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24. The Magnificent Meal on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:1-18)

Introduction

The text we are about to study is one of the most fascinating passages in the Old Testament. One of the attractions of this passage is its uniqueness. The God who cannot be seen, is seen, not only by Moses, along with Joshua, his servant, but by Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, the priests, and also by seventy of the elders of Israel. The description of God is one that we would not have expected to find in the Old Testament. In addition to seeing God, the nobles of the nation Israel also sat and ate a meal in His presence. If nothing else would motivate us to study this text, our curiosity could inspire us.

The 24th chapter of Exodus is noteworthy also because it records one of the most significant and solemn events of the Old Testament. The nation Israel has been camped at the base of Mt. Sinai for some time. They will continue on there for a considerably longer period. It is at Mt. Sinai, in the 24th chapter of Exodus, that the Mosaic Covenant is ratified. Centuries before, God had promised Abraham that he would become a great nation, through his offspring. He promised Abraham a seed (a son, which would become a great nation), a land (the land of Canaan), and the promise that this nation would be blessed and a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3). The promises which God made were ratified as a covenant between Himself and Abraham in the 15th chapter of Genesis.

That covenant was reiterated to Abraham’s offspring, Isaac and Jacob, and the sons of Jacob. In our chapter, the Mosaic Covenant is now imposed upon Israel by the God who has delivered her out of Egypt. The stipulations have been spelled out in summary form (the Ten Commandments) and in more detail in the “book of the covenant,” (Exod. 20:22–23:33).

None of us has ever experienced a covenant in the making as significant as that which God made with Israel. We can recall or read of the treaties which have been signed, concluding the two world wars of this century, but they pale in the light of this chapter. Those of us who are married can recall the day when we solemnized our marriage vows in a marriage ceremony. The marriage covenant is an important event, but it, too, fails to overshadow the covenant God made with Israel.

The events of this chapter are critical in the history of Israel, as we shall point out at the conclusion of the message. We might wonder, however, how important this text can be to us, since we are not living under this “old covenant,” but under the “new covenant,” the covenant inaugurated by our Lord. What is in this text for us? This is a logical and valid question. Answers to it must include these:

(1) The ratification of the Mosaic Covenant in the 24th chapter of Exodus is the key to the remainder of the Book of Exodus. I have to admit that I was tempted to leave Exodus right after the giving of the Ten Commandments. Nevertheless, we must see the Law of proportion at work here. In the Gospels of the New Testament, the greatest amount of detail is given with respect to the last week of our Lord’s life. We thus must surmise that the events of this week were of great importance.

So, too, when we come to the Book of Exodus, we find that the “human interest” accounts of the book are heavily outnumbered by the details bearing upon the design, the construction, and the inauguration of the tabernacle. The 24th chapter of Exodus is the transition point, where once the covenant is ratified, the tabernacle becomes the most prominent subject. If we are to understand the Book of Exodus as a whole, we dare not neglect chapter 24. This matter will be pursued more fully later.

(2) We cannot possibly understand the message and the meaning of the Old Testament apart from an understanding of the old covenant, which is instituted here in Exodus 24.

(3) We cannot understand the New Testament apart from an understanding of the Old, of which the Mosaic covenant is the key. Even a casual reading of the Book of Hebrews underscores the need to understand the old covenant and the Old Testament, if we are to grasp the work of Christ in bringing the new covenant. Understanding covenants is important to Christianity. The concept of a covenant must be understood, since the gospel is the proclamation of a new covenant, which was instituted by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

As the Book of Hebrews indicates, the new covenant is to be viewed in contrast to the old. In a word, the new covenant is “better” than the old. On the other hand, there is a great deal of continuity between the two covenants, and thus we can also learn much by focusing on the similarities of the two covenants.

The ratification of the Mosaic Covenant was not only important for the nation Israel, it is also important for us. It is well worth the time and effort which we expend as we explore the 24th chapter of Exodus.

Background:
Review of Covenant-Making in the Bible

The making of covenants in the Old Testament should not come as a surprise to us. Moses has already provided us with a considerable amount of precedent in the Book of Genesis. The first covenant is that which God made with Noah, promising never again to wipe out the whole earth by a flood (Gen. 8:20-22; 9:9ff.). The sign of this covenant was the rainbow (Gen. 9:12-17). The next covenant is that which God made with Abraham (Gen. 15:8-21). The promises (a land, a seed, a blessing) of chapter 12 (vss. 1-3) are formalized in the covenant of chapter 15. The sign of this covenant, circumcision, was later indicated in chapter 17, where the covenant was confirmed to Abraham. Isaac made a covenant with Abimelech in Genesis 26:26-31, agreeing to live in peace. Finally in Genesis, Jacob made a covenant with Laban (31:43-45), agreeing not to do harm to one another. This covenant has many similarities to that which God made with Israel, as we can see from the text of Genesis.

Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.” Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as an pillar. And Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. And Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me this day.” Therefore it was named Galeed; and Mizpah, for he said, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. If you mistreat my daughters, or it you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.” And Laban said to Jacob, “Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain (Gen. 31:43-54).

Covenants, as illustrated in the Book of Genesis, as well as from secular sources, had several common elements. There were usually promises or commitments which were made, to which the parties bound themselves. There was often a sacrifice made, followed by a meal, which partook of some of the sacrifice. There was also a memorial, some kind of physical token of the oath, which served to remind the parties of their commitments. There was also a curse attached to the one who broke the covenant which he had made. There was always a sense of solemnity in the making of a covenant, for it was a serious step of commitment.

Most of these elements are found in the ratification of the covenant on Mt. Sinai, as described in Exodus chapter 24. Given an understanding of the nature of the covenant-making process, there is little in chapter 24 which we should not expect to see in such a significant event.

The Structure of Our Passage

In its simplest form, this chapter in Exodus falls into two divisions: (1) A Divine Call and the Ratification of the Covenant (verses 1-11) and (2) A Divine Call and the Recording of the Covenant (verses 12-18).

The first and second divisions of this chapter are similar in that they both begin with the call of God (“come up,” vss. 1, 12). The first call includes Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. The second call is for Moses alone. Both divisions end similarly, as well. The first division ends with a description of the revelation of God as seen by the elders. The last division ends with a description of the revelation of God as seen by the Israelites in the camp.

The Call to Worship and the Confirmation of the Covenant
(24:1-11)

God’s call for the elders to “come up to Him,” along with Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu,61 in verses 1 and 2 makes two very important distinctions. First, it clearly distinguishes God from the Israelites, with whom He is making this covenant. Some covenants were made between equals, such as those between Isaac and Abimelech (Gen. 26) and between Jacob and Laban (Gen. 31). Others, known as suzerainty-vassal (king and subject) treaties were not between equals. The Mosaic Covenant is of this latter kind. God clearly distinguished between Himself and His subjects in three ways:

(1) He initiated the covenant. He brought Israel out of Egypt, and He declared the covenant, and He invited the seventy elders to come up to Him.

(2) God invited the seventy elders to come up to worship Him (24:1). Worship is not practiced among equals. The inferior always worships the superior being.

(3) God invited the elders to worship Him “from a distance” (v. 1), allowing only Moses to come near to Him. While the leaders of Israel had to keep their distance, the nation as a whole had to remain even further removed. God is the superior Being who institutes this covenant with Israel.

There is not only a distinction drawn between the Israelites and God, but also a distinction made between Israelites. Furthest removed is the nation as a whole, back at the base camp. Barriers had to be constructed to keep the people back, lest they be put to death (cf. 19:12-13). The seventy plus leaders of Israel were granted to draw nearer to God (24:1), but only Moses could approach God as he did (24:2). These same distinctions are paralleled in the tabernacle, where the priests had greater access to God than the people, and the high priest alone could enter the holy of holies, once a year. Such distinctions are abolished in the new covenant.

The response to this divine invitation is recorded in verses 3-8, where we see Moses taking the initiative to make preparations for the worship of God on the mountain. It should be clear from the context that Moses understood that the covenant which God was making with Israel needed to be ratified by the nation. It also seems apparent that the 75 leaders (70 elders, Nadab and Abihu, Aaron, Moses, and his servant Joshua) were representatives who acted on behalf of the entire nation. These were also the leaders of the nation who would teach, interpret and apply the Law which God was giving Israel.

Twice in these verses (vss. 3, 7), the Israelites have verbally committed themselves to keep this covenant. If this is not enough, they have said virtually the same words before, in chapter 19, verse 8. There has been great care taken to communicate the covenant clearly, and over a period of time, so that this verbal commitment is based upon a clear understanding of the conditions of the covenant. God spoke verbally, in the hearing of the Israelites (cf. 19:9; 20:18-19), and several times through Moses (cf. 19:3-7, 10-15, 20-25). Moses conveyed the contents of the “book of the covenant” to the Israelites, which the people committed to keep (24:3). Then, Moses put the “book of the covenant” into writing (24:4), which he later read to the Israelites, and they again committed themselves to keep the covenant (24:7). Finally, God will Himself write the covenant in stone, and have it placed in the ark of the covenant, so that Israel will not forget it. The commitment which the nation Israel makes here in chapter 24 is one which is based upon a clear understanding of the covenant which is put before them.

Since the Israelites have verbally ratified this covenant, Moses now carries out the ratification process, which we have seen previously in the Book of Genesis, by the use of symbols and representatives. Symbolically, Moses offered covenant sacrifices (note: these are not sin offerings), making an altar with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. The blood of the sacrifices is sprinkled upon the altar and upon the people, thus linking the people with the covenant sacrifices. Israel has truly ratified the covenant which God gave through Moses.

The covenant meal, eaten by the 75 leaders of Israel in the presence of God, is the final act of ratification. As God had summoned them in verses 1 and 2, now Moses (attended by Joshua) and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the 70 elders went up on the holy mountain. Here, we are told, they “saw the God of Israel” (v. 10), and yet He did not strike them dead (v. 11).

In the light of the way covenants were made, it is not unusual to find the leaders of the nation Israel eating the covenant meal in the presence of God, for both parties were present at the covenant meal. What is unusual is that men saw God and did not perish, and that the vision of God is indeed rare, unlike all other manifestations of God in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible).

Precisely what did these leaders see? Well, we know that they saw God. We also know that the God they saw had feet (cf. v. 10). All that is described, to our dismay, is the feet of God and the sapphire-like clear blue pavement under them. Why does our text describe only the feet of God and the pavement under them? One might think that this is all one would have seen stretched out on one’s face before God,62 since most of those who had such visions of God fell before Him in terror or in humility (cf. Ezek. 1:28; Rev. 1:17). I believe that there is another explanation, however.

There are two other texts which describe God enthroned in heaven, which are parallel to the description of God in Exodus 24, and which therefore serve as a commentary on our passage:

And as I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire … Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, extended over their heads. And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering their bodies on the one side and on the other. I also heard the sound of their wings like the sound of abundant waters as they went, like the voice of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army camp; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings. Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of his loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of his loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking (Ezek. 1:4, 22-28, emphasis mine).

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardious in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. And around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was, as it were, a sea of glass like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind (Rev. 4:1-6, emphasis mine).

The similarities in these descriptions are striking to me. The cloud and the lightening of Ezekiel 1:4 (cf. Rev. 4:5) take us back to the description of the revelation of God on Mt. Sinai in Exodus 19:16. In both Ezekiel (1:22, 25-26) and Revelation (4:6) there is a crystal-like floor, on which the throne of God stands, very much like the crystal-clear sapphire pavement of Exodus 24:10. In Ezekiel’s description, this crystal floor is above the heads of the four living creatures (1:22, 25). In both Ezekiel (1:26) and Revelation (5:1),63 as well as in Exodus (24:10), the One who is enthroned appears with human characteristics.

I therefore understand that the revelation of God in each of these three passages 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.

This distant view of God may explain why we do not read of any fear on the part of the elders (perhaps only wonder). This also helps to explain why Moses could later ask to see God, as though he had not seen Him earlier (Exod. 33:17-23). I have heard people say that they “saw” the president in Washington. This can be true in any number of senses. We may “see” the back of the president through a pair of binoculars, as he is sitting in his oval office, or we may “see” him from across the desk of that oval office. In both cases we have seen the president, although in the latter instance we have seen him much more intimately. I believe that the elders of Israel did not “see” God as intimately as did Ezekiel and John, but they did indeed see Him. The latter passages help to fill in some of the missing details.

Verses 1-11 inform us that the Mosaic Covenant was ratified, in much the same way that other ancient treaties were. The Mosaic Covenant is thus now in force.

The Upward Call of Moses and the Tablets of Stone
(24:12-18)

The second “upward call” is given in verse 12, calling Moses alone to the top of Mt. Sinai. This is for the purpose of giving to him the commandments written on stone by the finger of God (24:12). It is also for the purpose of revealing to Moses the “heavenly pattern” and the blueprints for the tabernacle and its furnishings:

“According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exod. 25:9).

“Our fathers had the tabernacle of testimony in the wilderness, just as He who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern which he had seen” (Acts 7:44).

Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary, and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man. … Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for “See,” He says, “That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” (Heb. 8:1-2, 4-5).

From chapter 25 to the end of the Book of Exodus, it is the tabernacle which is the principle subject. I believe that the tabernacle was designed of God to institutionalize, as it were, the manifestation of His presence among His people on an on-going basis, as the mountain had served on a one-time basis.

Moses made the necessary preparations for his trek up the mountain, which indicate that he may have planned to be gone for some time (which indeed was the case). In particular, Moses appointed Aaron and Hur to judge any legal matters which might arise in his absence. It was not until later (Numbers 11; Deut. 1) that Jethro’s advice of Exodus 18 was actually put into practice, so that Aaron and Hur are to take Moses’ place.

It may appear that Israel is encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the elders somewhere part way up the mountain, and Moses alone goes to the top. I doubt that this is the case, for several reasons. Some time may have passed between the covenant meal of verses 9-11 and the ascent of the mountain by Moses. A second call from God was issued in verse 12. Moses told the elders to “wait here” (v. 14), but the “here” seems to have been the base camp of the Israelites. Aaron and Hur were there to judge the people, who could not ascend the mountain (cf. 19:12; 24:2). We know that Aaron was with the people in the absence of Moses, because Aaron made the golden calf for them (Exod. 32). We also know that Aaron and Hur were with the elders (24:14). Thus, I understand that everyone except Moses and Joshua (who ascended at least part way with Moses, 24:13) was back in the camp with the Israelites.

For six days Moses waited, and on the seventh God called Moses to Himself in the cloud.64 Once again, the seventh day is set apart from the other six. The forty days of Moses’ absence provide a test, one which Israel failed (cf. chapter 32).

The wonder of the revelation of God to the elders of Israel was that God did not strike them dead. The wonder of the revelation of God to Moses is that it is described from the perspective of the Israelites, at the base camp, rather than from Moses himself: “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” (Exod. 24:17, emphasis mine).

Admit it now, wouldn’t you rather see what Moses saw on the top of that mountain, than to have a report of what the Israelites saw from down below? Why, then, didn’t Moses give us a first-hand account? I think that there are a couple of reasons which are worthy of our consideration.

First, we must remember that Moses was a very humble man (Num. 12:3), a man who was not intent upon glamorizing his own experiences. In this regard, Moses is a rare individual. How many books have been written by men and women, dwelling on their own descriptions of some unusual experience. Unfortunately, many Christians get caught up in the commercialization of their experiences as well. Paul’s words to the Colossians may relate to this problem: “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind” (Col. 2:18, emphasis mine).

Second, I doubt very much that Moses could have described what he saw, even if he wanted to. I came across this interesting verse in my study this week, which relates to this matter: “There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another” (1 Cor. 15:40). The glories of heaven are such that men simply cannot comprehend them: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9; Isa. 64:4; 65:17). Paul therefore calls such heavenly things indescribable: “And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise, and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (2 Cor. 12:3-4). When the Scriptures, Old and New Testament, speak of the glorious things of heaven, they use expressions like “appeared as …” (cf. Ezek. 1; Rev. 4, above), because such things can only be described in comparison to the precious and beautiful things we know, which fall far short of the treasures of heaven.

Both Moses and Paul thus refrain from trying to describe for men the glories of heaven which they have seen, for it is an impossible task. They also resist focusing men’s attention on themselves, when their vision and experience are but the product of the grace of God.

Conclusion

The ratification of the Mosaic Covenant had great meaning for the Israelite of that day. It meant that there was now a way for God to identify with Israel as His people. Because of this, the tabernacle could be constructed and the glory of God which once was manifested on Mt. Sinai could now come down to this dwelling place:

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34).

For the Israelites of a later time, it was a great comfort to know that God had established a unique relationship with the nation Israel, and that even when the nation sinned and suffered the discipline of God, their future was assured, for God had committed Himself to His people. Even in a few days, when the Israelites would worship a golden calf, Moses could appeal to God on the basis of His covenant promises.65

The Mosaic Covenant clearly defined Israel’s relationship with God, and what was expected of each Israelite. The covenant also spelled out the consequences, both of obedience and of disobedience. Israel could always know where she stood with God. The covenant was the key to understanding Israel’s history, throughout the Old Testament times.

The ratification of the Mosaic Covenant is relevant to the New Testament Christian as well. Let me point out three areas of application of our text. All of them are implications of the same principle: THE NEW COVENANT, LIKE THE OLD COVENANT OF EXODUS, IS A COVENANT.

Both the Mosaic Covenant, to which Israel submitted in Exodus 24, and the new covenant, to which every Christian must submit, are covenants. The application of this text thus stems from the similarity of both covenants, as covenants.

(1) The new covenant, like the old covenant, must be ratified, in order for its benefits to be attained. The 24th chapter of Exodus informs us that Israel did not casually accept the covenant, the Israelites solemnly ratified it. They verbally ratified the covenant, repeatedly. They participated in the sacrifices, and, by their representatives, they partook of the covenant meal.

The gospel of the New Testament is the news that God has provided a new means of relating with men, through the new covenant, the covenant which was achieved through the sprinkling of the blood of Christ. The Book of Hebrews spends a great deal of time expounding the similarities and the differences between the two covenants. The point here is that the gospel is the message of a covenant which men can enter into with God. The ratification of this covenant is a solemn event, and one which requires a definite decision. Paul spells out the ratification process in the Book of Romans:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom. 10:8-10).

There are many who think they are Christians because they know that Christ died for sinners. There are some who believe that they believe in Him. But I fear that there are also some who have heard of this covenant (Paul says in the text above that it is near) but they have never made the commitment, of faith and confession, which God requires of those who would enter into His covenant. The new covenant, like the old, must be ratified. Without ratification, the covenant does not apply.

There are some who will say, “My relationship with God is a very private matter, something between just me and God.” Of course one’s relationship to God is a very personal thing, but it is a relationship based upon the clear terms of the covenant which God has offered to us. We cannot come to God on our own terms, but only on His terms, those of His new covenant.

(2) The new covenant, like the Old, must be communicated clearly, so that men can make a choice based on an adequate understanding of the commitment required. If we are impressed with the decisive way which Israel ratified the covenant, we should also be impressed with the clarity and frequency with which the covenant was communicated from God to men.

Moses was God’s instrument, the mediator, of the old covenant. Repeatedly, Moses ascended and descended the holy mount. He reported the words of God, both orally and in writing. The old covenant could not have been communicated more clearly. The commitment which Israel made was based on a clear grasp of the issues.

Evangelism is the task of communicating the gospel, the good news that a new covenant has been achieved by God Himself, in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. The way the gospel is conveyed today, you would think it could be obtained by a bonus coupon, rather than something of great value obtained by a solemn commitment. We have merchandized the gospel. We have not heralded the gospel as a word from God. We have cheapened it, modifying it to accommodate men, rather than to represent God.

When Paul speaks of his proclamation of the gospel, he does so in terms that are befitting a covenant of the greatest value and significance:

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Cor. 2:17).

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor. 4:1-2).

Let us all proclaim the gospel, the offer of the new covenant, in a way that is befitting that covenant, and the God who has called men to a commitment to Him by means of it.

(3) The new covenant requires not only commitment and communication, but commemoration. When the Lord was about to go to the cross, He shared a covenant meal with His disciples and instituted a commemoration of the new covenant which the church was commanded to keep (cf. Lu. 22:14-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-34). Failure to commemorate the new covenant, or doing so in an inappropriate way was a matter of serious consequences. Due to misconduct at the commemoration of the new covenant, some were sick and some died (1 Cor. 11:30). Those who willfully and persistently sinned were not to be invited to the table (1 Cor. 5).

If our estimation of the value of the new covenant were to be gauged by the fervency and frequency with which we commemorated the Lord’s Supper, I am afraid we would fear to face the God who has made this covenant with us.

Let us, then, commit ourselves to this covenant (personal salvation), communicate it clearly to men (evangelism), and commemorate it frequently and fervently.


61 Nadab and Abihu (24:1) were the sons of Aaron (Exod. 6:23), and were also those who died because they offered up “strange fire” (Lev. 10:1-2). The fact that these two were named is significant. First, it points out the integrity of the Scriptures. Secondly, it warns us that even men who may have been godly, at least those who have had the privilege of seeing God in an unusual way are still very capable of falling into serious sin. Let those who would rest on the laurels take warning (cf. 1 Cor. 10:12).

62 “At first sight, this is a contradiction of Exodus 33:20. But it will be remembered that even there Moses was to be allowed to see God’s ‘back’ (33:28). In this verse [10] it is equally stressed that the elders did not dare raise their eyes above His footstool. Naturally, there is deep spiritual truth in these anthropomorphic metaphors, a truth which finds expression in Moses’ hiding of his own face (Ex. 3:6) and Isaiah’s cry (Is. 6:5). No mortal man can bear to see the full splendour of God; it is only in Christ that we can see Him mirrored (Heb. 1:3).” R. Alan Cole, Exodus (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973), pp. 186-187.

63 In Revelation 4:2-3, the One sitting on the throne is described as being “jasper-like” in appearance, but in 5:1, He has a book in His right hand.

64 Whether this week of waiting is included in the 40 days and nights Moses spent on the mountain (24:18), I am not certain. He will again spend another 40 days and nights when he returns for the second set of stone tablets (Exod. 34:28).

65 It is significant, however, that Moses appealed to the Abrahamic Covenant, not the Mosaic (cf. Exod. 32:11-14).