Labeling something as the “highwater” mark in a nation’s experience is always fraught with danger. Despite the risk, Exodus 24 must rank near the top in Israel’s experience as a nation. Just consider for a moment what occurred.
We are told that God called Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 of the elders of Israel to meet with Him on Mount Sinai. While the people were left at the base of the mount, this illustrious and privileged company was permitted to ascend part way up the mount and meet with God. Later, Moses would have the distinct honor of ascending to the top of the mount to meet with God for 40 days (vv15-18).
If verses 9-11 were not so clear, we would hardly believe that a scene such as this transpired. “They saw the God of Israel … they saw God, and did eat and drink.” While some may stay to debate what it means that they “saw God,” in whatever form it took, it was still a spiritual experience of unbelievable magnitude. Perhaps it would rank along with Isaiah’s vision (Isa 6) or Daniel’s dreams (Dan 7) for impact. What a life changing event for men!
Would men who had “seen the God of Israel” ever forget that moment? Wouldn’t it be enough to preserve and strengthen them?
Less than 40 days later, Aaron, who had seen “the God of Israel,” succumbed to peer pressure and made a golden calf, proclaiming, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt!” The man who had enjoyed the presence and fellowship of God distorted that truth in perhaps a month.
What of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, who had been on the mount? It took them a bit longer, but one year later, perhaps under the influence of alcohol, they denied the holiness of God by bringing “strange fire” to the altar. It was a costly mistake – it cost them their lives (Lev 10).
Of all those who experienced the revelation of the transcendent God on the mount, only Moses lived in the good of it. It is a sobering reminder of the weakness of our flesh and the need for constant dependence and freshness in the things of God. Of all the company, it is only written of Moses with any frequency that he “returned unto the Lord.” In every set of circumstances, he found his refuge and resources in God.
We also are a people marked by weakness and dependency. Past spiritual experiences cannot sustain for present demands. Just as each generation must learn God for itself, so must each believer learn God on a daily basis. Apart from that we will distort His character by “golden calves,” dishonor Him with “strange fire,” and depart from Him in our faithfulness. We should appreciate afresh the spiritual import of the prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” A day by day dependence and a daily feeding on Christ are the only preservatives for each of us.