Comparing The Old Covenant With The New (Exodus 24)

In Exodus 24, we have the affirmation of the Mosaic Covenant by the Children of Israel. Moses recounts all of the laws and ordinances given by God to the eager ears of the Hebrew people. When we examine this brief chapter and compare the Old Covenant with the New Testament that the Christian has in Christ, many distinctions quickly become apparent:

Proximity To The Lord

“Then [God] said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance.” (Exodus 24:1)

“(for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19)

“But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)

Under the Old Covenant, the people were required to worship at a distance. The Israelites were not free to draw close to God but had to remain far off. Under the Old Testament, something always stood between the people and God: Moses, the priests, the Veil in the Temple. A very real and tangible barrier existed between the people and God. Why? Because their sin had separated them from the Lord and they were unable to come directly into His Presence. The same is true for people today, except that Jesus Christ has made the way for us to come into the very Presence of God because He has dealt with the sin which separates man from God. Without our great High Priest, Jesus, we are no more able to come to God than the Hebrews were. But in Christ, we are able and welcomed to come boldly before the Throne of Grace (cf. Hebrews 4:16).

The Works Of God And The Obedience Of Man

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” (Exodus 24:3)

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10 KJV)

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV)

When confronted with the prospect of obeying the Commandments and Laws of God, it is our fallen, human nature to confidently assert that we are able to do so. So it was with the Hebrews when Moses read the Law to them. “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!”, they declared. Yet in eight short chapters we will see the entire nation bowing down in worship before a golden calf! How great the contrast between their arrogant assertion that they could keep the Law perfectly and their willful rebellion against God and His Law. But are we any better when we let the flesh with its prideful arrogance rear its ugly head in our own walk with the Lord? How many times have we held the attitude that we were fully capable of living the Christian life ourselves? We thank the Lord Jesus for forgiving our sins and giving us eternal life and then practically tell Him, “Thanks, but I got it from here.” We as Christians can no more keep all the words that the Lord has spoken than the Hebrews could! Apart from the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit we cannot obey God nor keep His Word.

And herein lies another great distinction between the Old Covenant and the New. The Old Covenant centered on man’s response to the Law of God and his ability to keep it. The New Covenant centers on the work of the Lord Jesus and His payment for our sins and shortcomings. The Old Covenant was about obeying Laws, the New Covenant is about trusting a Savior. Under the Old Covenant, the Hebrews declared, “We will obey!” Under the New Covenant, the Christian cries out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (cf. Rom. 7:24).

The Blood Of The Covenant

“So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:8)

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh,  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?…For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.” (Hebrews 9:11-14,17-20)

Looking back to this very passage in Exodus, the writer to the Hebrews quotes Moses and shows how the Blood of Christ, which covers the believer under the New covenant, is better than the blood of animals which covered the Israelites under the Old. In truth, the blood of sacrificed animals never really cleansed anyone from sin; it was merely a foreshadow of the Blood of Jesus Christ which would ultimately blot out sin and cleanse us from unrighteousness. The blood of animals ratified the Old Covenant, the Blood of Christ ratifies the New.

Seeing God

“Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,  and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself.  Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.” (Exodus 24:9-11)

“And He [Jesus] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His [God the Father’s] nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3)

“For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

“Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” (John 14:9 KJV)

What it was exactly which Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders saw we can only speculate; but it seems certain that they didn’t really see God Himself. How do we know this? Because we know that no man has ever seen the Father (cf. John 1:18). Additionally, if Moses had seen God in His glory here, why would he later ask to see His glory in Exodus 33:18? What Moses and the others saw here seems to be an image or, better yet, a reflection of the glory of God. I believe that the emphasis on the pavement of sapphire described beneath the feet of God gives us a clue as to what it was these men beheld. Sapphire, as clear as the sky itself, sounds a lot like a sort of mirror which would have reflected the glory of the Lord for their viewing. Rather than seeing the pure glory with unveiled eyes, they saw a reflection of that glory through the medium of the sapphire pavement beneath the Lord.

In the New Testament, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is a reflection, an image, an embodiment of the non-corporeal Spirit of God the Father, possessing all of the attributes and personality of Deity. We do not behold a sapphire pavement but a Person, the Son of God, in Whom the glory of God is reflected. For if we have seen the Son, then we have seen the Father. Even so, we must understand that in beholding Christ we see not only a reflection of the Father, but a pure and unveiled glory of the Divine manifest in the Person of Jesus. We come to the Father through the Son, but we also come to the Son Himself Who is very God of very God. Jesus not only reflects the glory of God, He produces it!

The Place Where God Is

“Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” (Exodus 24:12)

“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father… But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  (John 4:21, 23 KJV)

Under the Old Covenant, people were to go to a certain place to worship God. First, God called Moses up to the top of Mt. Sinai to meet with Him. After the Tabernacle was constructed, it became the focal point of Jewish spiritual life. Then Jerusalem became the focus of religious affairs in Israel with the epicenter being the Temple. The Hebrews living under the Old Covenant were called to come to a place to worship and meet with God, yet under the New Covenant we meet around a Person, not a place. We look not for God in the Holy of Holies of the Temple, nor do we find His Presence abiding between the Cherubim of the Ark of the Covenant. God is manifest in the Person of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit indwells the believer. We are called the temples of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16) and, therefore, we need not go to any place to find Him. Those of us in Christ may draw close to God without ever leaving the physical place where we are. God has given us the inestimable privilege of possessing a place within our own hearts where He will meet with us at any time.

No one ever needs to go to some other place in order to find God. If you belong to Jesus Christ, then He dwells within you. If you do not, then He is no farther away then your very next breath. Call out to Him in faith now and He will meet you right where you are:

“But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” (Romans 10:6-9)

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,


**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.