The words of Exodus 24 have my thoughts and imagination going this morning. I actually sat down about two hours ago to write something on it and just wasn’t sure how to capture what I was reading; what I was thinking. So I just let it sit for a while. I do this sometimes. When I am going to be preaching, or when I am going to be teaching something. Or just when I am not sure what to make of a particular piece of Scripture. I just carry it around with me for a while; let it roll around the periphery of my other thoughts and let the Spirit make something of it.
So I’ve been carrying this around a bit and my “problem” with this passage isn’t really a problem as much as it is an inability to really get my head around what was happening. I understand it, I just can’t fathom it. And admittedly, I’m jealous.
Moses, and the priests, and the elders all go to see God. To see him.
Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel climbed up the mountain. There they saw the God of Israel. Exodus 24:9-10
The next verse adds even more to the mix of amazing things happening here.
And though these nobles of Israel gazed upon God, he did not destroy them. In fact, they ate a covenant meal, eating and drinking in his presence! Exodus 24:11
They saw God. They sat with him. They ate with him. It feels like any words I could say about this would woefully minimize the moment. Still I will try…a little bit. Mainly because I want to appreciate this event, I want to think deeply about it. But just know that I know that my words don’t do justice to what’s happening here. I get it.
What’s even more interesting to me is that even thought they are with God, and can see God and eat a meal with God—actually it says they ate and drank in the presence of God (I guess God didn’t actually eat)—even with all of this they are not as close to God as they could be. There is still some distance that separates them. (And isn’t that always the case no matter how close we get. There is always more of him. There is always closer.)
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain. Stay there, and I will give you the tablets of stone on which I have inscribed the instructions and commands so you can teach the people.” So Moses and his assistant Joshua set out, and Moses climbed up the mountain of God. Exodus 24:12-13
So God is inviting Moses closer. And God is giving him instruction. He is giving him the commandments. God is giving to Moses so that Moses can give to the people. “…and Moses climbed the mountain of God.”
This is what we should be doing. Every day. We should be climbing to meet with God. We should be looking to see him, to sit with him, to feast at his table. I don’t want to over-spiritualize this and say a lot of cliché things that we all nod our heads at and then move on throughout our day without being changed by the reality of what’s available to us. I don’t wish to make a trite momentary feel-good Christian pep talk out of this. The reality is that we have been invited up and in to the place of God. Jesus came to make it possible for us to have this intimacy with him and so often we just don’t bother to make the effort to connect with God on any sort of deep level. We are often just too lazy or too distracted by lesser things.
Then Moses disappeared into the cloud as he climbed higher up the mountain. He remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. Exodus 24:18
We can do this too. We can disappear into the place of God; into his presence. We can climb higher up and deeper in. And we can remain there as Moses did. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I can easily forget how very real this whole relationship with God is. I can over-spiritualize and make into something very ethereal. But being with God, knowing him and living in relationship with him can be as real for us as it was for Moses. More so, even. We have the Spirit because we have Jesus. As close as Moses could get we can get. The Spirit is within us. I don’t think you can get much closer than that.