The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the second book of the Torah, Exodus. The text is Exodus 24:8-18 and is the reading for Transfiguration Sunday. This text is a bit strange upon first reading. There is a lot going on, but the most unusual is Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the seventy elders going up on the Mount of Sinai to eat in the presence of the LORD God. Over and over again we have heard how the unholy cannot be in the presence of the Holy One—that man cannot see God face to face. And yet, here in our text this is exactly what is going on. With the language of “sapphire stone pavement” and “seeing the God of Israel” there is little doubt this is a face to face occurrence. So what gives? On occasion, God will break His own rules (ex. Moses being in God’s presence, seeing Him). Because God makes the rules He is free to break them when He chooses, however, God only breaks His own rules on the side of grace! This holds true for all of Scripture.

Another interesting pattern which should be noted is the three-fold dimension of moving toward God, into His holiness. The people remain at the foot of the mount, the elders, etc. eat with God on the mountain, but then the LORD calls out to Moses to come up further. A three-fold movement which is also observed with the people, the priesthood and the High Priest and the floor plan of the Tabernacle and Temple; the outer court, the holy place and the holy of holies. Each stage brings one closer to the presence of the Holy One. This will also be seen as the people go, “up to the Holy Land,” “up to Jerusalem” and “up to the Temple.” Again, each step is closer to the presence of the LORD.

When Moses goes up further he enters into the cloud, which is the Glory Cloud. The Glory Cloud serves a dual purpose in Scripture: It reveals the presence of God, but it also conceals His face. Thus, later, when the High Priest goes behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies, one of the first things he does is build an incense fire to make a small Glory Cloud. This is the same cloud that leads the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness. It is also the cloud which appears in the dedication of both Tabernacle and Temple and shows God intends to dwell in the midst of His people.

Finally, the text tells us Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights. The number forty continues to be a time of preparation, contemplation, cleansing and repentance (note the 40 days of Lent). This number motif will appear again and again in Scripture. Contextually, remember when Moses finally descends from the Mount of Sinai the people have become impatient and afraid at his absence and enlisted Aaron to form a golden calf. The end of this forty days brought no Easter!

24:8 וַיִּקַּח (vai-yik-Kach) root: לקח (law-kakh) Qal: “to take”

וַיִּזְרֹק (vai-yiz-Rok) root: זרק (zaw-rak) Qal: “to sprinkle; to throw”

כָּרַת (ka-Rat) Qal: “to cut” One always “cuts” a covenant. See Genesis 15.

24:9 וַיַּעַל: (vai-Ya-al) root: עלה (aw-law) Qal: “to go up”

24:10 וַיִּרְאוּ (vai-yir-U) root: ראה (raw-aw) Qal: “to see”

לִבְנַת (liv-Nat) “pavement; tile; flagstone”

הַסַּפִּיר (has-sap-Pir) “sapphire; lapis-lazuli”

לָטֹהַר (la-To-har) from: טֹהר (to-har) “purity; clearness”

24:11 אֲצִילֵי] (a-tzi-Lei) “noble; chief”

וַיֶּחֱזוּ (vai-ye-che-Zu) root: חזה (khaw-zaw) Qal: “to see; to behold”

24:12 לֻחֹת (lu-Chot) “tablet”

לְהוֹרֹתָם (le-ho-ro-Tam) root: ירה (yaw-raw) Hiphil: “to instruct; to teach”

24:13 מְשָׁרְתוֹ (me-sha-re-To) root: שׁרת (shaw-rath) Piel: “to serve; to minister”

24:14 נָשׁוּב (na-Shuv) root: שׁוב (shoob) Qal, imperative (cohortative): “to wait”

בַעַל; (Va-al) “lord; owner; master”

24:15 הֶעָנָן, (he-a-Nan) “clouds; cloud”

24:16 וַיִּשְׁכֹּן: (vai-yish-Kon) root: שׁכן (shaw-kan) Piel: “to dwell”

הַשְּׁבִיעִי; (hash-she-vi-I) “seventh”

24:17 אֹכֶלֶת (o-Che-let) root: אכל (aw-kal) Qal, participle: “to eat; to devour”

24:18 וַיָּבֹא (vai-ya-Vo) root: בוא (bo) Qal: “to go; to enter in; to arrive”

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Additional Resources:

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Exodus 24:8-18

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Exodus 24:8-18.