One of the passages from the Lectionary today is Exodus 24:1-11. The title is “Moses and the elders eat with God”. Right away I smile at this passage, because I enjoy eating and I love God. This can only lead in a good direction.
Right away I ask myself, “Who are Nadab and Abihu again?” Oh that’s right, they’re Aaron’s first sons. They were among the first priests there when the first sacrifices were made in Leviticus 9. How exciting it would have been as “the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people” and they shouted for joy and fell facedown. Although it sounds like the whiplash of holy reverence was too much for Nadab and Abihu. They were big fans of the “shouting for joy”, but not big fans of the “falling facedown”. Which is to say they were so attracted to the high they experienced in God’s presence, they seemed to forget the commands of their Holy God. In Leviticus 10 we see them filling their censers with incense and fire. I can imagine them being so excited to “keep the party going”, they completely neglected why they were there in the first place. In response, fire came out from the presence of God and consumed them. After their death, Moses says effectively, “Well…God did say this would happen.” Their father Aaron remained silent. (Leviticus 10:3)
Yet here, the kids are still okay, and joining this important meal. We don’t often think of these “70 elders”, but they were leaders used by God to help Moses share the load of leading God’s people. But before we get to hear what’s happening, the author reminds us Moses had come and told the people all the ordinances/law, and the people responded with one voice, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” Then Moses wrote the words down, made an altar with 12 pillars (for the 12 tribes), then sacrifices were made. Blood was used to cover the altar, then half of it was saved in basins. He reads the covenant words again. The people repeat their words aloud. Then – gross, Moses takes the remaining blood and splashes it all over the people.
How often do we acknowledge the bloody aspects of covenant language? It’s not a world we live in, nor have we lived in it for a long time. We make promises and commitments all the time, but we also break them or change our mind – and have gotten quite good at making such a break seem altruistic at times. But here we are reminded – commitments that echo the Loving Faithfulness of God are not ones that we should take lightly.
So we join the present moment again, where Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu are joined by the 70 elders going up to the presence of God. I imagine there’s at least a little fear and trembling, as they are humbly honored to have been invited. Do we feel at least a little of this humility today when we enter into our times of worship? It’s probably important to purposefully attune to this heart in response to His invitation.
“They saw the God of Israel.” This is a tough one, because we know from so many other scriptures that no one can look upon the fullness of God and survive. So we can only wonder how God would have appeared to them in these moments. How often might God appear in our world still today, unknown to us? We know that “under His feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.” What in the world? This is wonderful for our imaginations, and it must have been awe-inspiring for those who came that day. I believe the realm where God exists fully is right here in our midst – though presently unseen. Not “up in the clouds”. I wonder if God appeared in a survivable physical form, and His realm where He stood was visible to them as well. Some Jewish traditions even believed the original tablets God gave Moses the commands on were hewn from this same beautiful blue. Though if this were true, surely writers would have noted the remarkable color again.
“And they all had a wonderful meal together.” Not dying, of course. God allowed them to survive this meal together. Perhaps this was Jesus – the bodily fullness of God. God in the flesh. Maybe this was the same person Jacob wrestled with in Genesis 32:30. They ate and drank. Later, Moses would head up to the mountain to meet with God, but today we allow ourselves to simply sit with this moment. We’re invited to join this divine banquet, noticing where the common ground becomes dazzling blue in the presence of God.
Which details are your mind and heart drawn to?
May we recognize the blue beneath our feet, as we go in the name and presence of Jesus today…