We now come to the story of the preparation for the true order of worship. The elders of Israel were called to approach in company with Moses. So far as it had been received, the law was repeated in their hearing. This was immediately followed by the offering of sacrifice and the shedding of blood. Thus at the very heart of these laws for the conditioning of national life the necessity for sacrifice was solemnly emphasized.
Perhaps there is nothing more august in all the inspired ceremony than the account of the approach of the elders. We are told that "they saw the God of Israel." No description is given of what they saw. It may be that God manifested Himself to these men in the Angel Presence which He had promised. However, in all probability it is better to leave the sublime statement as it stands, remembering that it may be interpreted by the facts which followed. Almost immediately afterward Moses went into yet closer union with God and, as we shall find in a subsequent chapter, notwithstanding that closer union he craved something beyond it. In response, he received the declaration that none could see God and live. Spiritual intelligence will easily understand that there is no contradiction here. These men saw God and yet the infinite and final Essence could not be seen. The vision was characterized for the elders by immunity from judgment, for on them "He laid not His hand," and, moreover, by a sacred act of communion in which they "did eat and drink."
After this, Moses was called to go beyond the elders into the midst of the mount. There we may not follow him. We may see only what the children of Israel saw during those days, an appearance like "a devouring fire." Into that fire Presence Moses passed to receive the law in fuller detail and to see the heavenly things and to learn the pattern of earthly worship.