The Presence of God

  • Read Exodus 24 here.
  • You can listen to this sermon here.

I am continually amazed that I never really heard the story of Exodus 24 until recently. If you had asked me for the list of people in the Bible who had seen God, my list would include: Adam, Eve, Moses. That’s it. Three.

Yet in this one story we find 74 people not only see God, but eat and drink with Him!!!!  How did I miss this?!?

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”    Exodus 24:9-11

“They saw God, and they ate and drank.”

That sentence blows my mind as I try to imagine the scene.

The next mention of Aaron and the elders blows my mind just as much.

After the meal, Moses goes up the mountain for 40 days and nights to receive more laws and instructions from God. While he’s gone, the general populous in the Israelite camp get restless. They approach Aaron and request that since Moses is missing, can he make them a new god. (Exodus 32)

If a month ago you had sat down at a meal with God, and seen Him, how would you respond to this request? Here’s some possible answers:

  • “You’re right. Moses is gone. I don’t know if God is real. Let’s make a new god for ourselves.”
  • “The peasants are rioting. I don’t have an army. I’m powerless. I’d better do what they want.”
  • “Since God hasn’t spoken to us for 40 days and has obviously done something to Moses, I think it will be okay to make an idol. He must have changed his mind about wanting to be our God.”
  • “Well, I’ve seen God and it was amazing. I think it would be beneficial for the rest of the people to have a visual representation of their God too.”
  • “Silence” (Apparently the response of the 70 elders.)
  • “Okay. Maybe this will get God’s attention. He’ll send Moses back down the mountain and we can get this dog and pony show on the road again.”

I hope that none of those seem like great answers to you!  It is amazing to me that Aaron, apparently with the consent of other leaders, made an idol with no apparent protest. It was only in Exodus 20 that God gave them the 10 Commandments of which the first is “Have no other gods” and the second is “Don’t make any idols“. Aaron knew the laws. He knew God. He’d seen God and eaten with God! Yet he made an idol for the people.

This incredible sequence of events reminds me how susceptible we are to temptation. Of course it’s good to be close to God. Of course we’re less likely to give in to temptation when we’re devoting ourselves to God. Of course God’s Holy Spirit steers us away from sin. But my mind is drawn to 1 Corinthians 10:12 “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” When we feel strongest and most intimate with God… “Watch out!”

Not Exodus, but another meal in the Presence of God.

Not Exodus, but another meal in the Presence of God.

Interestingly, this whole section in 1 Corinthians 10 draws on the events of Exodus.  The overall message is that Israel’s adventures are recorded for us to learn from. Paul specifically quotes Exodus 32:6 in making this point. Without recognising the connection between Exodus 24 & 32 I think we miss the power of v12. Even if you saw God, you might turn around and commit deliberate sin. Be on guard.

That idea contains a note of despair. “If I’m not safe when I’m in the presence of God, when am I safe?” But Paul intends this as a comforting statement. In a sense, we’re never delivered from temptation, despite the prayer of Matthew 6:13. The reassurance comes in the next lines of the passage with the promise that each time sin tempts us, God provides a way out. Sin is never an inevitable  consequence of temptation.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13

I’d love to have you contribute to the conversation by leaving a comment below.

  • When do you feel most “In the presence of God”?
  • Do you relate at all to Aaron’s lack of transformation after eating and drinking with God?
  • Have you experienced the truth that God always provides a way out of temptation?
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