Apart from the grace of God, how dull is the heart of man? Apart from the illuminating work of His blessed Spirit, how darkened is the mind of man? Apart from the Son’s risen life imparted to those of faith, how dead is the soul of man? These are the questions that come to mind as I read in Exodus of 74 men who encountered God as close as one can encounter God. And yet, for 73 of them, I know that the impact of such an encounter will quickly fade . . . that each of them will play loose with the glory they beheld . . . that for each of them there will be an epic fail. And far from judging them, it is a reminder of the plight of unregenerate man . . . a reminder that there, but for the grace of God, go I.
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.” . . . Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 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. 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, 9-11 ESV)
I’m captured by the thought that these 74 men beheld God . . . and ate and drank with Him. What must that have been like? To have gazed upon as much of God’s glory as could be revealed without it incinerating them? To have encountered bodily the essence of the divine? To have tried to process through 5 inadequate senses the Majesty of Him who sits on heaven’s throne? What was it like? And then to think that they would eat and drink in His presence . . . that they would know such communion with Almighty God. What was it like?
You’d think it would be absolutely life changing. That with such a close encounter of the divine kind these men would be more attuned with the things of heaven . . . that these men would be super followers of the LORD . . . that these men, who had beheld God, would be so much more in tune with God. Apparently not.
In just 40 days, Aaron, his sons, and the 70 elders will be bowing down to an idol fashioned by their own hands (Exodus 32). Though they had beheld God’s glory, they would trade it in for the “glory” of earthen metal. Though they had communed with the one true God around a table set and hosted by God Himself, they would soon set their hearts on dancing around a fake god, ascribing to it their deliverance. Really? What’s wrong with them?
The same thing that is wrong with all of Adam’s race. When it comes to the ability to grasp the things of the Almighty, we are all stillborn . . . dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3) . . . intuitively knowing only how to walk after the course of this fallen world . . . driven by the passions of the flesh . . . subject to our darkened minds. Even should we behold the glory of God . . . sup with Him, as it were, on the mountain . . . apart from a change in our spiritual DNA, we are incapable of processing the impact and implication of such an encounter.
They beheld the glory of God . . . they communed over a meal in His very presence . . . but even that wouldn’t be sufficient for them to know God . . . or to determine to live for God. To know God . . . to live for God . . . is only possible through the grace of God. Grace that atones for sins . . . grace that rescues from judgment . . . grace that imparts a new nature . . . grace that writes His law upon the hearts of the redeemed . . . grace that sends His Spirit to form within His own the image of His Son.
They beheld God . . . they would soon worship a cow. Not judging . . .
Just in awe of the power of the gospel . . . to save men and women . . . to open eyes and unplug ears . . . to take hearts of stone and reconstitute them as hearts of flesh . . . that we too might behold God . . . and believe God . . . and by His continuing grace, seek to live for God.
To Him be all glory . . . now and forevermore. Amen.