Summary: There are some things in life which we must do alone.
A BEATIFIC EPIPHANY OF GOD
Seventy-four people were called by the LORD to ‘come up’ and ‘worship afar off’ (Exodus 24:1). Each one had a part to play, but not all the same part (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:28). The seventy elders, for example, were permitted a limited view of the LORD - and there (so that we know that this was not an ‘out-of-body’ experience) they ate and drank (Exodus 24:10-11).
Now Moses was called to proceed - alone - to receive the tables of stone, with the law and the ten commandments to teach the people. Moses arose, with Joshua his servant, and left specific instructions for Aaron and the elders as to how to conduct the affairs of the people during his absence (Exodus 24:12-14).
As Moses and Joshua made their way out of sight, perhaps the priests and elders were reminded of an earlier incident, when Abraham left his servants and took his son Isaac into a mountain apart to worship (Genesis 22:5).
There are some things in life which we must do alone. Whereas Joshua accompanied Moses at the start of his onward journey, only Moses entered the near presence of the LORD (Exodus 24:13).
You see, at the time when Moses turned to go down from the mountain (cf. Exodus 32:15), Joshua appears to have met Moses on the mountainside. Joshua had been on a lower level than Moses had been, but on a higher level than where they had left the elders: and certainly, well above the camp (cf. Exodus 32:17).
Christian personnel must each function at their own appropriate level, and each in accordance with their own gifts and calling. The pattern was later set that the LORD would speak to Moses ‘face to face’, but Joshua would remain in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 33:11).
At the time of the transfiguration of Jesus, the main body of the disciples were left with the crowd, to minister to their needs (cf. Luke 9:38-40). Peter, James and John were the only witnesses to Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah (cf. Luke 9:30-31).
Peter, James and John were also brought into proximity with Jesus’ open-air prayer-closet in Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 26:36-37), but could not stay awake long enough to enter fully into His private anguish there (cf. Matthew 26:40). That belonged to Jesus alone.
As Moses went up higher, a cloud covered the top of the mountain. Moses was enveloped in the shekinah glory of the LORD, for six days: but only on the seventh day did the LORD speak (Exodus 24:15-16). There is a time when our worship will involve quiet contemplation as we ‘wait’ for the Lord. Then we must listen to the Lord, with a view to obey Him (cf. Matthew 17:5).
To the children of Israel down below, the sight of the glory of the LORD was as a devouring fire on the top of the mountain (Exodus 24:17). What had been a pillar of light to the Israelites had been darkness to the Egyptians (cf. Exodus 14:20). But now it was the Israelites themselves who wilfully descended into darkness (cf. Exodus 32:35).
Yet Moses was allowed into the midst of the cloud on the top of the mountain - and remained there for ‘forty days and forty nights’ (Exodus 24:18). There he received the law, and interceded for the people. Jesus, in His turn, was received up into heaven, and ever intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:34).