Gleanings In Exodus
32. The Covenant Ratified
The twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus introduces us to a scene for which there is nothing approaching a parallel on all the pages of inspired history prior to the Divine Incarnation and the tabernacling of God among men. It might suitably be designated the Old Testament Mount of Transfiguration, for here Jehovah manifested His glory as never before or after during the whole of the Mosaic economy. Here we witness Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel in the very presence of God, and not only are we told that "He laid not His hand on them." but they were thoroughly at ease in His presence, for they did "eat and drink" before Him! Before endeavoring to contemplate such a glorious scene let us offer a brief remark on its occasion and setting.
In Exodus 19 we behold Jehovah proposing to enter into a covenant of works with Israel, making their national blessing contingent upon their obedience to His commandments (vv. 5, 6). To the terms of this covenant the chosen people unanimously and heartily agreed (v. 8). Following their purification, of themselves, three days later God came down to the summit of Sinai and spake to Moses, charging him to go and again warn the people assembled at its base not to break the barrier which had been erected. After which God spake all that is recorded in Exodus 20 to 23. Concerning the Ten Words in chapter 20 and the typical significance of the "judgment" regarding slaves at the beginning of 21, we have already commented; the remainder of those chapters we now pass over as not falling within the scope of our present work, which is to concentrate upon that which is more obvious in the typical teachings of Exodus. That there is much spiritual teaching as well as moral instruction in Exodus 22 and 23 we doubt not, but so far as we are aware God has not yet been pleased to enlighten any of His servants thereon. Let the student, however, read carefully through them, noting how just, comprehensive and perfect were the laws which the Lord gave unto Israel.
"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" (v. 1). In the light of what precedes, this is most significant and solemn. It tells us in language too plain to be misunderstood that man cannot approach unto God on the ground of his own works. Mark that this was said by the Lord before the legal covenant had been confirmed, and therefore before a single failure had been recorded against Israel under that economy. Even had there been no failure, no disobedience, yet the keeping of God’s commandments cannot secure access into the Divine presence as the "afar off" plainly denoted. For any man to come unto the Father, the work of Christ was indispensable.
"And Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him" (v. 2). An exception was made in the case of Moses, not because he possessed any superior claim upon God, nor because he was personally entitled to such a privilege, but only because he was the appointed mediator between God and His people, and therefore the type of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this which gives meaning to and opens for us the typical significance of so much that is recorded about Moses. The repeated prohibition in this verse emphasizes what is said in the previous one and confirms our comments thereon; Christ had to suffer for sins, "The Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18).
"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" (v. 3). The "words" refer to the ten commandments recorded in Exodus 20, the "Judgments" to what is found in chapters 21 to 23, as the first verse of 21 intimates. It is most important to observe that the Ten Words are here again definitely distinguished from the other "Judgments," affording additional confirmation of what we have said thereon in previous articles. Once more the people unanimously registered their acceptance of the covenant of works.
"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 he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord" (vv. 4, 5). That was in obedience to what the Lord had said unto Moses as recorded in 20:24. The "young men" (probably the "first born" who had been sanctified unto the Lord, 13:2, etc.) performed this priestly work because the Levites had not yet been set apart to that office. Much confusion has been caused through failing to note the specific character of these sacrifices. It was not the blood of atonement which was here shed, for wherever that is in view it is always for the averting of God’s holy wrath against sin. But nothing like that is seen here. What we have before us is that which speaks of thanksgiving and dedication unto God (the "‘burnt" offering) and that which tells of happy fellowship (the "peace" offering).
"And Moses took half of the blood, and put in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the blood of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people; and they said All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient" (vv. 6, 7). For a full exposition of the meaning of Moses’ act we must refer the reader to Hebrews 9, regretting very much that we cannot here give a detailed interpretation of that most important chapter; it will be noted that vv. 18-20 refer specifically to what is here before us in Exodus 24. Suffice it now to say that, so far as the historical significance of this sprinkling of the blood was concerned, it denoted a solemn ratification of the covenant into which Israel entered with Jehovah at Sinai. Note how the covenant God made with Noah was also preceded by a sacrifice offered to Him: Genesis 8:20 to 9; so too in connection with the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 15:9, 10, 17).
"Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel" (vv. 9, 10). Precious beyond words is this, showing us the inestimable value of the blood, and the wondrous privileges it procures for those who are sprinkled by it. Note the connecting "then," i.e., when the blood had been applied. A similar example, equally forceful and blessed, is found in Revelation 7:14, 15, where we read, "And He said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple." The "elders" of Exodus 24 were representatives of the Nation. Here then was a blood-sprinkled people, who had not yet broken the covenant, in communion with God. The eating and drinking told of the fullness of their welcome and of the peace which ruled their hearts in the Divine Presence.
"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" (v. 10). The "sapphire stone" speaks of Divine government—the throne of God—as a reference to Ezekiel 1:26 will show; that government which will yet rest upon the shoulders of "the Man" Christ Jesus. But why the "paved work"? May not the reference be to the finished work of the Savior which forms the basis of His Millennial reign? Christ came here to finish the Father’s work (John 5:17, 17:4), piecing it all together, that it might be a pavement of glory as the place of His feet. The "body of heaven in his clearness" may speak of the Divine counsels. If we look up to heaven on a clear day all is blue; it is the intensity of the depths of space, infinite—like Jehovah’s counsels. But in Christ God has brought His counsels so near that we may contemplate them as the body of heaven in its clearness.
"And upon the nobles of the children He laid not His hand; also they saw God, and did eat and drink" (v. 11). "But yesterday it would have been death to them to ‘break through to gaze’ but now ‘they saw God’! And such was their ‘boldness,’ due to the blood of the covenant, that ‘they did eat and drink’ in the Divine presence. The man off the world will ask, How could ‘the blood of calves and goats’ make any difference in their fitness to approach God? And the answer is, Just in the same way that a few pieces of paper may raise a pauper from poverty to wealth. The bank-note paper is intrinsically worthless, but it represents gold in the coffers of the Bank of England. Just as valueless was that ‘blood of slain beasts,’ but it represented ‘the precious blood of Christ.’ And just as in a single day the bank-notes may raise the recipient from pauperism to affluence, so that blood availed to constitute the Israelites a holy people in covenant with God" (Sir Robert Anderson).
There is one thing here that is very solemn, namely, the repeated mention of Nadab and Abihu; vv. 1, 9. "They were both sons of Aaron, and with their father were selected for this singular privilege. But neither light nor privilege can ensure salvation, nor, if believers, a holy and obedient walk. Both afterwards met with a terrible end. They ‘offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them; and they died before the Lord’ (Lev. 10:1, 2). After this scene in our chapter, they were consecrated to the priesthood and it was while in the performance of their duty in this office, or rather because of their failure in it, that they fell under the judgment of God. Let the warning sink deep into our hearts, that office and special privileges are alike powerless to save" (Mr. Dennett).
Israel’s history continued for almost fifteen hundred years after this memorable occasion, but never again did their elders "see God," and never again did they eat and drink in His presence. Sin came in; their very next act was to break the holy Law by making and worshipping a golden calf, and the next time we see them drinking, it is of the waters of judgment (32:20). How unspeakably blessed to remember that what Israel (through their official heads) enjoyed for a brief season, is now ours forever! A way has been opened for us into the very presence of God, and there, within the veil, we may commune with Him.
In the remainder of our chapter Moses is once again separated from Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and the seventy elders, resuming his mediatorial position, to receive from God the two tables of stone which He had written. For this purpose he is called up to meet the Lord in the Mount—apparently at the summit—where he remained forty days and nights alone with God. During this time the glory of the Lord was displayed before the eyes of Israel for seven days—a glory "like devouring fire" (vv. 15 to 18). "This was not the glory of His grace but the glory of His holiness, as is seen by the symbol of devouring fire—the glory of the Lord in His relationship with Israel on the basis of the law (compare 2 Cor. 3). It was a glory therefore that no sinner could dare approach, for holiness and sin cannot be brought together; but now, through the grace of God, on the ground of accomplished atonement, believers can not only draw near, and be at home in the glory, but with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18). We approach boldly, and with delight gaze upon the glory, because every ray we behold in the face of Christ glorified is a proof of the fact that our sins are put away, and that redemption is accomplished" (Mr. E. Dennett).
"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" (v. 18). Those forty days, what happened in them, and the typical significance of those happenings, together with the sequel, form one of the most wondrous of the many wonderful types in all the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit now focuses attention on Moses, type of our Lord Jesus Christ. First, he is seen entering the glory, consequent upon his having erected the altar and sprinkled the blood. "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. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud" (vv. 16, 18). How beautiful and how perfect the type! After "six days," which speaks of work and toil, on the seventh day, which tells of rest, Moses, the mediator, is called by God to enter the glory. So of Him of whom Moses was the type it is written, "He that is entered into His rest, He also hath ceased from His own works (Heb. 4:10). And what is the character of the "rest" into which He has entered? Does not His own request in John 17:4, 5, furnish us with the answer: "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." Yes, He has entered into the Glory. Moses going up the Mount and entering the cloud to commune with Jehovah is a type of the Ascension of Christ, following the triumphant completion of the work which had been given Him to do.
We are not left in ignorance as to what formed the subject of communion between the Lord and Moses during the forty days in the Mount; the next six chapters of Exodus tell us that it was about the marvelous and mysterious Tabernacle, the pattern of which Moses was shown while there on Sinai. As we shall yet see, the Tabernacle and all its parts prefigure the manifold perfections of the Lord Jesus, making known the full provisions of God’s grace stored up in His beloved Son—provisions which meet every need of His favored people. The tabernacle is what meets our eye in Exodus while Moses is up the Mount, for it is not until after it has been fully described that we behold him descending. Thus has the Holy Spirit supplied us with an important key to open the spiritual treasures of this portion of the Word, by intimating that the Tabernacle speaks of what God’s grace has furnished for us during the interval of the Mediator’s absence from the earth.
And what is the next thing recorded in this book so rich in typical pictures of the Redeemer? Why, the descent of Moses, which we have in chapters 32, 33, 34. Moses did not end His days there upon Sinai, but returned unto his people. So also the Lord Jesus who has gone on High is not to remain absent from the earth forever; the words of the angels to His disciples at His ascension make this indelibly clear—"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Yes, shall return to this same earth from which He went to heaven, return in person just as literally and truly as He left it.
But, now, students of prophecy have discovered that the Holy Scriptures divide the second advent of Christ into two distinct stages; the first, when He descends into the air for His saints, to receive them unto Himself (1 Thess. 4:16, etc.); the second, when He descends to the earth with His saints (Col. 3:4, etc.). These two stages of His second advent each have a most important bearing upon the Jews; the first will be followed by judgment, the second by blessing. After the Church has been removed from this world, there follows the time of "Jacob’s trouble" (Jer. 30:7), when God deals with His earthly people and punishes them for their sins, this period also being known as the Great Tribulation. After this period has run its course, the Lord Jesus descends in blessing, purges Israel, and in full manifested glory dwells in their midst—this will be during the Millennium.
What is so striking in the type which we are now engaged with is that these two stages in the second advent of the great Mediator are here vividly foreshadowed. Mark how complete the type is: Moses came down twice from Sinai after he had entered the glory! But let us observe first how Israel were conducting themselves during the time of his absence in the Mount: "And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the Mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods which shall go before us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him" (32:1). Is not this the very condition of the Jews today during the Messiah’s absence? They are all at sea, knowing not what to think. But that is not all. During Moses’ absence they made a calf of gold and worshipped it—and are we not now witnessing the very same thing over again? If there is one thing which characterizes the Jew today above everything else it is not the love of conquest or of pleasure, as with the Gentiles, but the lust for gold.
Now Just as Moses at his first descent from the Mount found Israel worshipping the golden calf, so at the first stage at the second coming of Christ the Jews will be wholly occupied with their greed for riches. And what was Moses’ response? Read Exodus 32:19-28. He acted in judgment. He made them drink a bitter cup of their own providing and gave orders for the sword to do its fearful work among them. Thus will it be right after the first stage of the Descent of Christ—they shall be made to drink of the vials of God’s wrath. But though sore will be their desolations the Jews will not be completely destroyed. Blessed is it to mark the sequel here. Moses returned unto the Lord and interceded on Israel’s behalf (32:30, 32). So also will the Lord Jesus yet intercede before God on behalf of the Jews: See Zechariah 3.
In Exodus 33 and 34 we have the second descent of Moses from the Glory. He came down from the Mount with shining face, so that the people were afraid to come near him. But he quickly reassured them. This time he descended not in judgment, but in mercy, and therefore did he place them at ease by talking with them—so that "all the children of Israel came nigh" (vv. 30-32). Thus will it be when the Sun of Righteousness rises upon Israel with healing in His wings. Moses now "gave them in commandment all the Lord had spoken with him in Mount Sinai" (v. 32), which was a beautiful type of Millennial conditions; "out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:3).
And what is the remainder of Exodus occupied with? Nothing but the erection of the Tabernacle. Chapters 35 to 39 give us God’s habitation in the midst of Israel. In the closing chapters we read. "And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work. Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (vv. 33-34), a lovely type of Christ in the Millennium in the midst of Israel! And there the book of Exodus ends. May the Lord give us eyes to see and hearts to enjoy the wonders of His own workmanship.