27 April 2012

Exodus 24: 1-18

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commandment, which I have written for their instruction.'" (v. 12)

After the interpretation of the Commandments found in Exodus 20:22 - 23:33 (The Book of the Covenant), the narrative returns to the holy mountain, where Moses meets God again. In a similar way to the patriarch Jacob who raised a stone pillar to mark the place of his encounter with God at Bethel (Genesis 28:18), Moses raises twelve stone pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel (verse 4).

Although the chapter begins with Aaron and his sons and 70 elders accompanying Moses, it is only Moses who is to go into the presence of God. But first he has important tasks to perform. He must make blood sacrifices, and drench the people in blood. Alongside this dramatic action, emphasising the importance of the Covenant, Moses reads from the Book of the Covenant, to which the people respond "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient" (v. 7).

However Aaron and an inner group are also privileged to have an encounter with God. What's more, despite what we read in Exodus 33:20, where God says, "No one shall see me and live", they are unharmed.

Nevertheless, it is still only Moses who is allowed direct access to God on the mountain, where again there is cloud and fire to accompany the divine presence. In this chapter we are introduced to the tablets of stone on which are written the "law and the commandment" (v. 12). Moses seems to make some attempt to write things down (verse 4), but the tablets he receives on the mountain are written by God. After six days preparation, Moses enters into the presence of God, where he remains for forty days and nights. This proves rather too long for the Israelites. They probably believe that Moses has perished on the mountain, and they make a golden calf to worship. So when Moses returns, he is so enraged that he breaks the two tablets of stone (Exodus 32:19). Later (Exodus 34:4) he carves two further tablets of stone.

To Ponder

The phrase "written on tablets of stone" is one of many biblical phrases that have passed into everyday language. What do you understand it to mean?

Have you ever been especially aware of the awesome nature of God? What brought this about? Was it in a particular place?