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Maundy Thursday

[Exodus 24:3-11] Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the just decrees. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 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. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.


Eating and Drinking with God

Eating at a person’s dinner table is a sign of friendship, trust, respect. They’ve made you a part of their family, putting you at the same table where they feed their kids and gather their relatives. It’s really a high honor when any man invites you to eat at his family table.

Imagine eating at a man’s table, receiving his friendship, and then speaking ill of him, betraying him, when you depart – to be a friend at his table, but an enemy when away from it. Our conscience knows this to be wrong.

Jesus gathered twelve around His table on this very night in which He was betrayed. Not all were true. One reclined to eat as a friend – shared a dish with the Lord – and then departed to betray Him.

What does it mean to eat and drink with the Lord? He has invited us to His table.

In our Scripture reading tonight from Exodus 24:3-11, Moses, Aaron, and other leading men of Israel eat with the Lord on Mount Sinai after delivering the Word of the Lord to the people and sealing them with the blood of the covenant.

Moses had received the just decrees of the Lord – including the Ten Commandments from a few chapters earlier – and then “Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the just decrees.”

In response to hearing the just decrees of the Lord, the people of God say what? “The people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.’”All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Moses then writes all those words down – all that the Lord had spoken, including His just decrees – Moses is writing the Scriptures, here called the Book of the Covenant. To us, it’s this portion of the Old Testament that contains God’s Law. Moses writes it down.

Then Moses builds an altar – with twelve pillars, for the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses has young men of Israel offer burnt offerings and peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. Moses then takes the blood of those sacrifices. He throws half of the blood against the altar. The other half he puts in basins.

Moses then reads the book of the covenant to the people, speaking God’s decrees again. The people respond again, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.”All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Moses then throws that other half of the blood of the sacrifice onto the people and says to them, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

By blood sacrifice God made a covenant with them with these terms: “Do all I have spoken and live. Do not what I have spoken and be cursed.” The people: “All that You have spoken we will do.” A covenant with a written word, a sacrifice, and sealed with the blood of that sacrifice.

And, after this sprinkling of the people with blood, Moses and Aaron and other leaders of Israel go up the mountain again, and there they eat with God: “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 saw the Lord, yet they did not die); they beheld God, and ate and drank.”

After this, Moses stays on the mountain for forty days. He spends those forty days receiving instruction from God on how to build the tabernacle. Aaron and the other leaders are sent back down with the people during those forty day. And what happens among the people by the end of those forty days?

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’” [Exodus 32:1]

Aaron, who forty days earlier “beheld God and ate and drank” with God, gathers the gold of the Israelites and makes for them a new god – the Golden Calf. Aaron and the people worship their handmade god as one who has delivered them out of Egypt.

Aaron, who sat and ate at the table of the Lord on the mountain, has now betrayed the Lord together with the Lord’s people. All that the Lord had spoken, they did not do.

God has made a New Covenant with you. “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant in my blood.’” [1 Corinthians 11:25]

A New Covenant with a written word, a sprinkling clean of God’s people by blood, and a meal to eat and drink with God, the Lord Jesus. A New Covenant with a new sacrifice and new terms.

In this new covenant there is not sacrificed for you an ox or a goat or bulls, but the Lord Himself is the sacrifice. The Lord Himself becomes His own self-offering – a sacrifice offered, slain on the altar of the wooden cross. Blood shed. A life given in your place.

In the old covenant with Moses, the people vowed to keep the terms, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.” In this New Covenant, for a sin-broken and helpless people, the Lord Jesus stands in for the people and says to God, “All that You have spoken, I have done - for them.”

By His perfect life and by His self-giving death, Jesus has fulfilled the terms of the covenant – He has done for you the just decrees of the Lord. And He has died the death owed for your sin. Jesus’ life and death is offered to God in your stead – a New Covenant that saves those who could not save themselves.

The shed blood of that covenant becomes for you a washing of water. Robes washed white – conscience sprinkled clean – because the blood of Christ’s covenant has become your eternal bath in Holy Baptism.

This New Covenant comes with a Word to be learned. Disciples made when all that the Lord has commanded and all that the Lord has promised is taught them.

And this New Covenant comes with a meal for those disciples washed and taught. A meal at the Lord’s household table. Bread and wine which is truly His body given –and which is truly His blood poured out – given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

This body and blood of Christ’s self-giving, His sacrifice on the cross, now living forever, is given to you here at this table of God, in His house, to be your meal and your sustenance for your faith, and for your body and soul. “They beheld God, and ate and drank.”

As you approach the Lord’s table to eat and to drink, examine yourself that you are coming as a friend – an invited guest. Receive what He feeds to His family of heaven’s kingdom. Eat where He feeds His children. And depart, not as one who betrays this gift, but as a friend, saying, “All that the Lord has spoken I will believe, and, with His help, I will do.” Amen.

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