Sometimes, no matter how many times we’ve read a Bible passage, it strikes us and sticks with us as a new revelation. It’s proof that “the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12).
God’s Word doesn’t change, but on occasion He opens our eyes, our minds, and our hearts in His timing when He has readied us to see a particular truth, to take it in, meditate on it, and perhaps share it. Seeing a passage anew is exciting; it’s like getting a tiny glimpse into heaven where “The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all” (Luke 12:2, NLT).
In fact, the passage I recently “discovered” is about Israelites who actually did see heaven: Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And He did not lay His hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank (Ex. 24:9-11, emphasis added).
The first thing which stands out in this passage is the clear declarations: “and they saw the God of Israel” and “they beheld God.” It’s repeated, so there is no doubt those seventy-four men were clearly in the presence of God. Apparently, God had even set a table for them to eat and drink in His presence, reminiscent of Joseph’s feeding his brothers or, perhaps, a glimpse of the table to be set in the Upper Room, or even of the table to be set for believers at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb still to come.
However, of particular interest in this passage, are its timing in Israel’s history and those who are named. After the feast, God called Moses up to the mountain to receive instructions for building the Tabernacle and the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, but what did the others do? Moses told them to wait until he returned. Did they? Or did they go down to the people and exclaim, “We saw God!!!” Did they tell of His glory, the glory of the Lord, like a “devouring fire,” which remained on the mountain for the people of Israel to see from a distance? The Scriptures don’t tell us what they did―until Chapter 32.
Even if those seventy-two including Aaron had gone down and testified in awe and wonder of God’s glory and greatness, it wasn’t long before they forgot. Because Moses and Joshua (Ex. 29:13) stayed with God longer than expected, Aaron and the others were able to be swayed by the crowd. Chapter 32 opens with the people calling for Aaron to make an idol for them to follow, and he, the one to be ordained as the priest of the Most Holy God, complied with the people’s desires. Perhaps those others stood around Aaron as he shaped the molten gold and directed him based on how they thought they remembered God.
The timing makes us ask ourselves just how quickly do we forget after being in the presence of God, whether after a sweet quiet time, or hearing a powerful sermon, or experiencing significant blessing? How is our Sunday-to-Monday life any different than those Israelite elders who ate and drank in the actual presence of God? And do we take God’s revelation and try to make it fit our thoughts, desires, and circumstances just as they molded their idol?
The second thing to note in this passage is the names given. Although the majority of participants (besides Moses, Aaron, and Joshua) are nameless, why were the only two other names mentioned those of Nadab and Abihu? Why name the two sons of Aaron who would be destroyed when they brought strange fire before the Lord in Leviticus 10? And of all named, we know that only Joshua entered the Promised Land forty years later.
For Our Instruction
It’s exciting to see new things in Scripture we’ve never noticed, but it can also be daunting as we ponder the Lord’s intent in revealing the passage to us. As Paul would write hundreds of years later to the Corinthians, “these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction . . . Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:11-12).
Have we, like the seventy-two (with Moses and Joshua as the exceptions), become so comfortable with God that we no longer fear Him? Instead, do we fear what others think and fall prey to their whims and demands to create idols to follow in hope of some fleeting satisfaction rather than the enduring hope of the promises of God? Have we, like Nadab and Abihu, decided we know better than God how things should be and taken His role into our own hands? I confess, I often have done both—without good results.
In an age of broadcasted scandals throughout churches and ministries, it is easy to point out those who, like the seventy-two, have forgotten and followed after other gods and their own desires. But can anyone not say that at some time she has forgotten God or has tried to shape God into what she thinks He should be? God is beyond anything we can think or imagine (Job 36:26, Eph. 3:20), and we must constantly remind ourselves of who He is and what He has shown us.
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life (Deut. 4:9a).
About the Author:
Marlys Roos is the publications coordinator for CDM. She and her family are members of Perimeter Church in Atlanta.