The highest blessing that the Bible presents to us is that we might have communion with God, that we sinners are received through Jesus Christ into God’s fellowship. That is the highest blessing that the Bible knows.
We read in I John 1:3, “And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” Yet, how dull our appreciation of this great and wonderful truth can be, and how quickly it can slip away. When in trouble, how quickly our minds turn to human help for comfort. When we are dejected and feeling alone, cut off, how often do we draw comfort from this confession that the Lord is my friend? And when we take account of our status, of ourselves, and we begin to compare our wealth and achievements and our place in this life with others, do we say that it all does not matter, for we have been received into fellowship with God and that is the greatest blessing?
So often we do not think of fellowship with the living God of the Bible as the greatest of all conceivable good because of our sinful nature. By nature our eyes do not see God for whom He is, nor do they see ourselves for what we are. And we refuse to reckon with the great chasm between God and man. Man can be staggered at the distance in space between stars, and he can be impressed at the distance between the world’s great men of learning or of sports and himself. Yet we are not conscious of or staggered at the great distance between God and man and then the wonder that we are received into communion with God! Oh, the wonder of being brought into the fellowship of the living God!
Do you possess this wonder?
Are you sick? Do you experience death in your body? Are you lonely, depressed, feeling rejected? Are you struggling with a besetting sin which is seeking to imprison you in its chains? Are you afraid? The greatest possible good that the Bible declares is the blessing of communion and fellowship with the living God through Jesus Christ. If that is given to us by a wonder of His grace, and if we have that by faith, then we have everything.
There is a very beautiful incident of communion with God that is recorded in the Bible in Exodus 24:9-11. Take your Bible in hand and turn to this passage. Those verses record a most important moment in Israel’s history – in fact, a moment that they would be reminded of over and over again. They have come to Mount Sinai. Moses, who has led them out of Egypt, has brought them to the mountain where they have heard the voice of God speaking all the words of the Ten Commandments, and they have seen the pillar of fire and cloud descend upon the mount. All the words that God spoke from the mount have been written in the book of the covenant. Oxen have been sacrificed; blood has been sprinkled over the people. God has ratified, or confirmed, His covenant. God has performed His oath to them that He is their God and they shall be His people, and it was their calling to walk before Him and be perfect.
Now we read that Moses and Aaron, and Aaron’s two sons, and the seventy elders representing that nation, are called by God to come up to the mount to eat and to drink. We read that they saw the God of Israel in all of His glory and beauty; that God did not lay His hand upon them, but that they were received into His presence. They had communion with God.
The first thing that we want to note about this is that the entrance into God’s fellowship is only through the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the first thing that is being taught in that passage in Exodus. In verse 9 of Exodus 24, the first word is very important. We read, “Then went up Moses and Aaron.” That word, “then,” indicates that they were received into God’s fellowship on top of the mount only after something else had transpired. What that something else was is related to us in the first eight verses of the chapter. We read that Moses, after having been called up to worship the living God, did not immediately go, but first wrote the words of the covenant in the book and sacrificed oxen. Specifically we read in verse 8 that Moses “took the blood (of the oxen), 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.” Then, that is, after the sprinkling of that blood representing the blood of Jesus Christ and teaching us that the way to God’s communion is only through the giving of the life of Christ for our sins, then they were received into fellowship with the living God. The idea, therefore, is that before we can come to God’s face with joy, our sins must be forgiven. They must be washed away in the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ.
That this is indeed the interpretation of this passage is made plain from Hebrews 9:19-22. Please turn to that chapter. There you see that the Scriptures offer their own commentary on the event we read about in Exodus 24. “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 (or no sending away of sins)” (Heb. 9:19-22).
The reality that is being taught in this incident of Moses being called up to the mount to eat and drink with God is that the way to God’s fellowship is only first of all, through the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the gospel. The gospel declares that, by nature, we are strangers, enemies, to God; we have not the right nor the desire to come to God; we have no natural access to the living God; our sin (yours and mine) would mean that wrath and fiery judgment would fall upon our heads if we attempted to come before His holy presence; we have no desire to do so. It is only through the Son of His love that we are received and made worthy. Listen to these Scriptures: .
Ephesians 2:13: We who “were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 1:7; “In whom (that is, in Christ) we have redemption through his blood Hebrews 10:19: “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
The way into God’s communion is only through the blood of Jesus Christ. That is, only on the basis of His offering His perfect life upon the cross in the place of all those given to Him of His Father; only by the offering of His own body upon the tree (as we read in I Peter 2), by which sacrifice all of our sins are paid and the wrath of God owed to our sins was vanquished; only through that blood are we received into the fellowship of God.
You see, God’s fellowship, the fellowship and communion of the living God, is not open to all. God’s communion is not the cheapest thing on earth, ready for the asking, and you may barter with God for it as if God is desperate. The question which confronts men and women in the gospel of Jesus Christ is not, first of all, when will you come? But the question is: how can you come? And the Word of God which we preach is this: not, first of all, God will take all, you can come to Him easily — it just depends upon your own will and desire! But the gospel we preach is this: how can you, as a sinner, come to God?
First of all, the gospel sears into you the reality that there is a problem, and the problem is yours, and the problem is sin — sin standing before the vision of the holy God and sin which can be removed in no other way except through the blood of Jesus Christ. How can you come? Then the gospel blocks every other way of approach to God except the way of Mount Calvary. You cannot come to God because of your ancestry, because of who your father and mother were; not because of your social status; not because of your works or your looks; your clothes or the kind of car you drive; your humanitarianism; your morality. If you look for those things as being the basis of coming into God’s fellowship, God declares it all to be rubbish. If you try to go to God upon the basis of those things, the flames of His wrath will greet you. No, God has provided the way.
The way is through the blood of Jesus Christ, and by the gift of faith in that blood as being shed, every drop of it, for me. Only through the blood, but surely through the blood of Jesus Christ!
Are you troubled by your sin now? Are you afraid to come to the living God? Do you see yourself as filthy and, with Peter, you hardly dare to say, “Lord, I love Thee”? Then look, by faith, only on the blood sprinkled over you. The gates of righteousness which surround God’s throne open to the blood. And He who sits upon the throne rushes to meet you as you are yet a long way off, to robe you in the linen of the righteousness of Jesus Christ and to put a ring upon your finger.
The passage that we are considering in Exodus 24 not only teaches us that the way to God’s fellowship is through Jesus Christ. It also teaches us something of the wonderful experience of God’s fellowship. It teaches us, first of all, that the experience of God’s fellowship is that we are given the assured knowledge of God. We read that the seventy elders of Israel, with Moses and Aaron, saw the God of Israel. That means that there was a disclosure, a revelation, imparted to them of God in all of His majesty, power, and beauty. That they saw the God of Israel does not mean that with their earthly, physical eye they took in the being of God — something which is forever impossible. We read in I Timothy 1 that God is the only adorable, invisible God whom no man hath seen nor can see. In fact, God said to Moses in Exodus 33that no man can see Him and live. God is much too glorious! But the idea is that they were given to understand God’s glory and majesty. God revealed Himself to them through faith so that they were assured that He was the living God.
And that is the experience of faith – the gift of God. By that wonderful gift of God, faith, which is worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, we may declare, “I have seen God. Imparted to me is the blessed knowledge and the assurance of the living God as my God.” You see, communion with God is, first of all, to be given spiritual eyes and to be given spiritual senses and to say, “I know Him. My eyes have seen Him in all of His glory. I am forever changed by that vision.” The world cannot understand or believe this. They charge us with superstition, with emotionalism. Communion with God, fellowship with the living God of the Bible? They say, “Well, if you want me to believe that, let God send thunderbolts and then I will believe.”
But, you see, they would not believe that way. It is only through the blood and by the Spirit of the living God whereby we are assured in our hearts and we are given to see God and we are given to know Him. God must open our hearts and our minds. He must give us to understand the great love wherewith He has loved us. He must give us a new heart to believe His holy Bible. Then He must give us, by faith, the knowledge that we have been redeemed by the price of His own dear Son; we have been forgiven of our sins in the blood of the Lamb of God. Then we are given to know Him. And that knowledge of God produces a love for God, so that to see God is to adore and to admire Him and to surrender completely to Him.
Secondly, the experience of communion with the living God is also to be given to understand God’s grace and His sovereignty. We read, in verse 10, “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.” We do not have time right now to go into all the beautiful significance of that figure. The idea of the paved work of sapphire stones was that God revealed to them these beautiful sapphire stones worked altogether as the foundation upon which God was standing. The idea is of grace. For, first of all, the blue sapphire, that beautiful transparent stone, the sapphire, in its shades of blue, is not the symbol of God’s wrath and judgment but is the symbol of softness, the color of the heavens. God stood upon that which was radiantly blue, the idea of grace; a grace which draws us to Him in wonder; a grace which brings us to His presence so that we may gaze up unto Him as we look up into a blue sky; a grace which quiets our fears and silences our apprehensions.
Still more, that sapphire stone also suggests the idea of sovereignty. The idea of sovereignty is that God is the Ruler of all things and that all power is in His hands. God’s throne and the pavement of sapphire stones reflect the truth that God is the almighty God of grace. That is the idea of communion with God. When you think of communion with God, how do you imagine that? Do you think of that as communion with an equal? Oh, no! He is all-majesty and power. Do you think of communion with God as something which causes you to tremble with dread and you hardly dare lift up your eyes to God? Oh, no! He is gracious. As the blue sky above you in all of its beauty and clearness, so is the mercy and grace of God. You see, to have fellowship with God is to be convicted in your heart that the almighty God has shown His grace to you so that you have a wonderful blessing of belonging to Him forever and ever. Then you may eat and drink, for we read, “they saw God and did eat and drink.” That eating and drinking was the outward sign of communion. You eat and you drink with your friends. In fact, the idea is that God served them a meal, that God evidenced to them that He had received them and would feed them and care for them through His precious love in Christ.
How wonderful this is! And how wonderful it is that by faith, through the Holy Spirit, we might have this, that God might say to us in His Word, “Come up to Me. And I will give you, by grace, the wonderful knowledge that I am the living God.” Then you will have one desire. Your desire will be to live unto God, to the glory of His Name. To do His will will be upon your heart. Your strength and your wisdom and your comfort will be in God. Oh. how blessed it is to have been received into fellowship with God!
Let us pray.
Father, we pray that Thou wilt take the words of the Scriptures that we have sought to explain today, the beautiful incident in Exodus 24, and wilt Thou, by the Spirit of grace, apply it to our hearts that we may walk in communion with the living God. In Jesus’ Name do we pray, Amen.