Meditations in Exodus: 65. A Special Encounter
Ex 24:1,2 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the LORD; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.”
Chapters 20-23 were largely the Ten Commandments and then the basic Law. Chapters 25 to 27 will be instructions how to build and establish the Tabernacle, and chapters 28 and 29 about establishing the priesthood. In other words, ahead of us are pages of instructions to do with providing a place and a means for worship for the nation in the coming years. But before we pass that by, we have here in chapter 24 two crucial incidents.
First of all the Lord calls the leaders to a unique encounter: “Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the LORD; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him.” (v.1,2) The group chosen are Moses, Aaron and Aaron’s two sons and seventy of the elders of Israel. Now note the order of what happens. The Lord gives this instruction to Moses, Moses establishes the covenant and only then do the men go up to meet with God. But this encounter with God is both unique and highly significant so let’s see what happened.
“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” (v.9-11) Now some may try and explain this away as simply a vision but it is not recorded in those terms. This is a unique encounter where the Lord invites these men into His presence on the mountain and twice it says they ‘saw’ Him. Now there are two things that are staggering about this.
The first thing is that Moses (assuming he wrote most of Exodus) does not even attempt to describe anything about God. Later God will tell Moses that no one can see Him and live, and even Moses himself didn’t, so this is undoubtedly a unique occasion and you would think we would get a description as appears in Ezek 1 or Rev 4, but we don’t.
The only way I can explain this is by recounting something that happened to me on my first trip out to Malaysia many years ago. I was part of a small team from the UK that joined with a larger team from New Zealand, I believe it was, and we were all split up into groups of four and sent to different parts of West and East Malaysia. The Pastor of the church that my little group went to understood I was already a leader and teacher and so kept me back with the church teaching while the other three went into the interior for an evening meeting in a local village. When they came back, the young girl of the group, while recounting how they spoke in a building with a tin roof while the rain poured down noisily, went on to casually note how she had prayed over a blind woman who had been given back her sight. It was the casual way she reported this and when I checked her on it, she was still almost casual about it. I concluded it was almost as if the Lord had used her but anesthetized her so it didn’t seem a big issue and she had no problem with pride having been used in such a way. Was this what the Lord did with Moses and so was that part of the cause that enabled some of these men to be involved in such terrible things subsequently, and was this why Moses gives us no further details?
The second staggering thing is that these men saw God and lived. Previously the Lord had given instruction that no one except Moses should go on the mountain and see God, on pain of death and we explained that in terms of God protecting the people from His glory. Now we must assume that somehow or other the form that God took here was limited otherwise these men could not have survived the experience. Nevertheless, it was a unique experience and we might ponder, why did God do it?
We are not told and are only left to speculate. Was it, I wonder, so that these men at least would have their faith and their trust increased to enable them to stand alongside Moses in leadership and bring stability in this embryonic nation? Was it also that they would then have no excuse for any bad behaviour in the future? We are going to see some of that ‘bad behaviour’ in the not too distant future as we follow these studies through and I will remind us when we reach them of this time.
Now Jesus taught, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Lk 12:48) i.e. the greater the revelation the Lord has given the greater His expectation of us. Living today with easy access to the Bible and recordings of teaching not to mention an overabundance of TV teaching, I fear many live in a cocoon of information which is not translated into dynamic, faith-filled, action lives. How easy is it to sit, week after week, and hear good teaching and not be transformed by it.
Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons were part of that group that had that unique revelation and yet their lives were eventually taken for being casual and abusive about theirroles in the priesthood. Millennia later casual and greedy worshippers in Corinth were dying because they were being just that – casual and greedy – in the face of the wonderful revelation they had of salvation and the life and work of the Spirit (see 1 Cor 11:30). Ananias and Sapphiralost their lives for believing they could do their own thing and lie in the face of the Holy Spirit. Living in the day they did, they had witnessed miracles and received the teaching of the original apostles, and yet they missed it and went home prematurely. The more signs of the power and presence of God we experience, the higher the bar of accountability.
As I look around the state of the church, especially among the elderly who had experienced the Charismatic movement or the Toronto Blessing or any other move of God in our lifetime, I cannot help but wonder if so much of what I see is the result of poor responses to those wonderful times. I find myself praying, “Lord, please show me things in my life, the Promised Land, that you want me to get rid of, please show me if I am not living up to the revelation you have given me thus far, and please grant me your mercy and grace to do that.” Amen.