The people agree to obey God
1The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on this mountain. Bring along Aaron, as well as his two sons Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of Israel's leaders. They must worship me at a distance,2but you are to come near. Don't let anyone else come up.”
3Moses gave the LORD's instructions to the people, and they promised, “We will do everything the LORD has commanded!”4Then Moses wrote down what the LORD had said.
The next morning Moses got up early. He built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up a large stone for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.5He also sent some young men to burn offerings and to sacrifice bulls as special offerings to the LORD.6Moses put half of the blood from the animals into bowls and sprinkled the rest on the altar.7Then he read aloud the LORD's commands and promises, and the people shouted, “We will obey the LORD and do everything he has commanded!”
8Moses took the blood from the bowls and sprinkled it on the people. Next, he told them, “With this blood the LORD makes his agreement with you.”
9Moses and Aaron, together with Nadab and Abihu and the seventy leaders, went up the mountain10and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something that looked like a pavement made out of sapphire, and it was as bright as the sky.
11Even though these leaders of Israel saw God, he did not punish them. So they ate and drank.
Moses on Mount Sinai
12The LORD said to Moses, “Come up on the mountain and stay here for a while. I will give you the two flat stones on which I have written the laws that my people must obey.”13Moses and Joshua his assistant got ready, then Moses started up the mountain to meet with God.
14Moses had told the leaders, “Wait here until we come back. Aaron and Hur will be with you, and they can settle any arguments while we are away.”
15When Moses went up on Mount Sinai, a cloud covered it,16and the bright glory of the LORD came down and stayed there. The cloud covered the mountain for six days, and on the seventh day the LORD told Moses to come into the cloud.17-18Moses did so and stayed there forty days and nights. To the people, the LORD's glory looked like a blazing fire on top of the mountain.
This passage tells us about the confirmation of the covenant that God made with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. It is an important part of God’s progressive revelation of himself to Israel and the world. The account involves three different groups of people: the people of Israel; Aaron and his two sons Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel; and then Moses and his aid Joshua. All of them are part of this confirmation ceremony.
Notice, however, that there is a spatial component to the ceremony. The people remain the furthest from the Lord and are not allowed to come up the mountain. Aaron, his sons and the seventy elders of Israel are allowed to ascend the mountain partway and to eat and drink in God’s presence. Moses accompanied by Joshua go up the mountain of God but only Moses enters the cloud when he is called and lives in God’s presence for forty days and forty nights.
In addition, there is also a call for commitment that is sealed with the sprinkling of blood. The people commit themselves to do all that the Lord has said in the Ten Commandments (20:1-17) and the exposition that followed (21:1-23:33). This confession was accompanied by blood which was splashed against the altar and then sprinkled on the people. This was a solemn covenantal ceremony and commitment indeed!
But for all of this, subsequent events will reveal that it was not enough to keep Israel from sinning and remaining faithful to their covenant with God. Something more was necessary -someone more! How thankful we should be for the work of the greater Moses – Jesus – because now we can come directly to God and Jesus’ work on our behalf purchases our forgiveness and secures our allegiance forever! What a saviour!
Awesome God, Thank you for doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Thank you for the blood of Jesus shed for our sins and for the work of the Spirit which renews and transforms so that we love and want to serve you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.