Today’s Reading: Exodus 24-27
This morning the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about the events in Exodus 24 and what brought about the law given through Moses. However, in order to truly understand all of this, we have go to back to Exodus 19.
In Exodus 19, Israel came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped there before the mountain. While Israel was camped there, Moses went up the mountain to meet with God. In Exodus 19:4-6, God tells Moses to say to Israel, “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” God told Israel to obey his voice. If they obeyed his voice, then they would be God’s treasured possession and a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
So, Moses goes back down the mountain to tell Israel what God said. In Exodus 19:8, “All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do.'” Israel has not heard God actually speak yet, but they agree that when God does speak to them, when they hear his voice, they will do everything he says.
So, Moses goes back to God and reports what Israel said. Then God tells Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.” God sends Moses back down the mountain to tell the people to consecrate themselves today and tomorrow. Moses tells Israel, “Be ready for the third day.”
The third day is perhaps the most significant of all days in the Bible. The third day speaks to Jesus’ resurrection. It’s on the third day that he rose from the grave. So, we see Israel coming to the mountain on the third day, which is a picture of the anticipation of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.
But, “on the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.” (Exodus 19:16) Moses brought the people out of the camp to stand at the foot of the mountain to meet God. Now, it’s important to recognize that this mountain represents Jesus Christ. In verse 12, God said that no one should go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it for whoever does so will be put to death. But, in verse 13, God said that “no hand shall touch him.” God called the mountain “him” not “it”.
A mountain is symbolic of a kingdom in the Bible. In Daniel 2, we are told that Jesus is the stone that would crush all the kingdoms of the world, but this stone, Jesus, would become a great mountain, a great kingdom, that would fill the earth. The resurrected Jesus was the start of this kingdom, this mountain, that would fill the earth.
So, Israel is brought to this mountain and told not to touch it. But, when they come to the mountain they see thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud, or darkness, and they hear a loud trumpet. This is all a picture of Jesus’s crucifixion. Matthew 27:45-46 tells us that there was darkness over all the land and that Jesus cried out with a loud voice. In other words, there was a thick cloud and a loud trumpet. Mark and Luke record the same.
In Exodus 19, the story continues as Moses spoke and God answered him in a thunder, a really loud voice. God and Moses speak, and God tells Moses to go down and warn the people lest the people came up the mountain. Moses does what God said. Then, we read in the beginning of Exodus 20 the ten commandments that God gave to Moses to give to Israel. Moses received those ten commandments when he was on the mountain with God.
Wait…when did Moses go up the mountain? Did we miss something?
In fact, we did. Exodus 20:18-21 gives the missing piece of the story. “Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood afar off and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to use lest we die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.’ The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”
See, on the third day when the people saw thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and heard a loud trumpet, the people told Moses we don’t want to hear God’s voice. They told Moses to go talk to God alone and then Moses could tell them what God said. Remember, Israel said they would hear God’s voice and do what he says. Then they would be God’s treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
But, when they came to the mountain on the third day, to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, they rejected hearing God’s voice and obeying it. This is why God gave a written law to Moses for Israel to follow. Israel didn’t want to hear from God directly. So, instead of God writing his law on their hearts, God gave them a law written on tablets of stone.
So, the written law was given by God through Moses (see John 1) in Exodus 20-23. Now, in Exodus 24, Moses came near to God alone. Then, “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules.” (Exodus 24:3). Israel didn’t want to hear God’s voice directly and obey what was right in God’s eyes. They rejected a living relationship with him. Instead they asked for a set of written laws. They just wanted rules to follow. And having received from Moses what God said, “All the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 24:3) This was the second time Israel had said these exact words.
So, Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then, he made an altar. Israel offered burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar. Moses took half the blood and put it in basins and the other half of the blood he threw on the altar. Next, Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read all the words of God that he had written to the people. In Exodus 24:7, all the people said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” This was the third time that Israel had spoken these words. These three statements represent Israel’s complete agreement to obey what God had spoken. But, did they ever do it? Hardly.
After their agreement, Moses throws the half of the blood in the basins on the people and says, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” I believe the altar that Moses set up was a picture of the cross and that the burnt offerings and peace offerings Israel offered on it were a picture of Jesus on the cross. The blood Moses threw on the altar was Christ’s blood on the cross. But, what about the blood Moses threw on the people?
Three times in Exodus the people said they would do all that God said. First, they said they would obey his voice. But, then they were frightened by that prospect and asked Moses to tell them what God said. But, two more times Israel said it would obey all that God said. But, they wanted to obey a written law not his voice.
I believe we see all of this fulfilled in the life of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the Mount of Transfiguration. In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” This is like God’s opening statement through Moses that Israel should obey the voice of God.
Then, for the rest of the sermon Jesus speaks about the law. He repeatedly says, “You have heard it said…” But, 10 times Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you…” God gave Moses ten commandments that he wrote in tablets of stone for Israel. But, here is Jesus on the mountain giving a sermon and he speaks directly 10 times to Israel concerning the law and what they had learned to do in contrast to what Jesus, the Word of God, was telling them to do. Through his voice, the voice of God, he says ten times “I say to you” do this. Through his voice, Jesus is telling the people what they should really do. This was at the beginning of his ministry. And, throughout his ministry, Jesus said, “I say to you…”
Then, near the end of his life, Jesus goes up on the mount of transfiguration with Peter, John, and James. They see Jesus with Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets. Peter says they should build three tents, one for each of them. But, only Jesus had been transfigured. So, while Peter was still speaking, “Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” And Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, disappeared.
So, to the question I left unanswered above, what about the blood Moses threw on the people?
In Matthew 27, Pilate is trying to set Jesus free, but the Jews would have nothing of it. They have constantly heard the voice of God through Jesus. Yet, they were demanding that Jesus be crucified. Pilate washed his hands and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” In Matthew 27:25, “All the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!'” This was a fulfillment of Moses throwing the blood of the offerings on the people at Mount Sinai after they had said three times they would obey him but they didn’t.
God has always desired to speak to his people directly. He has always desired a relationship where his people would obey his voice. He always wanted to speak directly to the heart. It’s only when people reject his voice and disobey him that God gives a written law, a set of rules to follow, that can’t bring life. God does this to lead you to him. Thankfully, Christ’s death on the cross has opened up the way for God voice’s to speak directly to our hearts.