Exodus 24:1-11 Entering the Presence of God

Preached on Sunday 14th November 2010

Click here to download the Bible study in PDF format.

 

READ Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 16:11 says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing I asked of the LORD, that is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

Psalm 95:2 says, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

God invites us into his presence since he wants us to know his presence in our lives.

According to the Christian doctrine of creation we are created in the image of God.  This means that first that we have an inbuilt capacity to relate to God; and second we have an inbuilt need to relate to God.  There is, if you like, a God shaped hole in each one of us.  Therefore to be fulfilled is to be filled with God, and nothing less than all the fullness of God can meet this need.  Nothing else that is not God can ever hope to take the place of God and his presence.  So to fail to relate to the God who made us is to fail to be completely human.  The creation story and the account of the fall and sin coming into the world shows that we have all failed to be completely human since we have all sinned and fallen short of his glory.  So we have within us an emptiness, an inner spiritual hunger, and this has long been recognised.  It was Plato who compared human beings to leaky jars.  We pour all sorts of things into our lives to fill this inner void, with the hope of being filled, yet we find we are never filled and that these things do not satisfy.  So there is always another river to cross, another mountain to climb in the search for whatever we are looking for.  Yet positively, this sense of sense of dissatisfaction can set us firmly on a good road which leads to the discovery of a personal God.

QUESTION 1: Are there things in your life which you hoped would be fulfilling for you, but turned out to be less than fulfilling?

All this is to introduce us to Exodus 24.  We have been and are still on a long journey through Exodus.  This story is an epic adventure. There have been many dramatic moments: harsh slavery, the burning bush, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of the 10 commandments, the Book of the Covenant.  Here in Exodus 24 Moses, with the elders of Israel, go up the mountain and meet with God.  This is a mountain top experience.

Exodus 24:1 [The LORD] said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord.”

Here in Exodus 24 Moses confirms the covenant between God and his people.  Moses acts as a mediator, a priest, as he enters the presence of God on behalf of the people.  It is almost as if Moses is a God-Man as he straddles heaven and earth.  But Moses isn’t the God-Man.  The whole passage speaks prophetically of the real God-man, Jesus who mediates for the whole world.

READ 1Timothy 2:5

Jesus has opened up for us a new and living way so we can draw near to God and come into his presence.  [see Hebrews 10:19-22]

The book of Hebrews compares Moses with Jesus and says that Jesus is greater than Moses.

READ Hebrews 3:3

Hebrews describes Jesus as being our great high priest, our mediator: “Such a high priest meets our need” [Hebrews 7:26].  As we have already said, there is within each one of us a deep spiritual longing which no earthly object or person or experience can satisfy.  But the Bible says that, “such a high priest meets our need.”

CS Lewis put it like this [my paraphrase]:

“Books and music in which we think beauty is located will betray us if we trust in them; it is not in them, it is only through them, and what comes through them is longing.  These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found; they are only the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.”

Augustine’s famous words which arose from his own experience, echo the same sentiment: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”

QUESTION 2: Have you found peace with God?  Is your heart at rest with your creator, or are you restless, still searching for something you haven’t found?

Exodus 24 is as breath-taking as it is magnificent as Moses confirms the Old Covenant in the presence of God.  Yet all this, says Hebrews, was only “a shadow of the good things to come – not the realities themselves” [Hebrews 10:1].  So in what ways does Exodus 24 point us the realities found in Jesus?

MAIN POINTS

1. Moses reads the word – Jesus is the word

READ Exodus 24:3

It is worth pointing out that this chapter contains all the elements of a Christian service of worship – except singing – and Moses is the worship leader.  A Christian service of worship is to come together into God’s presence and to worship.  We have here in Exodus 24 the invitation to approach God; the reading and the exposition of the word of God; response; faith in the blood; a sacred meal.

READ Exodus 24:4

This was the 10 commandments and the book of the Covenant – Exodus 19-23 – apparently the first draft of the Old Testament.  Having written it down Moses then read it again, which reminds us we need to hear the Bible more than once – we need to hear it again and again. To have a personal relationship with God which meets our spiritual need, we come to worship first through the word.  We can’t understand what it means to have a relationship with God except through the truth of God’s word, the Bible.  The Bible is reliable and through it we gain understanding, and the LORD reveals himself to us.

But, the Word not only a book.  The book on its own will not meet our spiritual need.  The Bible is only useful to us as we allow it to point us to the Living Word, Jesus, the Word who was with God in the beginning and who is God, who became flesh.  This is the incarnation.  God is personal, God has a human face, and this meets out need.  Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father” [John 14:9].   We must read the Bible not only with or minds, but come to the Bible in an attitude of prayer, to the Living Word, so we can understand what we are reading.

QUESTION 3: Do you allow the Holy Spirit to help you in your reading of the Bible?  Does the LORD speak to you through the Bible?  Share your experiences.

2. Moses presents a sacrifice – Jesus is the sacrifice

READ Exodus 24:4-8

Animal sacrifice hard for us to understand.  Why do we need it?  Why can’t we come straight to God?  Why can’t we go straight from v2 to v9?  Why is blood sacrifice needed?  The reason is because of sin.

Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

God is holy and we are unholy and sinful people.  We can’t just come rushing into God’s holy presence.  Sin must be atoned for.  Two offerings were offered, first a whole burnt offering and then a fellowship offering.  In the burnt offering the whole animal was consumed by fire, and it represented a full atonement for sin and a total dedication to God.  The fellowship offering represented peace with God.  It was not burned by the fire, but cooked and served for dinner.

But first the blood had to be drained into large bowls.  Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the altar; then he took the other half and sprinkled it on the people.  This sounds a bit gross but in fact it was very meaningful.  The idea of a blood covenant would have been familiar in ancient times.  We sometimes talk about blood brothers, where some sort of blood covenant has been made.  Moses sprinkled the blood on God, represented by the altar, and then he sprinkled the blood on the people.  This sealed of the covenant relationship God was making with his people.

Exodus 24:8 says, “This is the blood of the covenant.”  We can only really understand Jesus if we understand the Old Testament background.  All the sacrifices of the Old Testament point prophetically the sacrifice of the Messiah.

READ Matthew 26:27-28

At the Last Supper, Jesus takes a cup, gives thanks, and gives it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” [PS we don’t drink blood, we drink wine!]

Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant.”  But Jesus said, “This is myblood of the covenant.”   We come to God into his presence through faith in the blood of Christ, that is, the cross.  Only the blood of Christ has the power to cleanse our consciences from sin.  It’s in the blood of Christ our restless souls find peace with God.

“You have come … to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood” [Hebrews 12:23-24]

QUESTION 4: Can you say for sure, “My sins are forgiven.”  Can you say for sure that your sins are covered by the blood of Jesus?  Do you know Jesus died for you?  If not, through confession and faith you can make this step now.

3. Moses eats and drinks – Jesus is the food and drink

READ Exodus 24:9-10

Moses and the leaders of the Israelites have a theophany – a God experience on the mountain – and they eat a sacred meal. They saw the God is Israel, but we are not told much more beyond that.  This reminds us of Holy Communion, and we also have a glimpse of the great and final feast in the kingdom of God which Jesus spoke about so much.  Moses eats and drinks in God’s presence; however Jesus is the food and drink.  Jesus is greater than Moses, and Jesus meets our need.

John 6:55 says, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”   All food and drink is just a sign and a shadow of this true food and true drink of the kingdom of God – food and drink which satisfies.   Jesus is not talking about cannibalism, he is saying that through the cross – my crucified body and poured out blood – we will find what we are searching for.

QUESTION 5: God wants us to experience his presence.  This means setting aside time to come into his presence.  From what we have been learning, how can we come into his presence?

CONCLUSION

This world promises to offer so much: pleasure, beauty, personal relationships. Yet when we finally grasp them, we find that what we are really seeking lies beyond them.

Have you ever noticed what happens when you want something so badly, and you get it?  A new job? A marriage partner? A qualification? A pay rise? A nice house?  You think, “When I get this I shall be satisfied and ask for nothing more.”  Then it doesn’t work out like that at all.  When you finally get your heart’s desire, it doesn’t seem to satisfy or fulfil you. You want more; you want something else.  It seems that nothing finite can satisfy this deep sense of longing within us.  We experience what we might call, “divine dissatisfaction”, and it prompts us to ask the question: is anything which might satisfy the quest of my human heart.  The Bible answers this question in one word: Jesus.  Moses led the people in the way into the presence of God – through the word, the blood and a meal.  But Jesus is the way … the truth and the life [John 14:6].  He has opened up a new and living way for fellowship (relationship) with the Living God, and this meets our need.

PRAY: The LORD would help you to set your priorities and to have him first in your life, and then the other things will fall into place.

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