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.[a] 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. (Exodus 24:1-11)
We have before us a remarkable passage of Scripture in which the covenant which God has just given to Israel is ratified in blood and religious ceremony. The majesty and the glory of the Lord is on full display as He condescends to call men up to Him on the mountain at the making of this covenant. This is our God. He is holy and awesome. He is above men in every way, yet condescends to make covenant with them. And through the types and shadows of the old covenant, we see the glories of the new covenant which God has made for us in Jesus Christ.
The Worship of the Covenant
The first thing to note is that in the ratifying of this covenant, God calls men to worship Him. In other words, the ratifying of the covenant is a worship ceremony. As we see in verse 1 God calls Moses to draw near, but the others to WORSHIP from afar. So this is a time of covenantal worship. There are a few patterns of worship that we begin to see from this passage.
The first pattern is that worship begins with God calling the congregation to worship Him. God establishes worship, how He is to be worshiped, and God calls men to worship Him. In the making of this covenant God set the parameters for how He is to be approached in worship. Here we see a piece of what we call the regulative principle of worship – that we are to do just what God tells us to do and approach God in worship as He calls us to. Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord, he read the book of the Covenant to the people and twice they affirmed, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.”
The second pattern of worship to notice is that it is orderly and liturgical. God is a God of order and establishes orderliness in how He is to be worshiped. He called Moses to draw near, the priests Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 elders of the people up to the mountain, and the congregation to stand far off. He clearly gave His word to Moses, who wrote it down, verse 4, which is orderly, and it was read to the people, which implies they gave their attention and heard the words of the Lord spoken by Moses from the book of the covenant, which is orderly. And in verse 8, the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant was done in accordance with all the words of the LORD. Worship was done in orderliness in accordance with the Word. Moses built an altar at the foot of the mountain along with 12 pillars for the 12 tribes, for the liturgy of the sacrifice and sprinkling of the blood.
So worship is established and done in good order. Now if you are not familiar with the term “liturgical” it simply refers to the set form of worship. There is a liturgy, or a set form of worship, and it is done in accordance with the Word. Obviously our form of worship, or liturgy in the New Covenant is different than that of the old. And as you know there are different liturgical forms in different Christian traditions, but the idea is that our form of worship is to be shaped by the Word of God and done in accordance with it.
In our passage Moses also acts as a priest, which he is called in Psalm 99:6, where it says, “Moses and Aaron were among His priests.” Moses constructs the altar and pillars and he throws the blood of the sacrifices upon the altars and then upon the people. As an aside, it could be meant that Moses threw the blood upon the pillars, which we are told represent the people, which makes sense, considering the massive amount of people in the congregation of Israel. Nevertheless, this form of worship was established and took place. Everyone took their places in worship, the Words of God were read in the hearing of the congregation, they responded in affirmation, sacrifices were made, and the blood was applied to the altar and the people, and then the elders ate a meal with God upon the mountain.
The third pattern to notice is that the entire congregation of Israel participated in worship. There was one worship ceremony for all the people. They all heard the word of God and responded. They all were applied the blood of the covenant and were witnesses to it. Here is a small piece of what we begin to see as the pattern of what we call family integrated worship, where we simply affirm and practice that the entire congregation is to worship together, and the means of grace are the same for all ages in the congregation.
The fourth pattern of worship we see here is the public reading of the Word of God along with public response. In verse 3 Moses told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. “All the words of God,” I believe, refers to the 10 Commandments, which are actually not called commandments but called the Ten Words, and then the “rules” would be what follows the 10 Commandments in chapter 21-23. Then all the people answered with one voice – so response is not spontaneous but orderly, with one congregational voice – and they said, “all the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” Then again in verse 7 Moses took the Book of the Covenant – all the words of the LORD that he wrote down – and read it in the hearing of the people. And again they affirmed, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”
So there is reading of the Word of God, then a congregational response. So in our liturgy, after we read the Scripture readings, we respond in one congregational voice “Praise God for His Word,” thanking Him for it and publicly receiving it as the Word of God.
The public reading of Scripture is a constant element of the worship of God throughout covenantal economies since the time of Moses, as Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13, “…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture…” God’s Word is that which is to be read in public worship. There is a certain power and blessing to its public reading which differs from private reading. It is so often in the public reading of Scripture, when the congregation gives attention to it, that the Spirit of God comes with power to cut men to the heart, to open our ears to it in a way which we would not hear it in private. In the public reading of Scripture there is a public, congregational, authority which the Word has upon everyone together, as all sit under that authority, with our mouths closed and our ears open, as those which are under the Word of God, needy and humble receivers of it. It is vital that this form be practiced and maintained together.
So I want to exhort all of you to take our time of Scripture reading with great sobriety. It is not just a quick part of worship to be glossed over or overlooked or taken for granted. It is not to be assumed that there is not power in it or that it will do nothing for us. For we all hear it together, affirm it together, and are bound together by it. So let us take our time of Scripture reading and hearing seriously. Let us sit up and listen, and give our attention to the Words that are read, as they are the very words of the living God. When the Scripture readers say, “this is God’s Word,” it is a heavy statement to be taken with gravity, not mindless repetition. Boys and girls, when the Scripture is read, it is time to listen close to what is read, for it is God speaking to us all. Parents, train your children in this. Read the Word of God at home in family worship, training your children to give attention and to listen quietly to the reading of God’s word with reverence. To those who read the Scripture publicly, you must know the responsibility that you have. Be prepared. Read it clearly, with appropriate cadence and inflection, and just as it is written. But don’t think too highly of yourself in the moment of reading.
So we have the pattern of the public reading and congregational response to the Word of God. Moses also carries out the office of prophet in this passage. As a prophet, He receives special revelation. He receives the Word of God. He writes it down. And He reads it to the people. In Acts 7:38 the martyr Stephen says some amazing things about this, speaking of Moses he says, “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received the living oracles to give to us.” He received the living oracles to give to us, that is the prophetic word of God which He gave to us by writing it down, which we have today.
Moses is here a type of Jesus Christ as Jesus came speaking Words of authority from the Father as our great Prophet, as Jesus says in John 12:49-50, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” Therefore we are to listen to Jesus.
When the Words of the Covenant were read to the people and they affirmed that they would keep them and obey, they professed their commitment to God and to the covenant. We know the people failed to keep the covenant that they said they would keep, and so they received upon them the covenant cursings that they agreed to. So even though they publicly affirmed God’s Word, yet there was rebellion in their hearts as Acts 7:39 continues, “Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us…’”
It is a dangerous thing to publicly confess God’s Word and yet thrust Him aside in your heart. Do not come and publicly Praise God for His Word, but in your heart have rebellion and contempt for it. Just as God destroyed Israel in their rebellion so He will those who neglect so great a salvation. Instead, let us heed the words of James when he says, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:21-25).
The Blood of the Covenant
We have considered the worship of the covenant, let us now consider the blood of the covenant. Verse 5 and following, “…he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar.” Then Moses reads the Book of the Covenant to the people and they affirm it, then verse 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.’”
So this is a pretty intense scene to the modern man, but the importance of a blood covenant has been understood in most of human history. The covenant is ratified in blood. First Moses throws blood on the altar, which is where sacrifice rises to God. Then Moses reads the Word and throws blood upon the people. As I mentioned, it is likely that it is meant that Moses threw the blood upon the 12 pillars which represented the people by representing the 12 tribes, as verse 4 says, Moses built 12 pillars, “according to the twelve tribes of Israel.”
So what is going on here? What is the significance of this sprinkling of blood on the altar and the people? First, notice that there is blood on the altar AND blood on the people. The altar and the pillars representing the two parties in the covenant – God and Israel. They are sprinkled and marked with the blood of the covenant. As these were temporary sacrifices and temporary blood, it signifies beautifully the blood of Jesus Christ, whose blood was poured out upon the cross – blood on the altar – and by whose blood we have been sprinkled with – blood on the people. Blood has to be spilt on the altar as sacrifice to God, and that blood must be applied to the people – to sinners such as us. Propitiation must be made to God to satisfy His justice toward sin, and that blood must be applied effectually to us to truly forgive our sins and make us in right covenant with God, for without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. You see, it is Jesus’ blood spilt upon the cross that by faith you have been sprinkled with. Hebrews 12:24, “and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”
So the blood of animals that Moses threw upon the altar and upon the people, who stood far off, points to a better blood of a better covenant, therefore, as Hebrews 10:22 says, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
The typology continues when we notice that it was the blood of a sacrificial animal that was thrown upon the altar and applied to the people. In other words, the people did not spill their own blood by cutting themselves and applying their own blood to the altar, it was a sacrificial animal in their place whose blood was applied to the altar and to themselves. So in the New Covenant a greater blood, the blood of the pure and spotless Lamb of God was spilt and is applied to us by faith.
I want you to also notice the language that Moses uses in verse 8. He says, “Behold the blood of the covenant…” This is nearly the exact language Jesus uses when He institutes the Lord’s Supper. Matthew 26:27-28, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” This is really interesting when we notice that later in Exodus 24 Moses and the elders eat and drink in the presence of God. Certainly in instituting the Lord’s Supper, and the cup which is His blood in the New Covenant Jesus had this passage on His mind. So like Exodus 24, Jesus institutes a new covenant meal, the bread His body, the wine His blood, and it is His blood applied to us by faith that is the blood of the covenant, which we drink. And it is His blood which is for the forgiveness of sins for many.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant…Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 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, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. (Hebrews 9:15,18-22)
So as Israel was saved out of Egypt through the baptismal waters of the Red Sea and so received the Words of the Covenant and the blood of the covenant, so we, in a greater way through Jesus Christ are saved from Egypt, from the domain of darkness. We pass through baptismal waters having the blood of the Lamb applied to us and sprinkled in our hearts that we might eat and drink of the new covenant meal, the body and blood of Christ, the blood of the covenant. The covenant ratified in blood speaks to the sobriety and the weightiness of the covenant – that God keeps His covenant and that we might not trample upon it as Israel did. As God says in Hebrews 10:29-31:
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Israel failed to keep covenant and do what they said they would do. But we have a better covenant with blood that speaks a better word. Therefore, all the more, we might obey Jesus. We might be tempted to fear and to look at ourselves and to think that we don’t have the ability to obey Jesus as we ought. And that is true. But we have a new and better covenant. The blood that speaks for us in this covenant is not the blood of bulls and goats, but the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, our once and for all sacrifice for sins, the blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. The security of this covenant is not found in ourselves, but in Jesus and His working in us. As Hebrews 13:20-21 says, “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
You don’t have it in yourself, but Jesus has equipped you with everything good that you need to do His will as He Himself works in us that which is pleasing in His sight. Is this not so much better? Is this not how we may draw near in full assurance? That God provides what is needed to please Him through Jesus Christ. It is not us in ourselves, but Christ in us.
As Peter similarly writes in his opening letter, 1 Peter 1:1-2:
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
If you are a Christian, you have been sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, so confess your sins, and in full assurance come to the Lord’s Table and eat and drink with Him today, of His body and the blood of His covenant, which is for the forgiveness of sins. If you have sinned, that is the point of the blood of the covenant – it is to forgive your sins. Amen.