Exodus 24:1-2 Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel
There are at least 3 separate times when Moses goes up to the mount to commune with God in the sight of the children of Israel. 1) Exodus 19 tells of when Moses had the people sanctify themselves for 3 days, then the Lord was manifested with smoke and fire, but the people were not ready to commune with God, “the Lord said unto Moses, go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish” (Ex. 19:21), 2) Exodus 24 tells of Moses’ ascent with Aaron, Nadam, Abihu, and the seventy elders. In this case, Moses’ companions were supposed to worship “afar off,” suggesting that they too were unworthy to see the face of God. Yet after the sprinkling of the blood of the covenant, “they saw the God of Israel,” and 3) Moses ascends the mount with Joshua and stayed there for “forty days and forty nights” (v. 18).
The three episodes illustrate a principle taught clearly by the Prophet Joseph Smith, that prophets desire to bring the people into the presence of God.
Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the priesthood, but he could not. In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing: and there were Eliases raised up who tried to restore these very glories, but did not obtain them.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 159)
Moses did himself get into the presence of God, and he also led seventy elders who were so instructed and prepared that they could go into the presence of God to communicate with him; (Ex. 24:9-11) but the people were afraid of God, and when the Lord appeared to them on Mount Sinai, when they heard the thunders and saw the lightning and felt the mountain quake, (Ex. 19:16-20) they said to Moses, do not let the Lord speak to us any more lest we his people die; but do thou speak to us and be mouthpiece. (Ex. 20:18-21) They were not prepared to come into the presence of the Lord; they were not sufficiently pure, neither did they understand the laws and principles which God had communicated. But they murmured and murmured and that continually (Ex. 16:2, Num. 14:26-27) the same as we do. We see something of the same spirit, we are found sometimes murmuring against God, or at least against some of the revelations he has given unto us, or against the priesthood, and in many instances without cause. (Journal of Discourses, 21:241)
Exodus 24:3 all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said we will do
An important part of covenant making is that we agree to be obedient. Our declarations to be obedient take a couple of forms. One is baptism, the second is in the temple when we bow our head and say, “yes.” In both instances, we make a solemn declaration to the world, to God, to angels, and to whoever witnesses the ordinance that we have agreed to be obedient.
The tragedy of that open declaration comes when we fail to keep our word. The Israelites were not able to keep their promise to be obedient to the Law of Moses. At the judgment day, they could be exposed to the full force of the law of justice. God might say, “Do you remember that you promised to keep my commandments? Do you now stand before the judgment bar of God and pretend to deny that you disobeyed my laws and trampled upon the covenants?” What justification or rationalization is going to be enough at the judgment bar? We know what happened to the children of Israel, how they worshipped idols and forgot the God who brought them through the wilderness. What about us? We have made similar covenants. We have had great blessings and the promise that God will bring us through the wilderness of mortality into His Promised Land if we will be obedient. Herein lies the power of the covenant; both to bind us to the Lord and to bind us to the justice of God’s judgment—a sobering thought.
Exodus 24:7-8 Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant
We might think this a little strange, that Moses would sprinkle blood on all the people. Does that symbolism bother you? The people could not be cleansed from sin unless there was some shedding of blood. Prior to Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, that blood could only be represented as the blood of beasts. Of course, this foreshadows the Messiah’s redemptive role. As Paul taught the Hebrews who had studied Exodus from childhood:
For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Heb. 9:19-22)
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works… he is the mediator of the new testament… that by means of death (by the shedding of blood), for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. (Heb. 9:14-15)
"Exodus gives a priceless close-up of how important covenant making is to salvation. Moses received the Ten Commandments and inspired explanations, wrote this body of revealed law in a sacred record, and then read it to the people, who entered into a ceremonial commitment:
He took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.
And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words. (Ex. 24:7–8.)
"These events were Israel’s constitution, and Jesus extended that covenant by quoting or paraphrasing Moses’ words when he instituted the sacrament. If Jesus had intended to present religious concepts different from the divine pattern delivered to Moses, he would not have used the words of Exodus. Repeating Moses meant repeating or renewing the covenant—offering full grace to Israel on condition of obedience. Thus, Jesus did not revoke the ancient covenant, he restored it as the “strait and narrow way” to the full blessings of his all-powerful atoning suffering. The level of progression is different from the Old to the New Testament, but saving ordinances have similar foundations.
"There are three profound contacts between the divine covenant given at Sinai and the new covenant instituted in the Upper Room. As just discussed, the first is the powerful repetition of Moses’ cry, 'Behold the blood of the covenant.' Since the King James testament is really covenant, we hear the Savior tersely telling the full meaning of Moses’ words as he raised the cup: 'For this is my blood of the new [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins.' (Matt. 26:28; see footnote.)
"Although the Christian consensus regards new as meaning 'changed,' its correct sense is 'renewed covenant.' Interpreters regularly assume that Christ envisioned an era of unconditional grace, but this avoids the plain meaning and prophetic history of divine covenants. Israel’s duty to live up to the Sinai covenant was not only Moses’ major theme, but the constant reminder of the prophets for the next thousand years. Indeed, Jehovah’s covenant was periodically reenacted, like the Christian sacrament, through personal and public renewals of the divine pact. Through these rites, God promised spiritual blessings on his “holy people” as they renewed their promise “to walk in his ways, and to keep his statutes.” (Deut. 26:17.)
"The miraculous meal is the second parallel between the Exodus covenant and the covenant delivered in the Upper Room. When personal vows were exchanged, the patriarchs ate and drank as a sign of friendship. (Gen. 26:28–30; Gen. 31:44–54.) Similarly, as soon as Israel witnessed its obedience before God and was purified in the sprinkling of blood near Sinai, an amazing revelation followed. Jehovah himself called Moses and Israel’s leaders to a sacred meal as a sign of the covenant just made: 'Also they saw God, and did eat and drink.' (Ex. 24:11.)
"The third parallel between the first sacrament and Israel’s wilderness covenant is the commitment of obedience required to receive the promised blessings. As discussed, God first called Moses to the mount, revealed the Ten Commandments, and explained their basic applications, all of which became the 'book of the covenant' that Israel heard read aloud and agreed to obey. (Ex. 24:7.) Following the same pattern, Jesus taught repentance and baptism, gave the Sermon on the Mount, and applied its principles in public illustrations and private conversations with the Twelve. It was in this gospel context that Jesus pledged the Apostles to obedience immediately after instituting the sacrament. (Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Restoration of the Sacrament [Part 2: A New and Ancient Covenant],” Ensign, Feb. 1992, 14–15)
Exodus 24:10 they saw the God of Israel
“There are several statements in the KJV in which there are direct statements and inferences that mortal man cannot see God and live. The most prominent of these are in KJV Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 1 John 4:12, and 1 Timothy 6:15–16. These passages stand in contradiction to other KJV passages wherein it is declared that Moses and seventy elders saw God (Ex. 24:9–10) or that Moses saw God ‘face to face’ (Ex. 33:11) or that God was seen by Isaiah (Isa. 6:1) or Abraham (Gen. 18:1) or Jacob (Gen. 32:30) and a host of others. The JST brings order out of these contradictions by inserting certain concepts that are missing in the KJV.
“For example, in KJV Exodus 33:20 the declaration is made to Moses that he cannot see the face of God, ‘for there shall no man see me, and live.’ The JST explains it more fully: ‘Thou canst not see my face at this time … And no sinful man hath at any time, neither shall there be any sinful man at any time, that shall see my face and live.’ (JST Ex. 33:20.) The clarification is that it is sinful men who cannot see God, but this does not preclude righteous men from such an experience, when the time is right.
“To John 1:18, which says, ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him,’ the JST adds the clarifying information that ‘No man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved’ (JST John 1:19). This means that whenever anyone has had contact with the Father, the Father has borne record to him of the Son. This is consistent with the experiences recorded in Matthew 3:17 after the baptism of Jesus; in Matthew 17:5 on the Mount of Transfiguration; in 3 Nephi 11:7 at the appearance of the resurrected Lord to the Nephites; and in Joseph Smith’s first vision. In each instance, the Father testified of the Son.
“To 1 John 4:12, which reads, ‘No man hath seen God at any time,’ the JST adds ‘except them who believe.’
"To 1 Timothy 6:15–16, which asserts that God is ‘dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see,’ the JST explains: ‘Whom no man hath seen, nor can see, unto whom no man can approach, only he who hath the light and the hope of immortality dwelling in him.’
"In each of these scriptures there is a clarification which removes the contradiction that exists in all other Bibles. To these clarifications we can also add Moses’ explanation as to why he was able to survive the presence of God:
‘But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.’ (Moses 1:11.)
“Without these explanations and restorations to the text that are available only from the JST, biblical statements about whether or not man has ever seen God would remain hopelessly in contradiction.” (Robert J. Matthews, “Plain and Precious Things Restored,” Ensign, July 1982, 19–20)
Charles W. Penrose
In the Old Testament, which gives accounts of God's occasional manifestations of His presence to men upon the earth, we find that they all saw Him as a person, with the form of a man. Moses talked with Him face to face. Ex. 33:11 Nadab and Abihu and seventy Elders of Israel, with Moses and Aaron, went up in the mount.
“And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” (Ex. 24:9-11)
I might refer to a number of passages of Scripture in the Old Testament, showing that whenever God appeared to man, manifesting Himself to man, He appeared in the form of a man. Gen. 32:30 Ex. 33:20-23 (JST) Isa. 6:1 We are told repeatedly in the Scriptures that the children of men are the sons of God. John 1:12 Rom. 8:14-19 Gal. 4:6 1 Jn. 3:1-3 He is the Father and God of the spirits of all flesh. Num. 16:22 Num. 27:16 The spirit of man, which inhabits his body, and which is the life of the body in addition to the blood—blood being the life of the flesh, but the spirit animated all—comes from God, and is the offspring of God. Because of this, we understand what is said in 1 John, iii, 2:
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 Jn. 3:2
God, then, the God of the Bible, who is called Jehovah, the person who manifested Himself to Israel as Jehovah, Ex. 34:14 (JST) Abr. 2:8 is an individual, a personality, and He made man in His image and His likeness. Gen. 1:26-27 Now, if we are the children of God, and if Jesus Christ is the Son of God, John 9:35-38 John 10:36 we can upon that reasoning understand something about what God is like, for there is an eternal principle in heaven and on earth, that every seed begets of its kind, every seed brings forth in its own likeness and character. (Journal of Discourses, 26:18)
Exodus 24:15 Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount
“When the children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, the Lord reminded them, ‘I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself’ (Ex. 19:4). Even though God dwelt in the heavens, he spoke from Mount Sinai, the Mountain of the Lord’s House. He brought them there to make a covenant with them and to create ‘a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation’ (Ex. 19:6).
“The tabernacle the Lord commanded Moses to build bears similarity to Mount Sinai (see Heb. 8:5). Both had a three-level structure. First, an altar was constructed at the base of the mountain where all of Israel could sacrifice to the Lord. Similarly, the tabernacle had an outer court where Israel could make their sacrifices at the altar.
“The next level was higher up the mountain. There, after their sanctification (see Ex. 24:4–8), Moses took Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 elders. There they saw and conversed with the ‘God of Israel’ and ate in his presence, even as the priests were only allowed to eat the shewbread while in the Holy Place (see Ex. 24:9–11).
“The highest level was the top of the mountain, where only Moses could go and where he received the law (see Ex. 24:2, 12–18). Similarly, the tabernacle contained the Holy of Holies, which represented the presence of the Lord. Only the high priest was allowed to enter these quarters, once a year, on the Day of Atonement. The tablets of the law of Moses were kept in this holy room.
“Mount Sinai was the first sanctuary for the children of Israel. It was there that Moses received direction to build the tabernacle, which became a second sanctuary. One can also see that the three levels that comprised both sanctuaries may represent the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial levels in the plan of salvation.
“An understanding of temples and the vital work that takes place within them is one of the great blessings enjoyed by Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that the purpose for gathering the people of God in any age of the world is ‘to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose’ (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 308).” (Todd B. Parker and Robert Norman, “Moses: Witness of Jesus Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 1998, 35)
Exodus 24:17 the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire… in the eyes of the children of Israel
The children of Israel did not see God, but they heard his voice. In Deuteronomy, Moses reminds the people of this day:
…take heed to thyself… lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen…
Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb…
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.
And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
…since the day that God created man upon the earth… hath there been any such thing as this great thing…
Did ever people hear the voice of o God speaking out of the mist of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? (Deut. 4:9-12, 32-33)