Summary: It was by grace that Moses and the elders of Israel could stand before God. In the same way, we have a place at God’s table - by his grace.
Text: Exodus 24: 3-11 Series: Pentecost 10 B
Author: Rev. Charles F. Degner August 17, 2003
"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." NIV
Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. There is a picture that is hanging on the wall in Katie Hermel’s room in the nursing home. Katie can’t communicate anymore, so my pastoral visit consists of reading portions of God’s Word to her, praying with her, and singing hymns. As I am doing this by her bedside, the picture is in my line of vision. It’s a picture of an elegant table set in a flat and arid place – probably the salt flats of Utah. It is a very long table, and the way the camera has taken the picture, it looks as if the table goes on forever into the distance. As I look at that table, it reminds me that God has set a table for us in the presence of our enemies, a heavenly table. And one of those places at that table has my name on it.
In our text for today, God gives Moses and the elders of Israel more than a picture. He gives them a moment when they can sit at that table and eat a meal before the Lord, prepared by God for his people. As we study this story, we want to remember that
THERE IS A PLACE AT GOD’S TABLE FOR YOU.
1. Do we deserve a place at God’s table?
The answer to that question is obviously, “NO!” Our text says, "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. We have to give the people of Israel credit. They said they would do EVERYTHING God wrote down in the law. Would people today in our culture say as much? I don’t think so. You hear people today treating the Bible as if it were an ancient document that has to be rewritten and reinterpreted according to the laws of our culture today. Since our culture today doesn’t recognize homosexuality as a sin, we’d better rip out those pages that say it is. And what about sex before marriage? People like to fudge on that one, too, don’t they? And should we take this third commandment so seriously? Do you realize that God said that someone who worked on the Sabbath Day should be stoned? Isn’t that much to harsh? But the people of Israel said, “EVERYTHING the LORD has said we will do.” We cannot fault the children of Israel for picking and choosing which commandments they wanted to obey, and which ones they would ignore.
But did they follow through with what they said? This is chapter 24 of Exodus. In chapter 32, the people became impatient when Moses didn’t come down the mountain for a long time, and they asked Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship instead of God. It is easy to SAY that you will keep the commandments. It is not so easy to do.
We know that by experience, don’t we? We have stood before this altar of God in this sanctuary, and we have confessed our sins before God, and we have pledged that we will put our sins behind us. And how long did it take for us to go back to our sins? Children, when you left church, did you ever get into an argument with your brother or sister in the car, fighting over something so silly as who gets to sit next to the window? How many of us have asked God to create a clean heart in us, and then went back to watching the same filth on television that makes our hearts unclean? Did you ever gossip about your neighbor on the way home from church, a fellow Christian who joined you at the communion table and shared the body and blood of Jesus with you? How quickly we forget God’s commandments and follow our sinful hearts!