Israel has been invited to a feast, or at least the leaders have been. They have been camped at Sinai after some very eventful months. In the last few months they have gone from slavery to freedom, from oppression to release. They witnessed the plagues sent upon Egypt, the Ten plagues that brought Pharaoh and Egypt to its knees. They watched as God showed himself supreme over every Egyptian god ever invented, even the god of Pharaoh. They participated in the march to freedom, the wandering into the wilderness, the parting of the Red Sea and the walking across on dry ground. And they danced and sang as the waters came crashing down upon their enemies and their freedom was secured.
Now they were invited to a feast on the mountain. But it wasn’t just any mountain, this was Mt. Sinai. This was the same mountain that they had been told to stay away from. This was the same mountain that Moses had put barriers around to keep them away. This was the same mountain that Yahweh God had come upon in fire and smoke and lightning that had caused an earthquake and the ground shaking as if it was going to split apart. This was the mountain that they were afraid to approach lest they die.
Now they were being asked to come up on it. And not just to come up on it but to come and eat, to feast with Yahweh. Admittedly, they were hungry. Ever since they left Egypt they had eaten nothing but manna and water, sometimes even struggling to find water to drink. They were ready for a meal, a feast, of untold proportions. But the tension between wanting to eat and being scared in the presence of holy God was unbearable. The question of how could they see God and live had to be racing through their minds.
Before heading up the mountain, Moses went through a ceremony with the people. He read them the words of the Lord and asked a simple question, will you follow? The whole community replied in the affirmative, so Moses set up twelve stones to stand as a memorial and sacrificed some animals as an offering to the Lord. Half of the blood he poured on the altar, but the rest he saved to sprinkle on the people.
Why save the blood? Why sprinkle the blood on the people? Yes, it was part of a covenant ceremony, but it is more than that. It’s reminiscent of the ordination ceremony for Aaron and his sons when the blood is dashed against the altar and sprinkled on the priests. At that time Aaron and his sons were being ordained and consecrated for the priesthood, for a specific purpose. Here as well the people are being ordained and consecrated for a specific purpose, for a specific vocation. They are to become a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, ordained to participate in God’s mission to the world. Israel was not rescued from slavery because they had earned God’s special favor or they deserved to be set free, they were redeemed so that they could participate with God in his mission. And now they were being consecrated for the task, set apart for a holy vocation.
And after being consecrated they sit down to feast. They sit down in the presence of Almighty God. And God serves as host, God welcomes them to the banquet. God serves the food. And they feast on the mountain with God. They feast and celebrate both their relationship and their task, both their past redemption and their future vocation. And while we don’t know what all the feast involved its safe to assume it involved bread and wine. And as they ate the bread and drank the wine they were inwardly strengthened for the task ahead. They were encouraged to live into the mission of God.
Israel was invited to a feast, to a banquet, where God served as host and where they feasted on bread and wine in celebration of the task ahead. They were consecrated for a purpose. They were feasting for a purpose. They were participants in God’s mission to the world.