In Exodus 24, we find the Israelites at Mt. Sinai as Moses receives the Law. Though the Israelites recognize that the mountain is holy is no place for them, God still invites a number of them up the mountain. Of course, this is only after the people are covered by the sacrificial blood of the covenant. What do the people do up on the mountain? They share a meal in the presence of God.
The parallels to Communion are extensive. Not only does Jesus Himself refer back to this as He shares the Last Supper, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mk 14:24), but the Last Supper itself recreates what is taking place. The disciples are sharing a meal in the presence of God. For Jesus to be so careful to connect the Last Supper back to Exodus 24 tells us that the context of Exodus 24 may also say something about what Jesus is doing that night with His disciples.
In that regard, Exodus 23 is where we find God laying out the terms of the covenant. The gist of the covenant is that if the Israelites will worship God exclusively, then God will bring them into the land and drive out their enemies. He will bless every aspect of their daily lives as well. God is reminding them of where they are heading. Mt. Sinai is a major event in the lives of the Israelites, but this is just a brief stopping point. God has a destination in mind and He intends to get there. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard God’s promise to bring the Israelites to their own land. We actually heard about this before back in the Passover, another major event in our understanding of Communion.
Immediately following this meal God has with His people on the mountaintop, He goes into all of the details for the construction of the tabernacle, the items used in it, and the need to observe the Sabbath. In short, the place and time the people will be able to meet God. The tabernacle, and later the temple, will be the enduring location of God’s presence. It will be where He promises to be and it His presence that is the center and focus of all Israelite life. In truth, the promise we associate with the Promised Land isn’t so much about the location as it is God’s ongoing presence there. Anywhere God dwells with His people in a personal way is a promised land, because God will bless the residents of that land.
All of this has quite a lot to tell us about Communion. What the Israelites experienced in a brief way would someday become their daily reality. God would dwell in their midst. In Revelation 21, God declares that now He dwells with His people and that this is the defining feature of His new creation. What the Israelites had in a limited way with God at the temple is now shared by all of God’s people forever. The Promised Land of Israel in the Old Testament looks ahead to the Promised land of the new creation in the New Testament. What Exodus 24 meant for the Israelites continues to be true for us in Communion. We are covered by the blood of the covenant. We share a meal with God. We spend a moment of peace and joy with our Redeemer and know that our time together here is brief, but one day what we share here in this meal will be part of our daily lives.
God and His people together. Communion gives us a sample of what awaits us. In addition to the grace and forgiveness we receive as part of the meal, God is reminding us that we still have something to look forward to. We are still confidently following Him to that future and the new creation He has promised.