The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

August 1, 2021

Exodus 24:3-11

This is the Blood of the Covenant

 

When Moses went and told the people all the LORD’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.”  Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said.  He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD.  Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people.  They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.”  Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”  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 sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Have you ever wondered how much of God’s Plan of Salvation for this world God’s Old Testament children actually understood?  Just think about it.  From our perspective as 21st century Christians we have an amazingly clear picture of how our God planned to save us from our sins!  Using Scripture as our guide we can look back in time and see how God’s promises of a Savior have now been fulfilled.  For example, God’s promise of a virgin giving birth to the Son of God— fulfilled!  God’s promise of the Savior innocently suffering and dying to pay for our sins— fulfilled!  God’s promise of the Savior physically rising from the dead to guarantee that He is the Victor over sin, death and the devil— fulfilled!  Since we live in the glorious reality that the Lord’s Christ has come, sometimes we might wonder how much of God’s Plan of Salvation God’s Old Testament children actually understood.

 

In some ways, however, I think that there are parts of God’s Plan of Salvation for this world that God’s Old Testament children understood far better than you and I.  We have one very powerful example of this right here in our text for today.  This morning let’s try to put ourselves into the sandals of God’s Old Testament children as God the Holy Spirit takes us back in time about 3,500 years to the foot of Mt. Sinai.  Today we need to pay very close attention as the Lord’s servant Moses speaks to us some of the most important and some of the most powerful words we will ever hear.  They are the words:  This is the Blood of the Covenant.  There are two things we want to focus on this morning.  First, we need to make sure that we understand the importance of the blood of the covenant.  Second, we need to make sure that we remember the result of the blood of the covenant.

 

Picture yourself camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  Two short months ago the Lord your God rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.  There at Mt. Sinai you watched in both awe and fear as the Lord, the God of Israel, descended onto the mountain amidst thunder and lightning, fire and smoke, violent trembling and the sound of a trumpet that grew louder and louder.  (See Exodus 19)  Moses, God’s servant and your leader, has been up on the mountain receiving from the Lord the “covenant” that the God of heaven was establishing with you, His people here on this earth.  When Moses reads to you the “Book of the Covenant” you respond by saying, “Everything the LORD has said we will do.”  Now comes time for you take part in a covenant ceremony the likes of which this world has never seen before.  Look at how this covenant ceremony is described here in our text.  We read, “He (Moses) got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.  Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD.  Moses took half the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar.  Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people.  They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’  Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’”

 

The key words here, my friends, are the words “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”  Through the shedding of innocent blood the Lord God of heaven and earth was entering into a special covenant relationship with His Chosen People.  Through the shedding of innocent blood the Lord God of heaven and earth was promising His people— in a very dramatic and very vivid way— He was promising His people what He was going to do for them.  Through the shedding of innocent blood the Lord God of heaven and earth was binding Himself to fulfilling all the Messianic promises that He had made— such as the promise He first made in the Garden of Eden when He said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15), the promise He expanded upon when He said to our father Abraham, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12: 2, 3), the promise He made very powerful and very personal when He said to His people, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourself on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:3).  Yes, my friends, by having Moses take half of this blood and sprinkle it on the altar of the Lord and then by having Moses take the other half of this blood and sprinkle it on the people of the Lord, the Lord God of heaven and earth was entering into a covenant relationship with His people— a covenant relationship that was based on His grace, a covenant relationship that emphasized what God would do for His people, a covenant relationship that was focused on the shedding of innocent blood.

 

For approximately 1,500 years countless innocent animals were sacrificed and countless gallons of innocent blood were poured out on God’s altar as a very powerful and a very personal reminder to God’s people that the blood of the covenant was the only way for their sins to be forgiven.  Now fast forward from Mt. Sinai to the Upper Room in Jerusalem.  Remove from your mind the image of Moses standing in front of God’s people and replace it the image of Jesus of Nazareth reclining at a table with His disciples.  What do we hear Jesus say?  He says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  Do you think that in the context of 1,500 years of God’s people shedding the innocent blood of animals for the forgiveness of their sins that the importance of Jesus’ words was lost on Jesus’ disciples?  Not a chance!  Do you think that 2,000 years later the importance of Jesus’ words can be lost on us, Jesus’ disciples today?  I’ll let you answer that question for yourself.

 

Sometimes it is easy for us to forget that our sins are so numerous in God’s eyes that there is nothing we can do on our own to make up for our sins.  Sometimes it is easy for us to forget that our sins are so serious in God’s eyes that the only way for our sins to be forgiven is through the shedding of innocent blood— the innocent blood of God’s only begotten Son.  (Pointing to the cross)  To help us remember the seriousness of our sins, the Son of God has given to us the Sacrament of Holy Communion in which He says to us, “This is my blood of the covenant.”  To help us remember the magnitude of God’s amazing grace the Son of God has given to us the Sacrament of Holy Communion in which He says to us, “…which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  Make sure you understand the importance of the blood of the covenant, my friends.  Make sure you remember its importance by receiving this holy Sacrament on a regular basis.  While receiving Holy Communion may not impact our eyes, our noses and our ears in the same way as when God’s Old Testament people watched as the innocent blood of an innocent animal was shed for their sins, receiving Holy Communion has an even more powerful impact on our hearts as we remember that the innocent blood of the Son of God was shed to pay for our sins.

 

Once we understand the importance of the blood of the covenant, then it is quite easy for us to remember the result of the blood of the covenant.  Look at the closing verses of our text.  We read, “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 sapphire, clear as the sky itself.  But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

 

Now let’s make it clear from the get-go that we will never be able to explain exactly what the Holy Spirit means when He says that these men “saw the God of Israel.”  Since no mortal sinful human being can see the one and only living God in the fullness of His power, majesty and glory— and live!— (See Exodus 33:17-23), the God of Israel obviously appeared to these men in a way that would not instantly overwhelm them.  Far more important, however, than what these men were allowed to see was what these men were allowed to do.  The result of the blood of the covenant was that these men were allowed to eat and to drink in the very presence of the living God Himself!  The result of the blood of the covenant was that these men could now enjoy a fellowship meal with God in celebration of the covenant that the Lord, the God of Israel, had made with them!

 

The application of this celebration to our lives today is phenomenal.  Think about it, my friends.  What does the blood of the covenant allow us to celebrate today?  In other words, where do we have the privilege of enjoying a fellowship meal with the living God— a meal that celebrates the fact that the blood of Jesus Christ “purifies us from all sin” (I John 1:7)?  The answer is obviously right here— at God’s altar.  Every time you stand before the altar of the living God and receive the true body and the true blood of His eternally begotten Son you are enjoying a fellowship meal with God— a meal that celebrates the covenant that God has now established with you!  At the very same time every time you stand before the altar of the living God and enjoy this fellowship meal with Him, you are receiving a glimpse, a foretaste of the “wedding supper of the Lamb” — the “wedding supper” that you will enjoy for all of eternity in your heavenly Father’s Kingdom!  (See Isaiah 55:1ff; Matthew 22:1ff; Revelation 19:9)  All of this is a direct result of the fellowship that you now enjoy with God because of the blood of the covenant.

 

While we might wonder how much of God’s Plan of Salvation God’s Old Testament children understood, we praise and thank the Lord that as He graciously unfolded His Plan for all the world to see, that the heart of His Plan of Salvation has always been focused on the words, “This is the blood of the covenant.”  May God grant that you and I will always understand that the importance of the blood of the covenant centers on the complete forgiveness for all of our sins.  And may God grant that you and I will always remember that the result of the blood of the covenant is our fellowship with God— a fellowship that we enjoy both now and in eternity!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen