Sermon on Exodus 24:1-18 – “A Covenant Strand”

Sermon for Sunday, November 21st, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Exo 24:1-18 ESV] 1 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. 2 Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.” 3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. 12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.” 15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

New Testament reading:

[Heb 9:11-14 ESV] 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Gospel reading:

[Mat 26:26-28 ESV] 26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

 

Introduction

There are strands that run throughout our lives. Things that tie together our identities. Things which hold together the stories of our lives.

In places in world history it was the land that tied people together. They were farmers or fisherman. And, no matter what happened in life, there was always the family farm or there was always the sea.

Today, it may be your family identity or your faith that is the most prominent strand in your life. Perhaps you’ve known the Lord from an early age and have always trusted in him.

There are many strands that weave through the Scriptures. That tie it together, from beginning to end so that it is not merely a disjointed set of writings, but truly connected revelation.

And there is one in particular that I want to address today.

That is, God’s plan of ratifying his covenant in blood. [REPEAT: God’s plan of ratifying his covenant in blood.

Blood features prominent in the covenants. And certainly it is most prominent in the New Covenant of Christ’s shed blood.

But before Christ, we have the types and shadows of the blood covenant in the Old Testament including our passage today from Exodus chapter 24.

I. The Covenant Confirmed with the Sprinkling of Blood

5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.

We must first understand that blood is a symbol of the life of an animal or of a man. (“For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” – Leviticus 17:11) Blood implies death. While blood can “let” as with, for example leeches, when there is copious amount of blood it is only upon the death of animal or a man.

And, as we find in Hebrews 9:22, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.”

For man to be made right with God there must be the shedding of blood. Sin deserves death!

This death is first portrayed in the sacrifice of animals in the Old Testament.

In Genesis with God’s covenant with Abram, there is the shedding of blood. A heifer (that is a young female cow that has not borne a calf) was sacrificed, also with a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon. They were cut in half and blood ran out. This was to ratify or confirm God’s covenant with Abram. As the smoking fire pot and flaming torch passes between the pieces of the animals God visually promised that He (God Himself) would take up the penalty for man breaking the covenant.

Now again is a covenant confirmed through the shedding of blood. That strand — that idea — continues in God’s word. Moses, with Aaron and his sons Nadab and Abihu present burnt offerings and peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. Then, Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar!

Blood was shed, and blood was sprinkled upon the altar. While “sprinkle” is an acceptable term, this is not a light dripping. It is a throwing of the blood!

After blood was thrown on the altar, Moses threw blood also on the people! And said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

The covenant was ratified with blood.

To ratify means to formally sanction, to make valid, to confirm, to put into effect, to approve. God’s covenant with Moses and the people was solidified, it was sealed … with blood.

It may be that Moses literally threw blood upon each and every person, or it may be that it was upon only some representatives of the people. There were a good number of Israelites and it would have taken much time to sprinkle blood upon them all.

In the book of Hebrews it does indeed say that Moses sprinkled blood upon ALL the people.

Hebrews 9:19. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people.

This may yet be in actuality done through representatives of the people. But the effect is the same. The sign is given to all. The breaking of the covenant with God deserves death! Blood shall be poured out as the penalty of disobeying God!

This is not a one-time thing in the Old Testament. We see this strand throughout.

Blood was sprinkled on numerous occasions.

In Leviticus 1:5 the priests are to throw blood against the sides of the altar.

In Leviticus 14:51 the priest is to sprinkle blood seven times upon the house a leper.

In Leviticus 16:14 Aaron is to sprinkle blood upon the Mercy Seat, that is the golden cover, of the Ark of the Covenant.

In Exodus 29:21 blood is to be sprinkled upon the priests themselves.

And in our text in Exodus 24 blood is sprinkled upon the people of Israel.

The sign of the covenant in blood is impossible to ignore. It is often repeated and it is visually striking.

And, here in our text, the sign is not alone. The act of throwing blood is accompanied by the word. Here Moses “took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people.” The written Word of God in the Bible is hear read for the first time, as Moses has, in verse 4, just now written down the words of the Lord.

It is important that the Word accompanies the ritual act so that understanding can be had. And so when we worship God in baptism or in communion, we include also an explanation; we read the Scripture about these things. Christians are to know the meaning of that which we do in worship. The elements of worship are not mysterious, but have definite meanings as the Scripture explains to us. Likewise, we sing hymns WITH WORDS that convey to us meaning – truths about God and the Gospel.

This strand of the shedding of blood, if I’m not mistaken, is present in in each of the administrations of the covenant.

For Adam and Eve an animal was killed to make skins for them.

Noah made an offering on the ark.

Abraham, as we have seen, when he was yet “Abram” had sacrificed animals, the blood of which God passed through in the smoking fire pot and flaming torch.

There is blood shed here in the ratification of the Mosaic covenant.

And even for the David covenant, we find that Samuel sacrificed a heifer upon learning from that Lord that David was the next king.

Finally, in the New Covenant, with Jesus Christ, there was blood shed. His blood shed!

II. Seeing the Glory of God

Before we continue on the theme of strand of covenant confirmation through blood, I want to look first at this statement in verse 10 that they (Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu) “saw” the God of Israel.

Does not John tell us that “no one has ever seen God”?

And yet it is said here that they “saw” God.

Later, it is said even that Moses saw God “Face to face.”

Yet, God says to Moses “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Then also God has his glory pass Moses as he is in the cleft of a rock.

I understand the Scriptures therefore to be saying that man can see a reflection or effect of God’s glory, but cannot look upon Him directly. Death would come to man upon directly seeing the Holy God.

So they saw some element of God’s glory:

16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.

Not to mention, God is Spirit. That is, He is without body. So He can’t be “seen” with the physical eye.

So it is that Moses and the others saw something of God’s glory.

Well, man is in quite a predicament. The full glory of God is too powerful for us and brings death. And we deserve death also upon breaking of God’s covenant.

But God, in his grace, brought about mercy and life for us through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

And in Christ we see something of God’s glory.

III. The Blood of Christ

We come them to the blood of Christ.

And everything changes with the blood of Christ.

Because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin

and

because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness

therefore

God brought salvation to sinner through the death of Jesus Christ.

And this changes everything.

At his death, his blood was poured out for you and for me, for all who believe in him.

He took the penalty due to covenant breakers, though he was without sin.

The shedding of his blood brought about our forgiveness.

He was truly our substitute.

For we deserve death.

And his blood is the better blood; that of goats and rams and sundry other animals was of no effect for forgiveness. The sacrifices of animals were to point to the need of a better sacrifice; that of a messiah.

Something more was needed. And something more was provided.

Christ’s blood shed for the forgiveness of sins.

His blood, symbolizing his death, for sinners.

His blood, representing the pain, the suffering, humiliation and death of Jesus Christ.

As the blood of animals physically covered that on which it was sprinkled, the blood of Christ covered over us, atoning for our sins.

Christ died, pierced for our transgressions, because our gracious God has kept the covenant that we could not keep.

Blood, which brings up images of pain and death, now brings up knowledge of God’s grace and mercy. God has bought about this great reversal. The blood of Christ is now remembered at Holy Communion because of the good that it symbolizes, the forgiveness we have from our sins because of His blood.

We are now a blood-sprinkled people,

forgiven

justified

declared righteous

because of Christ’s blood.

It is done! There is no more that needs to be done. Our salvation rests upon the blood of Christ and the blood of Christ alone! Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

God’s covenant is a graceful covenant. Not based on your faithfulness, but upon Christ’s faithfulness. Not based on the strength of our faith, but based on the object of our faith.

Our sins have been washed away in the sprinkling of the blood of the lamb.

The people in the Exodus account say “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” But we know that they do fail. And fail again and again. It is the same for us. And so we need the Covenant God who sheds not our blood, but the blood of Christ.

The strand of the blood covenant runs throughout Scripture. And the strand of God’s grace does as well. We see God’s grace not merely in the New Testament but also in the Old. He is, and always has been, a graceful God. The people of the Old Testament just like the people of the New Testament were saved by the grace of God and through faith in Him which he graciously bestowed. Saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

3 thoughts on “Sermon on Exodus 24:1-18 – “A Covenant Strand””

  1. Hi Douglas,

    I was looking for your contact information, but I can’t seem to find it here on your website. Could you please get in touch with me? I have a question regarding the use of your age of the patriarchs comparison table for our Dutch Christian magazine.

    Thanks in advance!

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