Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put His spirit on them!” - Numbers 11:29b (NRSV)
Do you remember that song that is sung at so many high school graduations – “You'll Never Walk Alone”?
Well, in chapter 11 of the Book of Numbers, Moses probably could have used that song as he led the people through the wilderness following their escape from Egypt. Frankly, Moses didn't find the people all that appreciative of his efforts to save them from slavery. They had been wandering around in the desert long enough, eating that bland and tasteless manna - you know rice cakes - the stuff that looks and feels and tastes like Styrofoam? Then you know how the Israelites felt about manna.
This whole trip was all the fault of Moses. It was all his fault that they were stuck on this endless journey, and they let Moses know about it! But then, Moses wasn't happy about it either, and he let God know about it!
Moses presents himself as the suffering servant before God. The crux of Moses' argument is this:
These are not MY chosen people - they are yours. Why don't YOU fix them up with a good dinner from time to time? Where am I going to get the kind of food they want? You know they're blaming me for this mess, and guess what? I can't handle it. If you expect me to do this job alone, you might as well kill me on the spot. Do it now - poor, poor, me.
Moses FELT alone, even though he was surrounded by people. If YOU have ever felt alone, really alone, then you might know how Moses felt in the desert.
Nothing was going right, and there was no end to the problems in sight. Do you know THAT feeling - feeling alone in the world even though you are surrounded by people? Moses felt all alone - and yet he was surrounded - and surrounded not just by anyone - but surrounded by those who would give him help, who would share his spirit and share his burden.
God told Moses to find 70 people who would be given part of the spirit God had given to Moses and who would help Moses shoulder the burden of the people. So Moses was not really alone - even though he may have felt like it. Help was just around the corner, if only he could recognize it.
What Moses needed was to see some help in the flesh, to KNOW he wasn't alone. He needed some help with some skin on it. Moses was certain that he would be lost in the valley of his despair. His valley was so full of despair that he wanted God to take his life. But instead, God told Moses that he was not alone - that there was help abounding.
In Numbers 11:16-17, the Lord instructed Moses to gather 70 of the elders to whom he would then give some of the spirit that earlier had been put into Moses. When this happened, Moses would not have to bear the burden of the people by himself.
And so, Moses gathered the 70 and placed them in a circle around the tent, which was outside the Israelite's camp. The Lord then put some of His spirit upon the 70 elders. Eldad and Medad remained in the camp, instead of going outside of it. Still, they received the promised Spirit and prophesied back in the camp.
Joshua, the heir apparent to Moses and the chief lay leader of the congregation, was indignant at this irregularity. He went to Moses to tell on Eldad and Medad. We've never done it that way before! He urged Moses to forbid these two from prophesying in the camp.
Moses responded, and in his response he showed that he was not jealous or afraid of others exercising ministerial gifts.
“I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His spirit on them!
Perhaps Jesus was thinking of this wise answer of Moses when, years later, he gave a similar answer to his disciples who were jealous of others entering their circle. Like Moses, Jesus recognizes that God may act through other persons than those authorized by the establishment. Even strangers, as long as they do the will of God, may be thought of as fellow workers.
The Spirit blows where it will, and the Bible says that blessed is the person who, like Moses, like Jesus, recognizes the manifestation, the making known of the Spirit, in unexpected places, and rejoices in it.
God ALWAYS breaks out of the fences we place around Him.
These passages are about the increasing role that all of us MUST play in our church. We are called to partner “with” God and each other in leading God’s people in worship.
Worship begins in our hearts and in our time of prayer with God throughout the week. As we get into the rhythm of prayer, work, service and rest, God desires that we do this in the spirit of worship. Thus, when we come to lead worship on Sunday morning, we are celebrating a week of God’s care, provision and intervention in our lives. We call upon the Holy Spirit to move within ourselves and among us so that our Sunday worship is the highest point in our worship and thanksgiving to God that we do through out the week through our personal and family devotions.
We are here - the Body of Christ at Calvary Baptist Church of Norristown - to receive the Spirit of God. Like Moses, like Eldad and Medad, like the 108 disciples who were not numbered among the 12 but who were present praying (Acts 1:14-15) in the upper room in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit arrived at Pentecost, like all of these - all of us are to speak a word of the Lord.
As we enter into the seasons of fall and winter, we trust God’s hand to guide us and empower us to do the ministry that Jesus has entrusted in our care. Let us be reminded by Jesus’ words: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” (Mark 10:43b-44)
Thank you for your servant-leadership! And may God bless and empower you to continue in humble and faithful service until Jesus Christ comes again!