Viewing the Bible as a storyline of redemptive history provides an appreciation for the way God has revealed Himself. God did not choose to reveal Himself and His activity in the world through a book of disjointed doctrines, but rather through the historical development of the nation of Israel, the coming of His Son in the flesh, and the development of a new, international community assembled to witness to His glory. When one considers the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments in this fashion, one gains a fondness for those texts that do not make the cut for popular, topical sermons of the day. For the devout Israelite, the significance of texts like Exodus 23-24 is seen in the celebration of the law in Psalm 119.
Exodus 23-24—in accord with the life of Israel between Exodus 15 and Joshua 3—is part of the preparation manual for fruitful living in the land of Canaan. The first nine verses of Exodus 23 encompass the justice God required from His covenant partners. This section further applies much of the Decalogue (Exod 20:1-17) to the everyday situations of Israel. The reader should take note of the emphasis God placed on justice and mercy in human relationships—both within the covenant family, and toward the foreign resident.
These covenant commands should be read with a view to how they would be implemented in Canaan. Exodus 23:10-33 makes this clear. God commanded Israel to sow their land for six years and then gather its produce. This was a command that they looked forward to since their present diet was manna (Exod 23:10-12; see Exod 16:35-36). In Exod 23:20-26 the Lord commanded the people to follow His angel. The Lord’s angel would lead Israel to Canaan and wipe out those who inhabited the land. God promised both produce from that land and security for Israel’s lineage in the land. Exodus 23:27-33 concludes the chapter, detailing how God would drive the foreign nations from His land and how His people should live faithfully in His covenant there.
Exodus 24 places an exclamation point on the covenant loyalty and affection that was to characterize the relationship between the Lord and Israel. The text emphasizes Moses’ special role as the shepherd of God’s people (Exod 24:2, 12-18), Israel’s oath of faithfulness (Exod 24:3-4), the effectiveness of Israel’s leadership structure (Exod 24:9-14), and God’s personal presence in table fellowship with these leaders—“they saw Him [God], and they ate and drank” (Exod 24:11).
Exodus 23-24 records God’s desire for His people to live a certain way in His special land. With the coming of Christ and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God’s dwelling place shifted from the geographical locale of Canaan to wherever His people are gathered (see Acts 2, 7; 2 Cor 6:14-7:1). The author of Hebrews recalled the covenant ceremony that Moses instituted in Exodus 24. Although Moses sprinkled the blood of animals on the people, the tabernacle, and all the objects used for worship, these were only earthly copies of the heavenly realities that the Lord had shown Moses (Heb 9:23). According to the author of Hebrews, Jesus entered the true tabernacle in Heaven offering His own blood for the purification of the people of heaven (Heb 9:24-25).