Exodus 24. The Beatific Vision Was Given to a Company of Leaders.
Key Notes: Sevnty-four men on Mt. Sinai with Moses, eating and drinking with God. Spiritual experience and salvation.
This chapter was not clear to me until I understood its position in the book. To make it clear, let us review the story from the time Israel arrived at Mt Sinai. It describes a brief experience with God like no other, set between receiving two large blocks of law—the basic rules for life and the mechanics of worship, the sanctuary and the priests.
Ex.19. Israel came to Sinai. The people were consecrated. The Mountain blazed. Moses went up to meet with God.
Ex.20–23 Ten Commandments and social rules were given and written down.
*Ex.24. The people promised to obey. After sacrifice and consecration of the people, the elders were given a unique direct experience with God!
Ex.25–31 Moses went up into Mt. Sinai and received the details of the Tabernacle. The rituals of the priesthood were laid out. The workmen for the project were designated.
Ex.32–34 Israel made an idol during Moses’ absence of 40 days! He came down and spent hours and days in intercession. He received a special vision from God confirming him in his task.
Exodus 24. 1 The end of the previous verse says “…if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” God will now make serving other gods ridiculous. Instead of looking at pieces of wood or stone, they will see the real God—up close.
24:1–2 God ordered Moses to bring Aaron and his sons and the seventy elders of Israel together to worship, away from the rest of Israel.
24:3–8 Meantime, Moses related the Law to Israel and the people promised to obey. He wrote down all the words of the Lord, then made an altar and set up twelve pillars. After burnt offerings and peace offerings were made, Moses read again from the book of the Law and again the people promised to obey. Then Moses sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on the people, signifying that they were set apart to God.
24:9–11 Now seventy-four Israelite men climbed up Mount Sinai. They saw God, with His feet on a shining blue pavement. They ate and drank with Him. This was not a vision, but a physical encounter. The comment that “He did not lay a hand on them" suggests that they were awestruck, but not terrified. We wish we had more detail about the event, and what they ate and drank. It is so brief as to be easily overlooked, but it was of great importance. Ezekiel saw a similar sapphire-blue pavement in his vision of God. (Ezek.1:26). A” sea of glass” is the way John described it in his vision of God. (Rev. 4:6). In a month or so, they will act as if they had never seen Him. Curiously, the commentators underestimate the significance of this unique experience.
24:12–14 Now God called Moses back up to the summit to receive the tablets with the Law inscribed by God. The elders and Aaron were sent back to the encampment to keep the peace and settle disputes.
24:15–18 Moses went up the mountain in stages. The glory of the LORD and the cloud covered for the mountain for almost a week while Moses waited. Then Moses was ordered up into the cloud and what appeared to be a devouring fire where he stayed for 40 days.
It would be easy to conclude that Moses did not survive. Smoke and fire are hazardous to human beings, and hardly anyone would be expected to live any length of time in such a dangerous place. They could assume that he died and they must go on with their journey. The next chapters (25–31) assure us that he was working hard collecting information. Israel's next move was to make a golden calf and worship it. Ex.32.
Are people necessarily transformed by seeing the Living God? Clearly not. The elders of Israel will support or at least permit pagan worship less than two months later as if they had never seen Him—as if God never existed. No surprise that Jesus said “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” (Lk.16:31)
Spiritual experience in itself does not save. Visions of angels, out-of-body recollections, displays of power, are no substitute for committing one’s soul into God’s care because Jesus has made the way for us by His atoning sacrifice. That is a covenant and a contract, binding and permanent. Experience enhances and confirms but does not save us. In this situation, it contributed to the condemnation of Israel.