Friday, February 23, 2024

A Glorious Glimpse of Grace

As the Gospel Story unfolded after Jesus' resurrection, God arranged for Jesus to meet two men on a road, and we're told that "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself" (Luke 24:47). 

Who were those guys to whom Jesus explained all that? That episode happened at a time in the story of the early church when Jesus' 11 remaining disciples were main characters, and yet Jesus chose to reveal himself to two unknowns. That matters. That tells us that when God wants to make himself known, he includes those who may not feel noticed by God, or worthy of a visitation from him. It tells us that he doesn't just show up to walk alongside those we view as spiritual superstars. He loves to visit ordinary people. That's an illustration of God's grace.

And that thought of God's grace revealed takes me way back in time to a story in the Scriptures when I believe Jesus revealed himself in an extraordinary way to ordinary people. And it's a story that reveals God's grace on a scale I find difficult to comprehend. Let's travel back in time to a story that gets very little attention. You may not even remember it's in the Bible. 

Shortly after God had delivered his people from Pharaoh, God said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar" (Exodus 24:1). It sounds like God was keeping his distance here, because in a sense, he was. This was just before the time when "the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel" (24:17). But even with the glory of the Lord about to cover the mountain, God called 70 unnamed people to “Come up to the Lord."

In fact, it then says that "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" (24:9-11).

Those 70 unknown men "saw the God of Israel"!  "They beheld God"! Or at least we know they saw his feet! Is this one of the stories that Jesus told those other two unknown men about when he told them "what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself"

Jesus said that "God is spirit" as he described his Father (John 4:24), and therefore doesn't have a body. That's why I believe that when those men saw those feet walking on sapphire, they were seeing the beautiful feet of Jesus before he "emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant" (Philippians 2:7). But this unexpected unveiling of what sounds like a glimpse of heaven wasn't only for Moses to see, the way most Bible-readers may recall, but it included 70 elders of Israel who represented all of God's people as they were invited to come and behold God. 

And though those men wouldn't have known it, the feet they saw would one day be pierced for the sins of the people they represented, as well as for their own sins. After all, God knew how quickly Aaron and these 70 elders would create a golden calf and worship it with all the people (Exodus 32:1-10). God knew that in a matter of mere days or weeks, while Moses remained on the mountain, those men who God had graciously invited to behold him, and who "ate and drank" in his holy presence would soon sit down "to eat and drink" before a golden calf (32:6). God knew it all. He knew they'd make that calf, and that they'd feast at its feet, and yet we're told that "he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel." Perhaps that's because God's reason for inviting them to behold him was so that he could reveal the precious feet of Jesus, thereby foreshadowing what Jesus would do when "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). 

God the Father revealed God the Son to those 70 unknown, unnamed men because they represented a whole nation of ordinary people who were prone to sin and in need of a Saviour. We're no different, and God still loves to visit ordinary people. It's also impossible to measure the grace that's revealed in those feet that would step from the sapphire streets of heaven to the dusty roads of Judea, and to then be nailed to a tree for our salvation.