With God on the Mountain
“Moses … and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel… . And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank” (vv. 9–11).- Exodus 24:1–11
Old covenant community members who were at peace with God through faith had an opportunity in the peace offering to share a meal with their Lord. Part of the peace offering was burnt and given to God, and the worshiper who brought it to the tabernacle or temple ate the other part (Lev. 7:11–21). Of course, God has no need to eat like we do; still, the imagery of eating a meal with the Lord is powerful indeed, for meals are usually shared only between people in fellowship with one another. This was especially true in biblical times, and the Israelites who sacrificed peace offerings had a clear picture of intimacy with the Creator when they ate with Him.
The peace offering and its attendant meal was also a way to celebrate and renew the covenant the Lord made with Israel. We see how this is the case in Exodus 24:1– 11, which describes the culmination of the ceremony wherein God ratified the Mosaic covenant with the people of Israel. On that occasion, the elders of Israel were granted the unique privilege of seeing the Almighty (v. 11). What exactly they saw when they looked upon the Lord is not clear, and we are probably to regard them as standing under the “pavement of sapphire stone” (v. 10), looking up toward the heavens in a picture of the Lord’s sovereignty over all. In any case, as one commentator notes, the ability of the elders to eat in God’s presence does not mean that He somehow became less awe-inspiring on that occasion. Instead, a new avenue of fellowship was opened up when the blood sealed the bond between the Lord and His people (vv. 1–8).
Commentators agree almost unanimously that the food eaten on that occasion came from a peace offering (v. 11). This makes sense, as Israel’s peace with the Creator was most clear when He first accepted the Israelites as His covenant people. Under the new covenant, we celebrate a fellowship meal every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. This sacrament, and, ultimately, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6– 10) can be regarded as a peace offering. Like the peace offering, we share a communal meal in the Supper, feeding upon Christ and the benefits of His sacrifice spiritually by faith as we eat the bread and drink the wine. And like the peace offering, the Lord’s Supper is also a celebration of covenant fellowship and a pledge to praise God for all the benefits of salvation as we remember what Jesus did for us on the cross.
Worship, especially the Lord’s Supper, is always an occasion for covenant renewal. John Calvin writes that “the covenant, which he once sanctioned by his blood he in a manner renews, or continues, in so far as regards the confirmation of our faith, as often as he stretches forth his sacred blood as drink to us” (Institutes 4.17.1). As the covenant is renewed in the Supper, we celebrate the unspeakable privilege of peace with God through Christ.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 11:23–26