“Spirit of God

Numbers 11:24-30


            Today is Pentecost Sunday. Today, as we heard, is the day in which the disciples of Jesus receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the day in which the confusion of languages which occurred way back at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 was converted to many nations hearing the one message of Jesus Christ as the Savior of all in their own language.

Today, you could say, is the beginning of the disciples’ ministry as they are baptized not with water but by the Holy Spirit. From here they go out, starting in Jerusalem, and then to all of Judea and Samaria and out to the ends of earth (Acts 1:8) proclaiming the Word of God and teaching all which Jesus commanded them to teach (Matthew 28: 20).

            That gift of the Holy Spirit given to the disciples by Jesus is the same gift of the Holy Spirit given to you. For as Paul says in Romans 10, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (10:9). As we confessed, on your own, you wouldn’t be able to do this, for it is the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, and enlightens you and the whole Church of God in faith.

            This is all good and well, it’s great! But then when you look at the Old Testament reading from Numbers 11 … I can’t help but wonder, “What in the world is going on?

            Well, let me set up the scene for us. You’ve got Moses, who not too far back from our reading, led the Israelite people out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. They have been to Mt. Sinai where Moses visited with God and received some very important instructions. They left Mt. Sinai and are headed to the Plains of Moab.

            A few years into the journey, after having to deal with all the grumbling, complaining, whining, and unappreciative people, Moses has had enough. He’s had it up to here and is ready to be done with them. As they grumble about not having any meat, Moses says to God, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how You are going to treat me, put me to death right now – if I have found favor in Your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin” (Numbers 11:14-15). Moses wants the misery to end, he’s done. But God said, nope. God isn’t going to let Moses off the hook.

            God says to Moses that He will give the people their meat. They will eat meat till they sick and tired of eating it. Moses is like, “Seriously Lord? Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” (11:21-22). Sounds like Moses is doubting whether God is doing enough for them. And the Lord calls Moses out on this. God says, “You don’t think I can do this? Really? Just wait, you will see.”

            So Moses does what God tells him to do. He brings together seventy elders to the Tent of Meeting. God descends upon them in a cloud and speaks with them. In this moment, God takes the Spirit which He had put on Moses and put that same Spirit on the elders. But then there is this really mysterious phrase. “When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” Yes! Moses has help now! But then … bum bum bummmmm. “they prophesied, but they did not do so again” (11:25). There at the tent they spoke the Word of God … but as soon as they walked away from the tent, that was it. They were done, they did not prophesy again.

            Looking at this, I can’t help but be like “Wait a minute? What gives? Why could they not continue on prophesying?” Maybe there was something wrong with these elders. Maybe they weren’t pure enough in heart or had enough faith in God. Maybe they were the ones who helped start the grumbling. Maybe they aren’t as holy or as good as Moses. Maybe they didn’t receive enough of the Spirit which was upon Moses. One thing for sure, the Bible doesn’t give us an explanation as to why these elders did not prophesy again.

            But from a study of Scripture, I believe we can come up with a solid answer which is helpful to you and me living today.

            You know, Moses is considered to be a great prophet. He regularly spoke with God and spoke the Word of God to the Israelites. He was their go between guy. Moses faithfully led the Israelite people through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. He called upon the Lord when they were in need of direction and protection. Moses was filled with the Spirit of God.

            And yet, the Scriptures talk about another prophet, another prophet to come, one who is greater than Moses. Hebrews 3 says that “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses” (3:3).

            You know, there are a lot of similarities between Moses and Jesus. So in what ways was Moses like Jesus?

            Moses spoke regularly with God and spoke the Word of God the Israelites. Jesus, often would go away into solitude to have moments of prayer, moments where He could simply talk with God. Jesus would then share the Word of God with the people. Like with Moses, sometimes it was to build the people up, other times, it was to rebuke, instruct, and correct the people, especially the leaders of the people.

            Moses was the go between guy for the Israelites and God. He would be the one who would go and talk with God on behalf of the people. Moses numerous times reminded God of the promises He made to the Israelites and God would then spare them. Jesus does the same thing. Sitting at the right hand of God, Jesus is interceding for you (Romans 8:34). Jesus says to God, “even though these children of Yours disobey You, they sin against You, I willingly paid the price for them. They are forgiven because I laid down my life for them. I suffered their punishment so that they may be with You.”

            Moses faithfully led the people through the wilderness to the Promised Land just as Jesus through His life, death, and resurrection leads us through the wilderness of this life to the Promised Land of the new creation. Moses was with the people the whole time. Jesus is with you, now and forever, for He has vowed never ever to leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20).

            But here is where the difference lies. For one, Moses sinned against God, Moses failed to always listen to God, Moses didn’t always trust in God and His plan, Moses failed to live every aspect of his life perfectly. Where Moses failed, you and I … we fail. Constantly, every single day, you and I fall short of the perfection which God demands of us. We too deserve the punishment of not being able to enter into the Promised Land, just as Moses wasn’t allowed to enter it thousands of years ago. Where Moses, you and I fail … Jesus succeeded. Jesus lived a sinless life, fully trusting in His Heavenly Father, even when He was forsaken by God on the cross. Jesus never failed once. And this helps us answer the question from earlier. “Why couldn’t the elders prophesy when they went away from the tent?

            Moses is not God. As much as Moses is a type of Jesus in the Old Testament, he is not Jesus. Moses couldn’t do all the work on his own, he needed others to help. So God brings the elders together, takes some of the Holy Spirit from Moses and gives it to the elders. Now it is not that the one Spirit is split evenly into seventy little pieces. Think of it as a flame of fire. If you take a flame from the fire, the strength of that flame does not diminish. The elders are gifted with the same Spirit of God which Moses had. These elders will share in the work with Moses.

            But what about this not prophesying when they went away from the tent thing? Well, think of it this way. The temporary gift of prophecy given to these elders was primarily to establish their credentials. Their main task will not be to speak the Word of God. Moses will mainly do that. The task of the elders will be to help in the administration of the people, especially in the context of sharing the Word of God given to Moses which needs to be shared with the rest of the people.

            That Spirit given to the elders, given to the disciples … that is the same Spirit which is given to you. God has blessed each of you with different skills and talents to help in the spreading of the message of God, to help in the spreading of the Kingdom of God. As Paul says in Ephesians 4, “{Jesus} gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (4:11-12).

            You, God’s masterpieces, have been filled with the Spirit of God, you have God living and working within you … go and spread the love of God, just as the elders and disciples did. Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord who goes with you in your journeys, now and forever. Amen.


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *