In Exodus 33v20 Moses will be told no-one can see God and live. The Triune God is holy and people are not – and so in the presence of God bad people die. Let’s see what happens next. The law ended oddly with an invitation, Exodus 24v1-2 for the elders to come and eat with God. And so they go up despite the fact that no-one can see God and live! And they see God. And they eat with him!
Q1: How are they alive?
Q2: Not only can no-one see God and live, but John tells us
- John 1v18: “No one has ever seen God,” So what is happening here?
Well, John goes on to say: “…but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” God the Son makes the Triune God known to people. No-one sees the Father, but the Son makes him known. It's always the Son who makes the Father known. #
Notice they see him - v10 - on a sapphire pavement, just as Ezekiel would later see one like a man, in the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD enthroned on a sapphire throne (Ezk 1:26). One described as Jesus is described in 2 Corinthians 4 and elsewhere. They see the one who saved them. They see Jesus (See Jude 1v5). It is always the Son who makes his Father known.
That’s how they see God, but how are they alive?
v11, God did not raise a hand against them. No blood is shed. This is the gospel.
These blood-splattered leaders trust the blood thrown over them, a model of Jesus blood that would be shed 1400 years later in his death outside Jerusalem.## Jesus doesn’t kill these sinful people in his presence, because he lays his own life down for them. He dies for them – and so
v11: “they saw God and ate and drank”.
Let the paint dry on that for a moment: v11: “they saw God and ate and drank”.
This is the way to think about Christianity. The gospel is an invitation to see and eat and drink. It’s all about intimate fellowship with God. But this bites, because having the meal is only possible because of the blood. We can’t eat because we’re worth it, or deserve it – but because of Jesus blood.
The whole of Exodus is a prophecy of the cross. The whole Bible tells this same story – of the Triune God who fights for his people to dwell with his people. Man and God lived and ate together on Mount Eden until humanity committed (spiritual) adultery. Their sin was not firstly disobedience of a rule but a wandering heart that saw what was desirable but not to be taken and snatched at it.
Sin is deeper than we like to think it is. Consequently, the jealous God kicked them down the hill and away from fellowship with God.
Now in Exodus 24v11, the leaders- representing the people - go up the holy hill and they eat a meal with Jesus.... one day God's people will eat with him in the renewed creation Between then and the future... if we had to sum up Jesus’ mission strategy it’s probably Luke 7v34:
If we’re inclined to think of God as aloof and distant and unrelating, then we’ll see that reflected in the life of our community, we’ll keep apart from one another. But that is not the gospel way. In the gospel, The Triune God, establishes a marital relationship with his people by the blood of Jesus… and so we receive our invitation, sealed by the Holy Spirit to the eternal marriage supper of Jesus.
We taste this as we share communion together here – remembering Jesus blood shed for us – but reminding us that one day we’ll eat together with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the renewed heavens and earth too. And we live in light of this gospel when we open our homes and our lives to one another.
Imagine, if we were to open our homes for normal food to one another, to friends who are Christians and those who aren’t 3-4 times a week we’d probably be 90% of the way to reaching this world (ht: Tim Chester)…. Not as an alternative to speaking the good news about Jesus, but as the context into which that happens, and as the demonstration of the reality of it – as we love one another, and those beyond the church too.
Our culture tells us not to do this – we live a wall apart from our neighbours but most of us barely know them. The gift of hospitality has been hijacked by the middle class dinner party that makes people think the only option is to lay out impressive feasts that take all day to prepare… Nothing wrong with good food, but what is to stop us just sharing some of the ordinary 21 meals we’ll eat each week… Not because Christians are naturally especially friendly, but because we know our God is warm and relational, and seeks to eat with us.
We’ve been trying this as home group leaders at our church in Exeter – I’m asking “what does an open-door, open fridge life look like?” A work in progress as we fight against the closed doors and closed fridges of our culture, and against my selfishness and laziness too. Imagine...
Let’s pull everything we've said together.
Let me ask a question: Is it good to be a Christian?
If we, like most of our society, still have a view of God that is some distant deity, a heavenly Hitler, a slave master or an angry high court judge then we’re bound to consider Christianity a necessary evil. The right thing but not so much a good thing. And that inevitably contains our Christianity within certain boundaries, in the same category as visiting the Dentist or paying taxes. God will be someone to avoid speaking of, to be a bit embarrassed about, someone who is really a bit past it, a bit irrelevant. But Exodus 24 shows that
to be a Christian is to EAT WITH JESUS and his people, because of Jesus.Nothing is better than to be invited by the Triune God, caught up into his loving community. The invite is open to anyone. Is it good to be a Christian? Yes it is!
# Someone asked can we really say this is Jesus? Perhaps it's an interpretative leap to say it's Jesus. What we have to say is that it's the second person of the Triune God, who exists from eternity past in the loving community of his Father. As we look back, through the cross, the person they eat with is the same person we know by the name Jesus, the Christ, who came from the Father. I stand guilty of short-handing a little but I did explain my logic from John's gospel and from Exodus.
## Someone asked why if Jesus appears to the elders in Exodus 24 did they have to wait 1400 years for his coming? Everything in Exodus is a model for Israel of what is to come, as the tabernacle would be - they'd see altars, and names graven on the priests breastplate etc. In the Old Testament, God is giving them the grammar of the gospel so that when Christ comes they'll be able to understand what he is does. The question of why the law matters here and is both complex and very important. Abraham had to wait 400 years to get the land, now Israel will wait 1400 years further. God gives reasons to Abraham in Genesis, and we're told much about the purpose of the law in the Scriptures. Galatians 3 for example tells us that the law would establish Israel as a distinctive people, unlike the nations and like their saviour, it would show them patterns and models for atonement for sin, under the law the categories of kingdom and exile would be established which would shed further light on the gospel and further urgency for the Father to send the Son into the world. I had 25 minutes to speak on this passage, and there are questions you have to leave unanswered.