ה וְהֵ֖ם לֹ֣א יִגָּ֑שׁוּ וְהָעָ֕ם לֹ֥א יַעֲל֖וּ עִמֹּֽו׃
וַיַּ֥עַל מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹ֑ן נָדָב֙ וַאֲבִיה֔וּא וְשִׁבְעִ֖ים מִזִּקְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
וַיִּרְא֕וּ אֵ֖ת אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְתַ֣חַת רַגְלָ֗יו כְּמַעֲשֵׂה֙ לִבְנַ֣ת הַסַּפִּ֔יר וּכְעֶ֥צֶם הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם לָטֹֽהַר׃
וְאֶל־אֲצִילֵי֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לֹ֥א שָׁלַ֖ח יָדֹ֑ו וַֽיֶּחֱזוּ֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וַיֹּאכְל֖וּ וַיִּשְׁתּֽוּ׃ ס
“But Jehovah said to Moses, “Ascend to Jehovah, you, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from a distance. Only Moses may approach Jehovah, but the others must not approach, nor may the people ascend with him.”
Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel ascended, and they saw the God of Israel. Under His feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, and clear as the sky itself. But He did not lay a hand on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God, and they ate and they drank.
As we studied this text, there were two features that jumped out at me almost immediately.
The first was the description of the Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders as they sit down two-thirds of the way up the mountain of God, and eat and drink. The mountain of God pierces into the heavens, and it allows them a glimpse of the floor of God’s throne room…and they sit down and eat.
Can you imagine such a thing? This is the closest anyone has gotten to the presence of God Almighty since the Flood, and the sheer, unmitigated glory of it must have produced a weight of reverence and awe that I am simply incapable of imagining. And then it’s as though the very King of creation Himself invites them to sit down for dinner at His feet.
But later in the text, in verse 16, we read that the glory of Jehovah descends on the top of Mount Sinai, and it’s blanketed under the cloud of God’s glory for six days…and Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders just have to wait.
And then finally the thunderous voice of God proceeds from the cloud of His glory, and He invites into His presence; He commands him to enter into the midst of the cloud. This is a privilege that defies the understanding.
This is why Reformed and Presbyterian churches begin their worship services with passages from the Psalms that call us (or command us) to come into God’s presence and worship. Neither we nor Moses may enter the presence of God Himself presumptuously; we must be invited in.
And the implications that this has for our worship are simply astounding.
Have you ever thought of how great a privilege we have, that Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day, God invites us into His throne room, where we may worship in His presence? What an overwhelming privilege!