August 1, 2021
Pastor John Hering
3 Moses came and reported to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances. Then all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord.
He got up early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He set up twelve memorial stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young Israelite men, who offered whole burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings of cattle to the Lord. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and he splashed half of the blood on the altar. 7 He took the Book of the Covenant and read it out loud to the people and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do. We will obey.”
8 Moses took the blood and splashed it on the people. He said, “Look, here is the blood of the covenant, which the Lord made with you by means of all these words.”
9 Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up. 10 They saw the God of Israel. Under his feet they saw what looked like a pavement of sapphire as clear as the sky. 11 The Lord did not lay his hand on the dignitaries of the people of Israel. They gazed at God, and they ate and drank.
Relationships come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. So when the avid sports guy gets to see his favorite team on his TV he gives the satellite installation guy a big hug and we laugh because strangers in a professional relationship just don’t do that. On the other hand, there are those with whom you are in such a close relationship that you don’t mind walking around in your pajamas in front of them. That’s a more personal relationship. So, you have relationships with thousands of people from the self-checkout person at Tom Thumb to the waitress at Hubbards, the mailman, the pool service guy and the Uber Eats delivery person. Relationships are formed depending on behavior, personality, level of communication, expectations, distance, frequency of meeting, personal space or even romance. So, what is your relationship with God like? If your behavior, personality, communication and personal space are the determining factors for your relationship with God, do you see yourself in a good relationship with God? Do you behave differently around God than you would otherwise? Do you realize you’re basing your relationship with God on your behavior—and your behavior stinks! All our righteous acts are filthy rags in God’s sight. However, Praise be to God that our relationship with God is not dependent on our actions, but on God’s Actions. If our relationship with God were dependent on our actions we would join every person alive, or who has ever lived, standing under the well-deserved wrath of God and spend an eternity suffering in hell. However, today in Exodus 24 Moses teaches us to
Remember That We Are Bonded By The Blood
When we read the accounts of the Children of Israel the chapters are filled with many occasions when the relationship between the people and God was terrible. They are pictured as a complaining, unsatisfied, selfish people. Then we read Exodus 24 that shatters our perception of the Israelites being chronic complainers. “3 Moses came and reported to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances. Then all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.” Did you laugh because of their answer? You know the history of the Israelites. But, you also know the history of our uncompromising God who had a promise to keep to send a Savior. Let’s take them at their word. Perhaps they remembered the Lord God who overpowered all the Egyptian gods, plagued Pharoah with miracles until he caved in and let them go after 400 years of slavery, split the waters of the Red Sea, and brought them to Mt Sinai were he was majestically settled on top of the mountain. This same response of the Israelites is recorded in Exodus 19 even before Moses had received the 10 Commandments, civil and ceremonial laws. On this day the Israelites did not debate, disagree or delegate their response to a committee to think it over. There was no compromise or counteroffer. With “one voice” they responded to the Lord God unanimously. They were ready for this awesome relationship without compromise.
Moses was so excited to educate God’s people he couldn’t sleep so, “He got up early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain. He set up twelve memorial stones for the twelve tribes of Israel.” This was a surprising response and momentous occasion for Moses. Remember, he is the same Moses who thought he could never lead the people out of Egypt. Now, he hears their uncompromising response and mark the occasion. The 12 stones represented the 12 Tribes of Israel (Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Levi, etc.) as a whole. Nobody is left out of this relationship. The altar represented the presence of God. To show their trust (using very valuable cattle while living in the desert) and uncompromising relationship, “5 He sent young Israelite men, who offered whole burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings of cattle to the Lord.” Their first response did not set up a barrier like a teen-ager pouting session against authority, or a woe-is-me pity party after seeing the long list of expectations of behavior from the Lord. Their first response was to back up their words with uncompromising action. They burned up the whole animal on God’s altar to show their willingness and determination. Their worship said, “We will show our relationship to you, O Lord, by giving everything to you.” Then to show their faith-filled confidence of this relationship they celebrated by sacrificing fellowship offerings. These animals were cut up and meat was set aside for a festive meal. What a relationship without compromise.
Hold on a minute. Are you buying it? Were the Israelites sinners or saints? Students of the Bible find this hard to swallow because we also know what happened to their whining and complaining. We know these are the same people who all too often were not satisfied with their circumstances, accusing God of not knowing what he was doing and even informing God they would rather be back in Egypt than wanderers in the desert. Yes, these are the same people. So how is it that they’re getting along so well with God here, but don’t get along very well at other times? We see the answer in something else Moses does with the sacrificial animals. “6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and he splashed half of the blood on the altar. 7 He took the Book of the Covenant and read it out loud to the people …8 Moses took the blood and splashed it on the people. He said, “Look, here is the blood of the covenant, which the Lord made with you by means of all these words.”
In those days contracts were made between people by drawing some blood from those involved in the agreement/covenant, mix it together and declare that this uncompromising relationship would stand and if either party broke the promise, they were subject to death. But, in this case God did not demand the blood of the people, but the blood of God, represented by these animals, as the only blood that could give uncompromised strength to this life-or-death relationship. God is the only one who bleeds, represented by the animals, that makes this a perfect, unbreakable, uncompromising relationship of God to his people. In Exodus 24 the people are buying it. Moses leads the people to see that this is God at work. “8 Moses took the blood and splashed it on the people. He said, “Look, here is the blood of the covenant, which the Lord made with you by means of all these words.” Even when the times would come when their best efforts stained with sin would jeopardize this relationship, they could remember that they were bound to God by the uncompromising blood of God’s promise.
We have made uncompromised promises, too. We have stood before God’s altar and confessed that the teachings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church are true and according to God’s Word. We have promised to be faithful in worship and Christian living even to the point of death. But, then comes the next day. We question if God is able to do his job, that we don’t have it as good as others, that we can be good Christians yet picking and choosing which Word of God we want to follow and which Word of God we want to set aside. We confess that we have been just like the Israelites—promising uncompromised faithfulness to the Lord and then letting God down over and over. Then the devil comes to tempt us to think that our relationship with God is based on our feelings, life circumstances or our opinion on how we think God should be doing things differently. How often we have let God down! However, our relationship is not based on what we do. You might think you’re obeying all the commandments, living a godly life, listening to and following all of God’s demands. Then we are just like Luther was before he learned about the Gospel of Jesus. He could only imagine Jesus as the angry Judge just waiting for the next mistake to turn up the heat of hell. But, by the grace of God, for we are no better than anyone else, the Holy Spirit causes us to Remember That We Are Bonded By the Blood—Jesus’ blood! The basis for our uncompromised relationship with God is based on Jesus Christ and the blood he shed for us on the cross. Moses learned this. The Israelites learned it. Every sinner loved by God learned it. And those who believed it confess just like Peter, “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Pet 1:2). It’s surprising, a turn of events, totally unexpected, and grabs our attention. But, we’re not laughing, but rejoice because We Are Bonded by the Uncompromising Blood of Jesus. And being set free from the curse of sin, we are set free as God’s people
We heard the promises made by the Israelites that day. “7 He took the Book of the Covenant and read it out loud to the people and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do. We will obey.” They promised with wholehearted commitment to God because of the commitment God had made with them. This is graphically pictured for us by Moses. “6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and he splashed half of the blood on the altar. 7 He took the Book of the Covenant and read it out loud to the people and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do. We will obey.” 8 Moses took the blood and splashed it on the people. He said, “Look, here is the blood of the covenant, which the Lord made with you by means of all these words.” They were ready for total commitment to God because of his gracious commitment to them, first.
There are altars for us to build in our life as well. Build altars of worship because you know it is here in God’s House the God’s Word is proclaimed in truth and purity. Here your soul receives exactly what it needs. Build altars of service using your skills, rich resources and many spiritual gifts the Lord has given to you. Serve the Lord and your neighbor with love and compassion because you know how much he has already committed to you. Jesus gave his life for you by shedding his blood for you. The blood Jesus’ shed was loaded with the sins of the world and given up to God as payment for us all. Then by the grace of God, Jesus’ payment for our sins was credited to us all. Our lives are Bonded By the Blood by the committed grace of God. This means in Jesus we all died!
Blood means death. Is death for us a good thing? Yes, for those who believe in Jesus’ death for them die to sin’s curse and eternal punishment in hell. The death of Jesus means life for us. This is the committed “blood of the covenant” we talk about when we attend the Lord’s Supper. At this holy meal we remember how we are bonded by the blood. First, is God’s commitment to us to forgive all our sins. Then is our commitment to God being set free to live a new and holy life. The death of Jesus means life for us. St Paul said, “14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we came to this conclusion: One died for all; therefore, all died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for him, who died in their place and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:14,15). What a relationship we have with God who Totally Committed himself to us to Bind Us To Him Through Jesus’ Blood.
So, have you ever thought about how comfortable God is with this relationship he has with you? If you saw God today would you see him through professional eyes and hug him like the satellite installation guy? Would you see him through close, personal eyes? After all, our relationship with God is called, “the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). Would you be OK if God was walking around in his pajamas? It would be a shocking, eye-opening, attention getter, wouldn’t it? But, that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. He came and took on our “pajamas of flesh” so we can see God as our gracious Savior. He didn’t come in all his splendor, which would be too much for any sinner to see and live. But, he came to us through his Word to give us a glimpse of his glory.
God did the same for the Israelites that day. “9 Then Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up. 10 They saw the God of Israel. Under his feet they saw what looked like a pavement of sapphire as clear as the sky. 11 The Lord did not lay his hand on the dignitaries of the people of Israel. They gazed at God, and they ate and drank.” Since I asked you to imagine God walking around in his pajamas, now I want you to see his face. Do you see his smile? He is so enjoying this relationship with his people as he sits there and watches them eat and drink in his presence. The basis for this relationship is his Grace. And God does the same for you today. When you come to celebrate the Lord’s Supper go ahead and imagine God watching you with a smile on his face because of his Totally Committed Relationship with You Who are Bonded with the Blood of Jesus Christ.
Marketing people want to build a relationship with you and their product. However, when our relationships are based on behavior, personality, level of communication, expectations, distance, frequency of meeting, personal space or even romance, we can expect failure due to sin. If you think about it, these types of relationships are based on laws, rules and good behavior. Sooner or later these behaviors will more prohibitive than productive, more painful than pleasant, more disappointing that dynamite. But, today in Exodus 24 we were reminded that there is something eternally better for us and God’s relationship with us. It’s not a relationship build on laws, demands and punishments for disobedience. No, our relationship with God based on his Grace that Bonded Us by Blood of Jesus Christ, Without Compromise and Totally Committed. Enjoy your relationship with God. Amen!