Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:…
That a sight of God in Christ, and a holy familiarity with Him, with all safety, is the privilege of God's covenant-people, especially in these solemn approaches to which He calls them.
I. TO SHOW WHAT IS THAT SIGHT OF GOD IN CHRIST, WHICH IS THE PRIVILEGE OF HIS PEOPLE IN THEIR SOLEMN APPROACHES TO HIM. — There is a twofold solemn approach of God's people to Him. There is a right approach.
1. When God calls them up to the mount of myrrh, where our Lord abides till the day break (Song of Solomon 4:6); when He calls them to come up to the hill of God in Emmanuel's land, where stands the King's palace, namely heaven. This call comes to the believing soul at death.
2. When God calls them to come up to the mount of ordinances to meet Him at the sacred feast, as the nobles of Israel in the text, and as we at this time are called to feast on the great sacrifice in the sacrament. This is a solemn approach. Now, what is the sight of God in Christ which is the privilege here? As to this we observe —
(1) That it is a believing sight of God in their nature (John 1:14.).
(2) That it is a sight of this God in the place of His special residence; on the mount to which they were invited, where He stood, as it were, on a pavement of sapphire.
(3) It is a sight of the glory of the place of His feet (ver. 10).
(4) It is a sight of God as reconciled in Christ. They saw God, and did eat and drink as in the house of their friend (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
(5) It is a sight of God as their God. They saw the God of Israel. Here lay the surpassing sweetness of their sight.
(6) It is a sight of transcendent glory in Him. Nothing is described but what was under His feet. For, search the universe, there is no person, no thing like Him. But the best things on earth are not sufficient to set forth the glory even of this, and therefore it is added, "as if it were the body of heaven in His clearness." They who see Him, see that of which they can never see the like. We are now —
II. TO SHOW WHAT IS THAT HOLY FAMILIARITY WHICH IS THE PRIVILEGE OF GOD'S PEOPLE IN THEIR SOLEMN APPROACHES TO HIM — It is a believing, holy, humble freedom before their Lord (Ephesians 3:12) "In whom we have boldness and access, with confidence, by the faith of Him."
1. They were allowed to come forward to God, when others must stand back (Isaiah 56:6, 7); when others must abide at the foot of the hill, believers may come up to the mount and are welcome.
2. They were allowed to feast on the sacrifice set before them. Christ the sacrifice typically slain, and believers are allowed to feast on this sacrifice, to eat His flesh and drink His blood; to make a believing application of a whole Christ to their own souls for their spiritual nourishment:" Take, eat, this is My body broken for you."
3. They were allowed to converse with God freely, as one at the table of his friends.
4. They were allowed to be in His secrets, to see what others have no access to. They saw God. Believers are allowed to see the glory of His person (John 1:14). The glory of His covenant (Psalm 25:14). The glory of His redeeming, His everlasting love to them (Jeremiah 31:3). The hidden glory of His word (Luke 24:32).
5. They were allowed to lay all their wants on Him.
III. TO MAKE SOME PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. To show that it is a wonder of grace that sinful creatures are admitted to see God, and be familiar with Him. We think we need say little for proof of this. Only consider —
(1) The infinite distance that there is between God and the creature in respect of perfection.
(2) That it is the same God who is such a severe and dreadful avenger of sin (Psalm 5:5).
2. To show that it is a wonder of grace that sinful creatures, in their solemn approaches to God, and when they are thus favoured, come off safe. This will appear if we consider —
(1) The infinite holiness and spotless purity of that God before whom the sinful creature appears. He is glorious in holiness, and fearful in praises (Exodus 15:11).
(2) That the best carry a sinful nature even up into the mount with them.
(3) That sinful creatures never miss to leave the marks of their foul feet, even when they are on holy ground (Romans 7:2).
(4) The particular jealousy which God has manifested about His worship.
3. To explain how it comes to pass that the safety of God's people, when thus favoured, is secured. It is so —
(1) Because they are God's covenant-people by marriage with His Son.
(2) Because they come up under the covert of the Redeemer's blood (Hebrews 12:22-24).
(3) Because God looks on them as in His own Son, and not as in themselves; and so after a sort He overlooks their infirmities (Numbers 23:21).
(4) Because, though they be unclean creatures, they come up into the mount, to bathe in the fountain opened there, for sin and for uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1).
(5) Because it is the end of the covenant, to bring them to God.
1. Let us, then, nevermore think lightly of solemn approaches to God, whether in private or in public ordinances.
2. Let this commend Christ and the covenant to us, especially to those who stand off from Him and His covenant.
3. Let us long for that day which will put an end to our sinfulness, weakness, and imperfection, when we shall see Him as He is, without any danger of sinning or suffering, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). It would be a token for good that we had seen the Lord, if we were now longing for that blessed day.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: