Exodus Chapter Twenty-four
Moses is called up into the mountain, The people promise obedience. (1-8) The glory of the Lord appears. (9-11) Moses goes up into the mountain. (12-18)
Commentary on Exodus 24:1-8
(Read Exodus 24:1-8)
A solemn covenant was made between God and Israel. Very solemn it was, typifying the covenant of grace between God and believers, through Christ. As soon as God separated to himself a peculiar people, he governed them by a written word, as he has done ever since. God's covenants and commands are so just in themselves, and so much for our good, that the more we think of them, and the more plainly and fully they are set before us, the more reason we may see to comply with them. The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the altar, on the book, and on the people. Neither their persons, their moral obedience, nor religious services, would meet with acceptance from a holy God, except through the shedding and sprinkling' of blood. Also the blessings granted unto them were all of mercy; and the Lord would deal with them in kindness. Thus the sinner, by faith in the blood of Christ, renders willing and acceptable obedience.
Commentary on Exodus 24:9-11
(Read Exodus 24:9-11)
The elders saw the God of Israel; they had some glimpse of his glory, though whatever they saw, it was something of which no image or picture could be made, yet enough to satisfy them that God was with them of a truth. Nothing is described but what was under his feet. The sapphires are the pavement under his feet; let us put all the wealth of this world under our feet, and not in our hearts. Thus the believer sees in the face of Jesus Christ, far clearer discoveries of the glorious justice and holiness of God, than ever he saw under terrifying convictions; and through the Saviour, holds communion with a holy God.
Commentary on Exodus 24:12-18
(Read Exodus 24:12-18)
A cloud covered the mount six days; a token of God's special presence there. Moses was sure that he who called him up would protect him. Even those glorious attributes of God which are most terrible to the wicked, the saints with humble reverence rejoice in. And through faith in the atoning Sacrifice, we hope for greater honour than Moses ever enjoyed on earth. Now we see through a glass darkly, but when he shall appear, then face to face. This vision of God will continue with equal, if not increasing brightness of joy; not for a few days only, but through eternity.
── Matthew Henry《Concise Commentary on Exodus》
 And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off.
Worship ye afar off — Before they came near, they must worship. Thus we must enter into God's gates with humble and solemn adorations.
 And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.
And Moses alone shall come near — Being therein a type of Christ, who as the high priest entered alone into the most holy place. In the following verses we have the solemn covenant made between God and Israel and the exchanging of the ratifications: typifying the covenant of grace between God and believers through Christ.
 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.
Moses told the people all the words of the Lord — He laid before them all the precepts, in the foregoing chapters, and put it to them, whether they were willing to submit to these laws or no? And all the people answered, All the words which the Lord hath said we will do - They had before consented in general to be under God's government; here they consent in particular to these laws now given.
 And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
And Moses wrote the words of the Lord — That there might be no mistake; as God dictated them on the mount, where, it is highly probable, God taught him the use of letters. These Moses taught the Israelites, from whom they afterwards travelled to Greece and other nations. As soon as God had separated to himself a peculiar people, he governed them by a written word, as he has done ever since, and will do while the world stands. Pillars according to the number of the tribes - These were to represent the people, the other party to the covenant; and we may suppose they were set up over against the altar, and that Moses as mediator passed to and fro between them. Probably each tribe set up and knew its own pillar, and their elders stood by it. He then appointed sacrifices to be offered upon the altar.
 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
1. The blood of the sacrifice which the people offered was (part of it) sprinkled upon the altar, which signified the people's dedicating themselves to God, and his honour. In the blood of the sacrifices, all the Israelites were presented unto God as living sacrifices, Romans 12:1. 2. The blood of the sacrifice which God had owned and accepted was (the remainder of it) sprinkled, either upon the people themselves, or upon the pillars that represented them, which signified God's conferring his favour upon them, and all the fruits of that favour, and his giving them all the gifts they could desire from a God reconciled to them, and in covenant with them. This part of the ceremony was thus explained, Behold the blood of the covenant; see here how God sealed to you to be a God, and you seal to be to him a people; his promises to you, and yours to him, are yea and amen. Thus our Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant (of whom Moses was a type) having offered up himself a sacrifice upon the cross, that his blood might be indeed the blood of the covenant, sprinkled it upon the altar in his intercession ( Hebrews 9:12,) and sprinkles it upon his church by his word and ordinances, and the influences and operations of the Spirit of promise by whom we are sealed.
 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.
They saw the God of Israel - That is, they had some glimpse of his glory, in light and fire, though they saw no manner of similitude. They saw the place where the God of Israel stood, so the seventy, something that came near a similitude, but was not; whatever they saw it was certainly something of which no image or picture could be made, and yet enough to satisfy them that God was with them of a truth. Nothing is described but that which was under his feet, for our conceptions of God are all below him. They saw not so much as God's feet, but at the bottom of the brightness they saw (such as they never saw before or after, and as the foot-stool or pedestal of it) a most rich and splendid pavement, as it had been of sapphires, azure, or sky-coloured. The heavens themselves are the pavement of God's palace, and his throne is above the firmament.
 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
Upon the nobles or elders of Israel he laid not his hand - Though they were men, the splendour of his glory did not overwhelm them, but it was so moderated ( Job 36:9,) and they were so strengthened ( Daniel 10:19,) that they were able to bear it: nay, though they were sinful men, and obnoxious to God's justice, yet he did not lay his avenging hand upon them, as they feared he would. When we consider what a consuming fire God is, and what stubble we are before him, we shall have reason to say, in all our approaches to him, It is of the Lord's mercies we are not consumed. They saw God, and did eat and drink; They had not only their lives preserved, but their vigour, courage, and comfort; it cast no damp upon their joy, but rather increased it. They feasted upon the sacrifice before God, in token of their chearful consent to the covenant, their grateful acceptance of the benefits of it, and their communion with God in pursuance of that covenant.
 And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
Come up to the mount and be there — Expect to continue there for some time.
 And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.
Joshua was his minister or servant, and it would be a satisfaction to him to have him with him as a companion during the six days that he tarried in the mount before God called to him. Joshua was to be his successor, and therefore thus he was honoured before the people, and thus he was prepared by being trained up in communion with God. Joshua was a type of Christ, and (as the learned Bishop Peirson well observes Moses takes him with him into the mount, because without Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, there is no looking into the secrets of heaven, nor approaching the presence of God.
 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
A cloud covered the mount six days — A visible token of God's special presence there, for he so shews himself to us, as at the same time to conceal himself from us, he lets us know so much as to assure us of his power and grace, but intimates to us that we cannot find him out to perfection. During these six days Moses staid waiting upon the mountain, for a call into the presence-chamber.
And on the seventh day — Probably the sabbath-day, he called unto Moses. Now the thick cloud opened in the sight of all Israel, and the glory of the Lord broke forth like devouring fire.
 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.
Moses went into the midst of the cloud — It was an extraordinary presence of mind, which the grace of God furnished him with, else he durst not have ventured into the cloud, especially when it broke out in devouring fire.
And Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights — It should seem the six days, were not part of the forty; for during those six days, Joshua was with Moses, who did eat of the manna, and drink of the brook mentioned, Deuteronomy 9:21, and while they were together, it is probable Moses did eat and drink with him; but when Moses was called into the midst of the cloud, he left Joshua without, who continued to eat and drink daily while he waited for Moses's return, but from thenceforward Moses fasted.
── John Wesley《Explanatory Notes on Exodus》
24 Chapter 24
Behold the blood of the covenant.
The sprinkling of blood
I. He sprinkled the book in his hand. It was the Bible of his day, and yet it needed sprinkling. And we hold our Bibles--do they need sprinkling? The Bible is the transmitted mind of God--it is perfect truth, it is essential holiness--must it be sprinkled? Human words are all unclean. The mind of God must pass to men through the organs of the human voice--and that humanity mingling even with the revelation of God, wants washing. The materials of which the book is made are human. And again and again with our defiled hands we have soiled it--and we never open the book but it is a sinner’s hand that touches it. Our Bibles need the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.
II. And he sprinkled the altar--for he had reared it. The altar was a holy thing--dedicate, consecrated, yet for the manhood which was associated with it, it needed the sprinkling of the blood. And we have our altars. You rise in the morning, and you set up your altar on your bedside-and when you rise from your knees, how many wandering thoughts, what coldness and dulness of soul, what mixture of motive, calls out for mercy. The altar of the bedroom--it must be sprinkled. You come down, and you gather round the family altar. But is there no one there, in that little assembly, whose heart is wrong with God? Does the worship of the family all go up in purity? Is it not a dull thing--that family prayer each morning--a mere routine? And does not it want the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus?
III. Moses sprinkled the people. There is no part of man that does not need that sprinkling.
IV. The sprinkling of the blood was the token that whatever it touched became covenant. We have our covenanted Bibles and our covenanted altars; we ourselves are in covenant with Christ. Do you know that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is on you? And all that you must recognize if you would obey God. You must not rely upon “All the words that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” But you must go as a sprinkled and covenanted people, or you will not go at all. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The blood of the covenant
I. The sacredness of blood. This is taught both in Old and New Testament.
II. The Christian covenant is a covenant of blood. The blood of the eternal Son of God, shed on Calvary, sprinkled on the high altar of heaven and on all who approach with penitence and faith.
III. The covenant which Christ has instituted with His people is the most sacred covenant which God ever made with man.
IV. The Lord’s supper is a memorial and a solemn public ratification of this Divine blood covenant. It sprinkles us afresh with the blood of the great atonement. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
I. Divinely revealed.
1. Revealed faithfully.
2. Revealed intelligently.
II. Accepted by man.
III. Permanently embodied. A written revelation is--
IV. Arrangements carefully and impressively prepared.
1. Altar and pillars--representing God and people.
2. Young men--symbolizing strength and earnestness that should be exerted in keeping covenant engagement.
V. Ratified with blood. In conclusion--
1. Christ is the Mediator of a better covenant.
3. That He has instituted a “perpetual memorial of His precious death until His coming again” (1 Corinthians 9:25). (J. W. Burn.)
God’s covenant with Israel
I. The preparation and separation. God and Israel were to bind themselves in sacred oath. God was ready. Was man ready? Reverence and humility were required, a deep sense of the full meaning of all that was to be said and done. Special preparation is always demanded for special exhibitions of the Divine glory and power, and for special seasons of covenanting with God. Man is never ready for pledges of love and loyalty until he has sanctified himself through penitence and prayer.
II. The people informed. Let the leaders of God’s host plainly point out the path. The need of our age is not speculation but declaration of things revealed by those who have been on the mount with God, have beheld His glory, and have received a message for dying men. The people would know what God has said, not what men imagine or guess. How about our Father in heaven? What are His purposes of grace? What are the conditions of blessing? These are the burning questions of our age and of all ages. If any one has been on the mount and heard the voice, let him come down and tell us what he knows. The world is waiting.
III. Ratification of the covenant. Deliberation is always demanded before pledges of acceptance and obedience are made. No act of human life is more solemn than that of covenanting with God. Before men begin to build, they should count the cost. Many who run well for awhile afterwards halt and turn back because they started under the impulse of a sudden and ill-considered emotion. Christianity is righteous principle put in practice.
IV. Sealing the covenant. Remember the hour, the spot, all the circumstances attending your public avowal of faith in Jesus Christ, and your covenanting with God and with His people. How have these vows been kept? How have the conditions of blessing been fulfilled? God has never failed you. Have you failed Him? Oh, these covenants! How many have been broken! These vows! How many have been slighted! We should frequently go back to the altar “under the hill,” and recall the sealing blood.
V. New visions of God. This doubtless was a far more distinct vision than the former, when the law was given amid clouds and darkness and tempest. That was a display of majesty; this is of love. The language of the former was: Obey and thou shalt live. The language of the latter is: Love and confide. A little while before the vision was of a Law-giver. Now it is of a Saviour, inspiring confidence and peace. The mercy-seat appears. God’s glory is seen in the face of Jesus Christ, typified by the sapphire stone and, as I suppose, by the dimly outlined form of the world’s Redeemer. (J. E. Twitchell.)
The strictness of God’s law
“The Bible is so strict and old-fashioned,” said a young man to a grey-haired friend who was advising him to study God’s Word if he would learn how to live. “There are plenty of books written now-a-days that are moral enough in their teaching, and do not bind one down as the Bible.” The old merchant turned to his desk, and took out two rulers, one of which was slightly bent. With each of these he ruled a line, and silently handed the ruled paper to his companion. “Well,” said the lad, “what do you mean?” “One line is not straight and true, is it? When you mark out your path in life, do not take a crooked ruler!” (S. S. Chronicle.)
Belief and disobedience
Suppose, says the late Archbishop Whately, two men each received a letter from his father, giving directions for his children’s conduct; and that one of these sons hastily, and without any good grounds, pronounced the letter a forgery, and refused to take any notice of it; while the other acknowledged it to be genuine, and laid it up with great reverence, and then acted without the least regard to the advice and commands contained in the letter: you would say that both of these men, indeed, were very wrong; but the latter was much the more undutiful son of the two. Now this is the case of a disobedient Christian, as compared with infidels. He does not like them pronounce his Father’s letter a forgery; that is, deny the truth of the Christian revelation; but he acts in defiance in his life to that which he acknowledges to be the Divine command.
The sealing of the covenant
I. What occurred? The Law had been given, amplified (chaps. 21-23), and endorsed by the people (Exodus 24:3). Necessary now to uncover that atonement which is ever the ground of God’s dealings with man. Hence the altar. No soul was to touch it, for the atonement is the creation of God. Still man had a part in these covenantal transactions, hence twelve pillars = twelve tribes. But sacrifice on the altar--the burnt offering = life surrendered--and the peace offering = communion with God and one another. The sacrifices were slain by young men = the flower of Israel. The Levitical priesthood not yet. Every age has its own special service for God. The blood was preserved. Now the blood stands for life. Half disappeared in fire on the altar. Gone! = forfeited life of the sinner. Half thrown back upon the people = life restored to man. How Israel ascended to a higher plane of life (Exodus 24:9). In the only possible way--representatively. Then came the vision of God (Exodus 24:10). Then the banquet (see Song of Solomon 2:3-4).
II. What did it mean?
1. Salvation has its ground in God and God alone. Calvary potentially before the Christian era, actually since, the Divine ground of salvation.
2. Forfeited life is given back to man on the ground of Christ’s atonement. Life, capacity, faculty, are all given back now to be man’s very own.
3. Now again to be given back to God in consecration. Being now my very own (in the sense just hinted), I give my own to God. This self-surrender is vital. The surrender is to be complete in intent and purpose. And the obligation presses now. Delay is disloyalty.
4. There will then be peace. With God; with ourselves; with men.
5. Life will move on a higher level (Exodus 24:9; Exodus 24:12-13). (Emphasize the meaning in the words “And BE there”: “And Moses went up into the Mount of God.”) Valley men have no idea of the bracing atmosphere, the brilliant light, the wider view, the grander visions, to be found on the mountain-plateau. It is so in Switzerland; so with the mountains celestial.
6. There shall be visions of God (Exodus 24:10). Bushnell says: “So gloriously has my experience of God opened His greatness to me, I seem to have got beyond all physical images and measures, even those of astronomy, and simply to think God is to find and bring into my feeling more than even the imagination can reach. I bless God that it is so. I am cheered by it, encouraged, sent onward, and, in what He gives me, begin to have some very faint impression of the glory yet to be revealed.”
7. And banquetings and satisfactions of soul (Exodus 24:11). As the body has its nutriment, so the soul. No more “husks.” High thought befitting immortal man. Manna: “Hidden manna.” Here on earth. At the marriage supper of the Lamb. Thereafter to all eternity. (H. T. Robjohns, B.A.)
They saw God, and did eat and drink.
The vision of God, and the feast before Him
These are strangely bold words, both for the assertion with which they begin, and for the juxtaposition of the two things which they declare. They come at the close of the solemn ceremonial by which God and Israel entered into covenant. Lightly-uttered vows of obedience to all that God could speak had echoed among the rocks. On the basis of that promise a covenant was formed and ratified by sacrifice. They pass within the fence, they witness that access to God is possible on the footing of covenant and sacrifice. They behold, as I suppose, unclouded, the material and fiery symbol of His presence: witness that men through sacrifice and covenant can see God. But our eyes are stayed on the pavement beneath His feet. No form is described. Enough for us that there is spread beneath Him that which is blue and gleaming as the cloudless heaven above Sinai. “They eat and drink”--witness that men who draw nigh to God, on the footing of sacrifice and covenant, and thereby behold His face, have therein festal abundance for all their need. So this incident, in its form adapted to the infantile development of the people that first received it, carries in its symbols the deepest truths of the best communion of the Christian life, and may lend itself to the foreshadowing of the unspoken glories of the heavens. From that point of view I want to look at it.
I. I ask you to consider the vision of god possible for us. Jesus Christ is the Revealer. This generation is very fond of saying, “No man hath seen God at any time, nor can see Him.” It is a pity, but they would go on with the quotation and say, “the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” The eradiation of His brightness, “and the express image of His person,” is that Divine man, God manifest in the flesh. The knowledge of God which we have in Jesus Christ is real, as sight is real. It is not complete, but it is genuine knowledge. We know the best of God, if I may use such a phrase, when we know what we knew in Christ, that He is a loving and a righteous will; when we can say of Him “He is love,” in no metaphor but in simple reality, and His will is a will towards all righteousness, and towards all blessing, anything that heaven has to teach us about God afterwards is less than that. We see Him in the reality of a genuine, central, though by no means complete, knowledge. Our knowledge of God in Christ is as sight, in reference to certitude. People say, “Seeing is believing.” I should turn it the other way about, and say, “Believing is seeing.” For we may be a great deal surer of God than ever we can be of this outer world. And the witness which is borne to us in Christ of the Divine nature is far more reliable than even the evidence that is borne to us by sense of an external universe. Then remember, too, that where we have learned to know, and absolutely to rely upon, and vividly to realize our Father’s presence through Jesus Christ, there we shall see Him in all things and everywhere. Then, remember, further, that the degree of this vision depends upon ourselves, and is a matter of cultivation. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” There are three things wanted for sight--something to see; something to see by; something to see with. God has given us the two first, and He will help us to the last if we like. But we have to bring the eye, without which the sunbeam is vain, and that which it reveals also. Christ stands before us, at once the Master-Light of our seeing, and the Object that we are to behold. But for us there is needed that the eye shall be pure; that the heart shall turn towards Him. Faith is the eye of the soul. Meditation and habitual occupation of mind and heart with Jesus Christ, the Revealer of God, are needed if we are to “see God.”
II. Secondly, notice the feast in the divine presence. “They did eat and drink.” That suggests in the singular juxtaposition of the two things, that the vision of God is consistent with, and consecrates, common enjoyment and everyday life. Even before that awful blaze these men sat down and fed, “eating their meal with gladness and singleness of heart,” and finding no contradiction nor any profanity in the close juxtaposition of the meal and the vision. There is no false asceticism as the result of the Christian sight of God. It takes nothing out of life that ought to be in it. If we see God there is only one thing that we shall be ashamed to do in His presence, and that is to sin. For all the rest the vision of God blends sweetly and lovingly with common service and homely joys. It will interpret life. Nothing is small with such a background; nothing common-place when looked at in connection with Him. It will ennoble life; it will gladden life. But there is another thought here to which I must refer for a moment. That strange meal on the mountain was no doubt made on the sacrifices that had preceded, of which a part were peace-offerings. The ritual of that species of sacrifice partly consisted in a portion of the sacrifice being partaken of by the offerers. The same meaning lies in this meal on the mountain that lay in the sacrificial feast of the peace-offering, the same meaning that lies in the great feast of the new covenant, “This is My body; this is My blood.” God spreads in His presence a table, and the food on that table is the “Bread which came down from heaven that it might give life to the world.” The vision of God and the feast on the mountain are equally provided and made possible by Christ our Passover, who was sacrificed for us.
III. And so, lastly, we may gather out of this incident a glimpse of a prophetic character, and see in it the perfecting of the vision and of the feast. We know the apostle’s wonderful statement of the difference between the beatific knowledge of heaven and the indirect and partial knowledge of earth. Here we “see in a glass darkly; there face to face.” It is not for us to try before the time to interpret the latter of these statements; only this, let us remember that whatever may be the change in manner of knowledge, and in measure of apprehension, and in proximity of presence, there is no change in heaven in the medium of revelation. For heaven as for earth God is the King invisible; for heaven as for earth no man can see Him, the only begotten Son declares Him. Christ is for ever the Manifester of God, and the glorified saints see God as we see Him in the face of Jesus Christ, though they see that Face as we do not. Yonder there are new capacities indeed. When there are more windows in the house there will be more sunshine in the rooms. When there is a new speculum in the telescope galaxies will be resolved that are now nebulous, and new brightnesses will be visible that are now veiled. But with all the new powers and the extension of present vision, there will be no corrections in the present vision. We shall see Him as He is, and learn that what we knew of Him in Christ here is true for ever. And on that perfect vision will follow the perfect meal, which will still be the feeding on the sacrifice. For there were no heaven except “He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever,” and there is no spiritual life above except a life derived from Him. The feast means perfect satisfaction, perfect repose, perfect gladness, perfect companionship. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The God of Sinai approached through sacrifice
Two distinct aspects of the Divine character had already been made known to the Israelites--His goodness and His severity, His tenderness and His righteousness. Now a third lesson is given them. The awful God of Sinai may be approached and communed with; they need not be terrified away for ever from Him, or be afraid to approach Him.
I. The awful God of Sinai may be approached by sinful men through sacrifice. “ Upon the nobles of Israel He laid not His hand.”
II. The awful God of Sinai is seen by sinful men through sacrifice. “Also they saw God.”
III. The awful God of Sinai is communed with by sinful men through sacrifice. “Also they did eat and drink.” There is safety for the transgressor only under the shadow of the sacrifice--the atonement of Jesus Christ. Socrates once cried, “Plato, Plato, perhaps God can forgive wilful sin.” You see the gospel of Socrates--“Perhaps.” “But,” he added, “I do not see how.” In the gospel of Jesus Christ there is no “perhaps.” “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” There is no “perhaps” about that. Socrates said, “I do not see how.” We do see how. “Through this Man is preached forgiveness of sins.” (R. Roberts.)
A glorious vision
I. Glorious ascension. 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” etc. Calm repose. We may rest sweetly on the Divine fidelity.
III. Glorious preservation. God’s hand will ever be laid on the spiritual nobility. They are under His protecting, preserving care.
IV. Wondrous festivity. The saints shall eat and drink in the Divine presence. Heavenly manna. New wine. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
Man’s approach to God
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,” etc., “the new and living way” (John 14:6). We must remember that this was in answer to their own prayer (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 6:1-13.; 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.” (J. W. Burn.)
A glorious sight and a holy feast
I. The sight of God, to which the nobles of Israel were admitted.
II. The safety and comfort which they enjoyed.
III. The feast with which they were provided. They ate of the peace-offerings which had been recently sacrificed, and drank of the libations which had just been offered, on the ratification of the covenant. Even thus are the disciples of Christ invited to partake of Him by faith, and that in joy and gladness, as the great peace-offering of the Church. Thus are they seated at the table of their adorable Lord, in token of gracious communion with the family in heaven; and thus is their fellowship manifested with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. In this fellowship His children truly see God in Christ. They behold, and they partake, the glory of His person, the glory of His covenant, the hidden glory of His Word, the glory of His redeeming and everlasting love. (R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
The vision of God
We have here the conjunction of that which is the highest attainment of faith, namely, the vision of God, with that which is the commonest act of our lives, namely, eating and drinking. Again, eating and drinking is only one form, and that one of the lowest forms of human enjoyment. Therefore, if the vision of God be compatible with that, it may be, it must be, equally so with every proper mode of employment or enjoyment among men.
I. In the first place, then, let it be noted, that there are some who eat and drink without seeing God. This is true in the very lowest sense in which the words can be employed; for, unhappily, there are multitudes who partake of their ordinary food without any perception of the fact that they are indebted for it to a higher power. In the same way there are many successful men of business, who enjoy the blessings of prosperity without seeing that God has had any hand in the bestowment of them. They are, as the phrase is, “self-made.” They have been the architects of their own fortunes. Similarly, there are those who have risen to places of power and influence, alike in the world and in the Church, who never think of God in their enjoyment of their eminence. It has come to them, so they say, all in the way of cause and effect. They have been able, diligent, and persevering, and, therefore, their prosperity or popularity is nothing more than the natural result of their use of appropriate means. And to mention only one other form of the same disposition: there are men among us whose delight it has been to unravel the secrets of the external world, and discover the operations of those forces which play so important a part in the physical universe. Their meat and their drink is to sit at the spectroscope, and by their wondrous analysis to bring out the composition of the sun, and of the various members of the planetary sphere. Their joy is to chain the lightning to their messages, and make it carry their words to the world’s ends. They rise into ecstasies over the detection of some new fact which witnesses to the uniformity of law; and they become enthusiastic at the prospect of being able to trace the mystery of the universe a step farther back than their predecessors have gone. But all this while they see nothing of God. No thrill of affection vibrates in their hearts to any personal agent; and their emotions are similar to those which one feels as he looks upon a mighty machine moving on in rhythmic regularity at its unceasing work. I do not need to say that all our men of science are not such as I have now described, but every one acquainted with the recent utterances of some of them will admit that these confirm what I have said. Now I have grouped all these together because they are all alike practical atheists. They eat and drink, but they do not see God.
II. In the second place, let it be remarked that there are some who see God, but cannot eat or drink. They have a vivid sense of the personal existence of Jehovah, and they feel Him always near, but they take no comfort in His presence. Rather, it seems to haunt them as a spectre, and to threaten them as an executioner. Now how shall we account for this? The answer is not far to seek. It is caused by a sense of guilt. They have never entered, through Jesus, into covenant with God. But even among those who have done this, there are some who seem to have had their happiness poisoned by the thought of God. They see Him, they are always seeing Him: but the vision seems to have paralyzed them, and they go through life halting, solemn, and severe. If they would “see God, and eat and drink,” they must rise out of service into sonship, and learn to think and speak of God as their Father in heaven. This will give sincerity and naturalness to their devotions, activity to their lives, happiness to their hearts, and cheerfulness to their deportment, so that men, as they behold them, will be won by the very radiance of their joy to Him from whom their gladness springs. But there are still others who, at certain times of their history, have had a vivid perception of the nearness of God, while yet they could neither eat nor drink. Affliction has come upon them. They have felt God very near them, but then they have felt as if He were having a controversy with them, as if, somehow, He were alienated from them, and that has made their sorrow all the deeper. But all this has sprung from a misinterpretation of His providence, and that again has its root in lack of faith in His fatherhood.
III. Finally, let it be observed, that there are some who, like those were described, “see God and do eat and drink.” They are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, His Son; they have learned to call Him Father, and the joy of their lives is that they have a constant sense of His presence. When they say, “Thou God seest me,” it is not with a feeling of uneasiness, like that of a suspected person who feels himself watched by some detective; but rather with an emotion of satisfaction, because they know that One is beside them who can make provision for every emerging necessity, and find for them also, as for Hagar, a fountain in the desert. When they think of Him, it is not so much as the Great Creator, Ruler, and Judge, as the Father; and because they can say “Our Father,” they have a sense of ownership in all His attributes and possessions. They have accepted His own assurance, “I am the Lord thy God,” and His omnipresence is the very joy and rejoicing of their hearts. It is not a melancholy thing, which poisons every other experience. It is not, like the sword of Damocles, a threatening thing, that keeps us from sitting down to the feast. Rather it is itself that which gives the feast its real glory, and the festival to us is twice a feast because He is there. He makes the brightest element in our blessings; He gives to us the real joy of our prosperity. And when affliction comes He mitigates it with His sympathy and cheers us under it with His fellowship. He comes to us not as a spectre in the night, but as a father, to lap us in the mantle of His love. “Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,” alike are sanctified by His presence, and no darkness for us could be so dense as that which would envelop us if we were to be deprived of Him. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The distinguishing privilege of God’s faithful servants
That a sight of God in Christ, and a holy familiarity with Him, with all safety, is the privilege of God’s covenant-people, especially in these solemn approaches to which He calls them.
I. To show what is that sight of God in Christ, which is the privilege of His people in their solemn approaches to Him.
There is a twofold solemn approach of God’s people to Him. There is a right approach.
1. When God calls them up to the mount of myrrh, where our Lord abides till the day break (Song of Solomon 4:6); when He calls them to come up to the hill of God in Emmanuel’s land, where stands the King’s palace, namely heaven. This call comes to the believing soul at death.
2. When God calls them to come up to the mount of ordinances to meet Him at the sacred feast, as the nobles of Israel in the text, and as we at this time are called to feast on the great sacrifice in the sacrament. This is a solemn approach. Now, what is the sight of God in Christ which is the privilege here? As to this we observe--
II. To show what is that holy familiarity which is the privilege of God’s people in their solemn approaches to Him--It is a believing, holy, humble freedom before their Lord (Ephesians 3:12) “In whom we have boldness and access, with confidence, by the faith of Him.”
1. They were allowed to come forward to God, when others must stand back (Isaiah 56:6-7); when others must abide at the foot of the hill, believers may come up to the mount and are welcome.
2. They were allowed to feast on the sacrifice set before them. Christ the sacrifice typically slain, and believers are allowed to feast on this sacrifice, to eat His flesh and drink His blood; to make a believing application of a whole Christ to their own souls for their spiritual nourishment:” Take, eat, this is My body broken for you.”
3. They were allowed to converse with God freely, as one at the table of his friends.
4. They were allowed to be in His secrets, to see what others have no access to. They saw God. Believers are allowed to see the glory of His person (John 1:14). The glory of His covenant (Psalms 25:14). The glory of His redeeming, His everlasting love to them (Jeremiah 31:3). The hidden glory of His word (Luke 24:32).
5. They were allowed to lay all their wants on Him.
III. To make some practical improvement.
1. To show that it is a wonder of grace that sinful creatures are admitted to see God, and be familiar with Him. We think we need say little for proof of this. Only consider--
2. To show that it is a wonder of grace that sinful creatures, in their solemn approaches to God, and when they are thus favoured, come off safe. This will appear if we consider--
3. To explain how it comes to pass that the safety of God’s people, when thus favoured, is secured. It is so--
1. Let us, then, nevermore think lightly of solemn approaches to God, whether in private or in public ordinances.
2. Let this commend Christ and the covenant to us, especially to those who stand off from Him and His covenant.
3. Let us long for that day which will put an end to our sinfulness, weakness, and imperfection, when we shall see Him as He is, without any danger of sinning or suffering, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). It would be a token for good that we had seen the Lord, if we were now longing for that blessed day. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The soul has eyes. There are hours not related to the clock; there are birthdays for which the calendar provides no line of registry. How natural is this endeavour to make the conception plain by a visible picture, and how visible pictures are lifted up to new meanings and clothed with new solemnities by such sacred uses. There have been times, even in our cold experience, when nature has had to be called in to help the expression of the soul’s delight. Every heart has its own image, or parable, or symbol, by which it sets forth to itself the best aspect of its supreme delight. When we want to represent God, and our view of Him, how naturally we turn to the heavens. No earthly object will suffice. There burns in us a sacred contempt for all things measurable. We want all the broad brilliance of noonday, all the tender glory of the midnight, all the pomp of the summer sky. There is verily a natural religion; it is a poor deity that can be set forth in clay, and iron, and carved stone. Find any race that has lifted up its religious conceptions so as to require for their imaging all heaven, and surely you have found a race that may at any moment alight upon the true God. What Ezekiel saw was as the appearance of the likeness of a throne. John said that the face he saw was like a jasper and a sardine stone, and the rainbow which gave tenderness to the throne was in sight like unto an emerald. When Jesus was transfigured, His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. Do not take these as equivalents, but as hints--some idea of the majesty which must have beamed upon the eyes of worship as they gazed with religious awe upon sights for which there is no language. It does us good to be wrought into passions which transcend all adequate speech--yes, it does the soul good to pray itself into silence. We may have clear vision of God to such an extent as to have every word taken away from our use and be left dumb in the eloquence of silence. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Come up to Me into the mount.
I. Each one has his own position to occupy.
II. Each man has his own Divine vision. 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.
IV. Therefore there must be speciality in the preparations. Learn to be much in the right, much in prayer, much in mountain solitude; but much also with the people. Let waiting and working go hand in hand. Above all things, obey the Divine voice. (W. Burrows, B. A.)
Communion with God
I. That communion with God is necessary.
1. For religious teachers.
2. For those engaged in business.
3. For parents, etc.
II. That special places are appointed for communion with God.
1. House of God.
2. Privacy of own chamber.
1. Guard against interruptions from without.
2. Drive away worldly and anxious thoughts within.
IV. That communion with God should be most frequently alone.
1. Presence of others may distract mind or embarrass thoughts.
2. Presence of others may divert attention from personal concerns of soul.
3. Private sins and wants to be laid bare.
V. That in communion with God, the presence of others is sometimes helpful and even necessary. Family worship--prayer meetings--for those who have common wants, interests, etc.
VII. That communion with God may re protracted, and man must not weary of it.
VIII. That among the purposes of communion with God, are recognition of the Divine authority and preparation for future work. (J. W. Burn.)
The best recommendation
A young man once came to London bearing a letter of introduction to Baron Rothschild with the request that he would give him employment. The great banker received him warmly, but expressed his regret that he had no position for him. As the young man was going, the baron put on his hat and walked along with him, pointing out the various objects of interest. Passing a bank the rich man went in to transact some business. Afterwards the young man applied at that very bank for work, and they asked, “Are you not the young man who was walking with the baron this morning?” “Yes.” “Well, you were in good company: and since we need a young man we will consider this a sufficient recommendation.” To walk with God is the best recommendation. When men of the world have need of an assistant or helper, they will be likely to consider such a fact as a commendation. (A. J. Gordon.)
On the mount with God
Moses would never have been the law-giver he was had he not remained there on the mount, in sight of the glory and in communion with his God. The disciples would never have wrought as they did, had they not tarried in Jerusalem. Eminent preachers and teachers would never have thrilled and won hearts to Christ as they have, had they not gained their power in long seasons of prayer and communion with God.
1. Spiritual endowment is always the measure of success in work for Christ. Preachers fail and teachers fail because they are so little on the mount with God.
2. The want of Christian workers everywhere is revelation of the Divine glory. From this, power springs. God can use us only as we become equipped by vision of, and communion with, Him. We can tell only as we know. We know only as we are taught of God. Have we been on the mount, under the cloud? Have we seen the glory and heard the voice? What is our message from God to men? (J. E. Twitchell.)
──《The Biblical Illustrator》