|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #143, 144 and 145|
14 August, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have been tracing the Scriptural account of God's Great Plan for the redemption and restoration of His Creation to that condition which will accord with His approval. The story starts in the first Book of the Bible, Genesis, and continues onward through each of the Books of that Holy Library to the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the aged St. John, on the Island of Patmos.
In this, our present series of Bible Studies, we began essentially with the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, and, proceeding onward through the family history of Abraham into the lives of Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and the sojourn of the Tribes of Israel in Egypt, we have recently followed Israel's Exodus emergence into a new and different type of life in the Wilderness of Sinai. Here, at the foot of that Mountain, the Children of Israel have lately, through their leader and intermediary, Moses, made agreement to be the special people and nation of Yahweh (Jehovah), the Almighty God of the whole earth, Whose Laws they are receiving together with an obligation by promise to observe the same.
In last week's study, we saw how Moses brought down to the people, gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, God's instructions concerning the national ritual of making a sacrificial burnt offering, using the sprinkling of blood of the covenant in symbolic substitutionary atonement for sin. This would, as later revealed, teach of the forthcoming sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the Cross for His nation and each willing individual within it. In accord with our usual practice, we shall be reading a portion of Scripture taken at this time in its sequential order out of the Book of Exodus. Our Bible passage starts at Exodus 24:9, in the following words.
9. Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
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.
11. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.
The Companion Bible note concerning verse 9 indicates simply that this is the fourth ascent of Moses. If we pause to let our minds picture that scene, we will see a man of some eighty years of age, accompanied by seventy three other men of mature countenance, starting to make his way up the arid, rocky steeps of Mount Sinai towards the majestic swirling clouds and awe-inspiring, vibrantly powerful, hidden radiance at the summit, where The Almighty God awaits his arrival.
The tribe of Levi would be represented in Moses himself, by Aaron who is Moses' brother, and by Nadab and Abihu who were Aaron's sons and thus Moses' nephews. The seventy others, elders, would be the tribal leadership drawn from, and representing, all the tribes of Israel. Perhaps these were the "able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness", whom Moses had selected in Exodus 18:19-26 to be judges over the people. Thus, seventy-four individuals are joining in this present ascent of Mount Sinai.
Just how many would be drawn from each tribe is not certainly revealed, for there were actually twelve other tribes besides Levi, making a total of thirteen, and the privilege of such participation might, if not equally apportioned, have been a cause of understandable hurt and resentment.
This is due to the fact that Joseph, as you may remember, had been given by his father, Jacob, the birthright double portion of two tribes developing out of his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, each of whom had been granted by that Patriarch the privilege of heading tribes in Genesis 48:5. Combining these two of Joseph's tribes in one, under Joseph's name, although the pillars mentioned in Exodus 24:4 are twelve in number, "according to the twelve tribes of Israel", does not appear to make for a satisfactory division. That number of seventy might be taken to mean that six elders were to represent each of the ten non-levitical tribes in Israel apart from Joseph's two tribes. Ephraim and Manasseh might possibly, then, have been granted representation by five elders each.
Keil and Delitzsch point out one possible solution to the problem. When Jacob and his sons went down into Egypt, as described in Genesis 46:27, that verse ends with the statement "all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten." This apparently included the Patriarch himself, together with his sons and grandsons; all who comprised the family of Israel including Joseph's family, when Israel was finally assembled in Egypt, and who themselves were to become the founders of families. While the detailed listing of named individuals in Genesis, when closely compared with the later account of Numbers 26 reveals some minor variances, Keil and Delitzsch are at pains to provide suitable detailed explanations for each of these on the basis of logical probability. Thus we might take the Genesis reference to "seventy souls", not only as numerically symbolic (the divine number 3 combining with the world number, 4, and these multiplied by ten, being the seal of completeness), but as giving rise to the number of elders selected in Exodus 24:4, being the elders of the families descended from those listed when Israel entered Egypt.
On the present passage, Keil and Delitzsch state: "Through their consecration with the blood of the covenant, the Israelites were qualified to ascend the mountain and there behold the God of Israel and celebrate the covenant meal; of course, not the whole of the people, for that would have been impracticable on physical grounds, but the nation in the persons of its representatives, viz. the seventy elders, with Aaron and his two sons. The fact that the latter were summoned along with the elders had reference to their future election to the priesthood, the bearers of which were to occupy the position of mediators between Jehovah and the nation, an office for which this was a preparation."
The special honour of being called by name to accompany their father and uncle up the sacred slopes of Sinai may have set the stage for a test which would reveal a most serious character flaw in Abihu and Nadab, the two eldest sons of Aaron, for on subsequent evidence it would appear that they were prone to pride and conceit, later manifested in an exceedingly presumptuous incident recorded in Leviticus 10:1 and Numbers 3:4 which brought about their deaths. The privilege of ascending to meet with God could well have provided a testing opportunity to feed this tendency towards presumption. If we seek out the name of Abihu in Young's Concordance, we will find a small introductory note which tells of their contempt for God's dispositions. It states of Abihu: "A son of Aaron, who was destroyed with his brother Nadab for offering strange fire."
The statement in verse 10, that "they saw the God of Israel" must be taken, according to the Commentaries, as a visionary sight. The Companion Bible notes "Heb. hazah, to see with the mental eye, or in vision", and follows with a list of references in which various prophets experience such visions. The New Bible Commentary, in reference to this passage, states "A sacrifice involved a sacrificial meal, and Moses, following the command of verse 1, took the elders up to the mount, there to eat the flesh of the sacrifice and so to commune with the God to whom it was offered. While they were eating God granted to them, as a token of His favour, a vision of Himself which revealed Him as the God who not only thunders in wrath at all iniquity, but whose glory is also manifested in surpassing loveliness (10). God has said, 'There shall no man see me, and live' (xxxiii.20), and it must therefore have been only some reflection of His person which these men saw, but even so it was a marked favour that they were able to see Him thus and yet not die (11)."
The New Bible Commentary (Revised) states "The elders eat the flesh of the peace-offerings and behold the inner brightness of what was, from without, the darkened cloud. They see the glory of God in the theophany... and, far from being consumed, feast in his presence in the glory of surpassing beauty."
Keil and Delitzsch are worth quoting here. They say "...we must regard it as a vision of God in some form of manifestation which rendered the divine nature discernible to the human eye. Nothing is said as to the form in which God manifested Himself." They note that since Moses saw the form of Jehovah in Numbers 12:8, "we may fairly conclude, notwithstanding the fact that, according to ver. 2, the representatives of the nation were not to draw near to Jehovah, and without any danger of contradicting Deut. iv. 12 and 15, that they also saw a form of God. Only this form is not described, in order that no encouragement might be given to the inclination of the people to make likenesses of Jehovah."
In the passage found in Deuteronomy 4:11-20, Moses reminds the following generation of Israelites of the experience of the general gathering of Israel at Horeb when they stood at the foot of the mountain. He states in verse 12 "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", and in verse 15, "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire". The experience of the elders at the covenant meal of the peace-offering, which they ate at a location part of the way up the mountain, may have been something more understandable than this.
However, in later centuries, the prophets did not elaborate upon the descriptions given here. Isaiah 6:1-5 says simply: "I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple", and Ezekiel, saw in his vision of Ezekiel 1:26 "as the appearance of a man" but the form is not described.
As our time is up, and the subject of seeing God is an important one, I shall save some concluding thoughts on this subject for our next Bible Study programme.
21 August, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
We have been tracing the Scriptural account of God's Great Plan for the restoration of His Creation to a condition which will receive His approval. We began our present studies in the first Book of the Bible, Genesis, and we have continued onward through each of the earlier chapters of Exodus to our present study, which is found in Exodus 24. The story involves the emergence of Israel, the descendants of the Patriarchal line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, out of Egyptian bondage in the miraculous experience of The Exodus, and into the wilderness of Sinai where they are meeting with Yahweh (Jehovah), the Almighty God of their fathers, and making a covenant with Him in which they will become His chosen national instrument in the setting forward of His divine purposes.
On our last programme, entitled "Seeing God - Part I", we discovered that, following the ceremonial ritual of blood sacrifice in which, by God's instruction, the blood of sacrificial animals was splashed upon an altar at the foot of the mountain, and sprinkled upon the people to symbolise redemption from their sins, Moses had been commanded to bring with him, to a position part of the way towards the summit of Mount Sinai, the seventy elders of the tribes, together with Aaron and Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, there to participate, as representatives of the whole nation, in the covenant meal of the peace-offerings before The LORD.
At that time, we read that "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."
That description may remind us of a similar description found in chapter four of that record of symbolic visions, the Book of Revelation. There we read a passage which speaks of one seated upon a throne surrounded by a rainbow and before which is a sea of glass like crystal. Twenty-four elders in white raiment with gold crowns are pictured seated about the throne, and four living creatures, the symbols of Israel's four chief tribes, surround it with praise and honour.
Of the Sinai experience, Keil and Delitzsch point out that "God was willing that His people should share in this blessedness, for 'He laid not His hand upon the nobles of Israel,' i.e. did not attack them. 'They saw God, and did eat and drink,' i.e. they celebrated thus near to Him the sacrificial meal of the peace-offerings, which had been sacrificed at the conclusion of the covenant, and received in this covenant meal a foretaste of the precious and glorious gifts with which God would endow and refresh His redeemed people in His kingdom. As the promise in chap. xix. 5,6, with which God opened the way for the covenant at Sinai, set clearly before the nation that had been rescued from Egypt the ultimate goal of its divine calling; so this termination of the ceremony was intended to give to the nation, in the persons of its representatives, a tangible pledge of the glory of the goal that was set before it. The sight of the God of Israel was a fore-taste of the blessedness of the sight of God in eternity, and the covenant meal upon the mountain before the face of God was a type of the marriage supper of the Lamb..."
Where verse 10 speaks of these representatives of the people seeing God, we must also draw into our consideration the following New Testament references. John 1:18 states "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." This is parallel to the statement found in I John 4:12: "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." In John 6:46, Christ states "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father."
Thus it is manifest that the account which we have read in Exodus 24 must concern some kind of visionary appearance sufficient to thrill the onlookers, but not so defining as to bear repeating, for men are always quick to attempt artistic renditions of that which attracts their attention or worship, and such futile attempts to replicate the holy beauty of the Divine Presence are unavoidably totally demeaning and inadequate, however the artist or artisan may attempt to apply his craft.
It is sometimes said that we can see the beauty of God in the natural world and the universe which He has created for our pleasure, and that may to a certain extent be true, for we can see something of the mind of a creator of an object in studying the object itself. Certainly the Psalmist has made this theme the subject of many Psalms.
Psalm 8:1 says "O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens." Verses 3 and 4 continue: "When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Psalm 19:1 says "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork."
However, the totality of Creation is quite beyond us, and so must be our appraisal of the God Who made it all! We are finite, and He is infinite. We are limited in vision and in comprehension. He is omniscient and omnipotent. Thus we will not arrive at anything even approaching the understanding necessary to fully appreciate the God with Whom we must interact, by His invitation, and on His terms. If we see anything of Him, it will also be by His invitation and design. Perhaps that fact will make the following passage especially meaningful.
In John 14:8-11, we read:
8. Philip saith unto him (Christ) Lord, shew us the Father and it sufficeth us.
9. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
10. Believest thou not that I am in the Father and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
11. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
In this passage there is a great deal to ponder, for Yahweh, (Jehovah), the God of Israel at Sinai allowed His nearest servants only a visionary view of His form. In Exodus 33:11, which we shall be studying on a future programme, the LORD spoke to Moses, "face to face", but in verse 18, Moses makes a request of the Lord saying "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory." To this the LORD replies in the words "Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live." In order to partially meet the request of Moses, the LORD makes this concession: "it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen."
Why, one might ask, would the LORD order this arrangement? It can, perhaps, be explained on the basis that the LORD, in the strength of His glory, empowered as the Perfect Judge, cannot look upon sin without destroying it. It is true that God talked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they sinned. He even talked with them while questioning them regarding their sin after the Fall, but at that point He, as their Judge, had to explain the death penalty which they must henceforth suffer for their transgression. But what form of appearance The Almighty took, even then, is not recorded.
We must accept the fact that it is only in the form of Jesus Christ during the years in which He had departed the glory which He had with The Father in His own right, in order to visit and dwell among us, that sinners might look upon Him and live.
Christ's prayer, which He spoke just before entering the Garden of Gethsemane, and which is recorded in John 17:5, is extremely revealing and significant. It is this: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
There is a beautiful and exceedingly apt description of Christ in the second verse of the well-known Christmas hymn, "Hark! the herald angels sing." Consider the lines "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail, the Incarnate Deity! Pleased as Man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel." Here is the human manifestation of God, born to take man's place in an execution for man's sins. Here we may look upon Him, for as He takes our place and our judgment falls upon Him, we, being thus accounted sinless before the throne of judgment, may share His place in after ages in His glory.
May each who contemplates these words evaluate the position that we hold in God's provision, for in John 10:7, Christ stated to all who would listen, those wonderful words "I am the door." May we enter that door to Christ's sheepfold, if we have not yet done so. We shall continue our studies on our next programme.
28 August, 1994
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our ongoing series of Bible Studies has taken us through the Genesis and Exodus accounts of The Almighty God's unfolding plans for the reconstitution of His Creation into a more perfect order compatible with His most perfect will. We began the present series of studies with the call of Abram, and traced the story of God's people as they descended through Isaac and Jacob to become the Tribes of Israel. We watched as these emerged from Egyptian bondage in The Exodus, and now, at Mount Sinai we have reached that moment wherein The Almighty God has revealed Himself to Moses, Aaron, Aaron's two sons, and the seventy elders of the people upon that mount.
On this occasion, it is recorded in Exodus 24:10: "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." Lest we be misled by those words, we must remember that later, in Deuteronomy 4:12, the people at the foot of the mountain are reminded that God spake "out of the midst of the fire", and that they saw "no similitude; only ye heard a voice."
In the last two studies, we have dealt with the topic "Seeing God", and I think that there is, perhaps, sufficient remaining of this subject that we might take time today to round out the matter for our present purposes. We saw that this visionary sight must have been of some kind which would satisfy the meaning of those words, yet, as Christ told the Jews in John 6:46 "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father", a statement which is parallel to a statement found in both John 1:18 and I John 4:12: "No man hath seen God at any time".
In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:8, Jesus said to those who had gathered on that occasion to listen to His wonderful and gracious teaching: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." We might take from this the alternative thought that those whose hearts are not cleansed by the Blood of Christ will not be enabled to see God and live, for He, in His power and glory, will not look upon sin without judgment.
Sin is the transgression of the law, as we learn in I John 3:4, so the law which Moses has been receiving for the nation on Mount Sinai is that guide by which we may assess sinful thoughts and behaviour. With that in mind, let us read the next verse in our Scriptures, Exodus 24:12.
12. And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
The God Who is here giving to Moses that law on tablets of stone for the instruction of the nation is One God. However, Scripture provides us with many names of this One God, and one way by which we may approach the matter of "seeing God" which we have not as yet made a focus of study is through an examination of His many names.
The other day as I reviewed a tape of a recent broadcast, I realised that though I had intended to quote the first verse of Psalm 8, I had, by a slip of the tongue, used the titles for The Almighty God which the Psalmist gives to Him in Psalm 7:1, rather than those recorded in Psalm 8:1. Psalm 7:1 begins with the words "O LORD my God", while Psalm 8:1 begins "O LORD our Lord."
While the title that I used did not in fact change the thrust of the point that I was seeking to make regarding the ability of man to see God through the wonders of His workmanship in the Universe, it came to me that for a brief moment I ought to take a short look at the precise forms of these titles in the original Hebrew. While in Psalm 7:1 the Hebrew says, in effect, the words "Yahweh" my "Elohim", Psalm 8:1 says "Yahweh" our "adon." This might make little difference to the average reader. However in Scripture the title "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" is specifically applied in connection with God's interactions with His Israel peoples.
In the A.V., the first line of Psalm 8:1 contains the word "LORD", spelled entirely in capital letters, followed by the word "Lord" spelled with only the first letter capitalised. Wherever we read the word "LORD", spelled entirely in capital letters, that form of the word was used by the translators of the A.V. to translate the Hebrew name "Yahweh", which we often hear pronounced "Jehovah", or the less frequent contraction, "Jah" which, incidentally, is used in practically every language, at the end of the word "Hallelujah", meaning "praise God".
Where the translators used the same word, "Lord" (or "Lords"), but printed the last three letters, "ord", in lower case rather than capitals, the original word in Hebrew is "Adon" (or "Adonai"). In order to make the distinction clear, those who translated The New English Bible translated Psalm 8:1 "O LORD our sovereign."
The Companion Bible, in its Appendix 4, contains a useful one page study of "The Divine Names and Titles" which are found in the Old Testament, and the Thompson Chain Reference Bible "Condensed Cyclopedia of Topics and Texts" treats of these under reference numbers 1867 to 1872 inclusive and number 3633.
There is also a useful study in Appendix 98 of The Companion Bible, which runs to more than four pages, entitled "The Divine Names and Titles In The New Testament". Appendix 101, which follows that one, covers approximately another page in examining the use of the word "Pneuma", that is to say, "Spirit", in the New Testament. Here again the Thompson Chain Reference Bible treats of a listing of these under notes numbered 3632, in which Christ is indicated by 103 titles, number 3633 in which God the Father is indicated by at least 15, with further subsidiary references, and number 3634 which lists 23 names for The Holy Spirit. I would commend these references to the attention of any of those who desire to conduct a Bible Study on the subject. Obviously, we cannot at this time examine each and every one of those titles listed in the references. Perhaps for the present, as we are dealing with Exodus 24, we may confine ourselves to a brief look at the Old Testament names of God.
The note in that Companion Bible Appendix 4, listing the names of God in the Old Testament, explains that the word "Elohim" occurs 2,700 times. "Its first occurrence connects it with creation, and gives it its essential meaning as the Creator. It indicates His relation to mankind as His creatures... (it stands in contrast with Jehovah as indicating covenant relationship). 'Elohim is God the Son, the living 'Word' with creature form to create (John 1.1. Col. 1.15-17. Rev. 3.14); and later, with human form to redeem (John 1.14)... In this creature form He appeared to the Patriarchs, a form not temporarily assumed. 'Elohim is indicated (as in A.V.) by ordinary small type, 'God'."
Of Jehovah, The Companion Bible note states: "While Elohim is God as the Creator of all things, Jehovah is the same God in covenant relation to those whom He has created (Cp. 2 Chron. 18.31). Jehovah means the Eternal, the Immutable One, He Who WAS, and IS, and IS TO COME. The Divine definition is given in Gen. 21. 33. He is especially, therefore, the God of Israel; and the God of those who are redeemed, and are thus now 'in Christ'. We can say 'My God,' but not 'My Jehovah', for Jehovah is 'My God'. Jehovah is indicated (as in A.V.) by small capital letters, 'LORD'; and by 'GOD' when it occurs in combination with Adonai, in which case Lord GOD = Adonai Jehovah."
The name Jehovah is combined with ten other words, which form what are known as 'the Jehovah Titles.'" The Appendix lists these. They are:
1. Jehovah-Jireh = Jehovah will see, or provide. Gen 22:14.
2. Jehovah-Ropheka = Jehovah that healeth thee. Ex. 15:26.
3. Jehovah-Nissi = Jehovah my banner. Ex. 17:15.
4. Jehovah-MeKaddishkem = Jehovah that doth sanctify you. Ex. 31:13. Lev. 20:8; 21:8; 22:32. Ezek. 20:12.
5. Jehovah-Shalom = Jehovah [send] peace. Judg. 6:24.
6. Jehovah-ZeBaoth = Jehovah of hosts. I Sam. 1:3 and frequently.
7. Jehovah-Zidkenu = Jehovah our righteousness. Jer. 23:6; 33:16.
8. Jehovah-Shammah = Jehovah is there. Ezek.48:35.
9. Jehovah-Elyon = Jehovah most high. Ps. 7:17.
10. Jehovah-Roi = Jehovah my Shepherd. Ps. 23:1.
The Companion Bible Appendix continues by listing other titles. JAH is Jehovah in a special sense and relation. Jehovah as having BECOME our Salvation... He Who IS, and WAS, and IS TO COME.
EL is essentially the Almighty, though the word is never so rendered... EL is Elohim in all His strength and power... God the Omnipotent whereas Elohim is God the Creator, putting His omnipotence into operation Eloah... is God Who wills and orders all, and Who is to be the one object of the worship of His people... . El is sometimes transliterated in proper names Immanu-'el, Beth-'el, etc... .
ELOAH is Elohim, Who is to be worshipped. Eloah is God in connection with His Will rather than His power. The first occurrence associates this name with worship (Deut. 32:15-17). Hence it is the title used whenever the contrast (latent or expressed) is with false gods or idols. Eloah is essentially "the living God" in contrast to inanimate idols.
ELYON first occurs in Gen. 14:18 with El, and is rendered "the most high (God)". It is El and Elohim, not as the powerful Creator, but as "the possessor of heaven and earth." Hence the name is associated with Christ as the Son of "the Highest" (Luke 1:35). It is Elyon, as possessor of the earth, Who divides the nations "their inheritance." Elyon is the dispenser of God's blessings in the earth.
There are certain other names of The Almighty, of great importance, which I shall have to leave for our next programme as we have not time today to complete our study of this topic. However, already, I think that we may, in even this partial compendium of names, "see" God as it were, through all His varied attributes in relationship with ourselves, as the Creator and the Husband of His people. He is Provider, Healer, Banner, Sanctifier, Prince of Peace and Lord of hosts, Our Righteousness, Constantly Present, The Most High, our Shepherd Who IS, WAS and IS TO COME, The Almighty God. All this is seen in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, willing to shed His blood in our place. What a wonderful God! We shall continue these studies on our next programme.
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