Numbers 11: 24-30
28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”
Pentecost day. What a day! How must it have been in that big crowd from all over the known world were gathered in the city when the Spirit turned up in a visible way as promised by Jesus, and the first public proclamation of who Jesus really is and what he means for the world was preached by fisherman Pete!
From this day in the epicentre of the new news of new life which would be transmitted not by the touch of a hand on some virus living surface, but from one to another by words and deeds of truth and love, the whole gospel-demic was clearly not directed by any one person or group of people’s will or skill. Like COVID 19, it has a life it’s own!
The Spirit of God was directing this day and this new life spread. The Spirit directs the whole story of this first church in the Book of Acts. The Spirit is wild and free. He always has been.
Look at that account we heard in Numbers 11.
We are out in the desert with Moses and the 70 chosen elders among God’s travelling people. The people are’ not happy, Jan’.
They are hungry, thirsty and covered in dust. They complain – not mildly, but seriously – like those long-suffering protesters in Honk Kong. The large stones are being gathered for a public stoning of God’s man, Moses.
Moses responds. He sets up a meeting with the Lord and seventy clan leaders out around the Tabernacle. This is the PM’s National Cabinet!
This leadership group need some credentials. They need the Lord’s approval and authority to lead. Everyone who is officially registered is there, or so it seems.
But two men, Eldad and Medad, are on the list but they are not in the meeting! They are still back in the camp. Maybe they slept in. Maybe they missed the memo. Maybe they just decided this is not for them and just pulled a sicky Who knows? But they are not in the organised, planned special Spirit–filled gathering around the Tabernacle.
God is faithful. He comes to the meeting in support of the Moses, whom he had charged with leading this people. The glory cloud settles on the meeting.
Moses, or is it the Lord himself, ‘put some of the Spirit that was with him (Moses) into these men’.
They began to ‘prophesy’ – ecstatic utterance – speaking in tongues, speaking in different languages, singing a song of faith, speaking some words of truth obviously beyond themselves.
But surprisingly we hear that Eldad and Medad also receive this special Spirit–gift even though they are outside the plan, nowhere near the tabernacle – still at home where they live!
A young kid sees this and runs out to Moses. “Two guys are prophesying in the camp!”
Joshua, Moses ever-faithful 2IC says, ‘Moses, stop these guys!’
Why does Joshua say that?
- Is Joshua concerned for the right godly order of things. Right order is crucial for a community be fair and just and healthy. This is outside the plan, outside the organisation, outside the expectations, outside the group. It must be stopped lest…….lest what? We find out that we are actually not in charge and never are – God is?
- Is Joshua feeling a little under–valued? He has done all that has ever been asked of him since he was this lad’s age, and he never got to be given this kind of special gift in the Tabernacle or out in the camp. This is not fair. I don’t understand this ‘super-spiritual stuff’ and want it removed.
- Is Joshua protecting his leader and community? He does not want God, Moses, the Tabernacle or the community disrespected or disobeyed. Maybe he is quite sensitive to this. The people have been giving Moses ‘curry’. These guys could be getting those stones ready!
Moses nails it.
“Joshua, are you jealous for MY sake?”
Joshua, you are faithful person. You seem worried that I am offended by this unexpected and unplanned show of God’s presence or threatened by it, because it is an assault on my organisational skills, my status among the people, my spiritual greatness with God, my will for the people.
‘I am not threatened at all by this sign of the Spirit’s presence; this speaking of God’s word, outside my organisation, planning and understanding!
Why? Because it is God’s Spirit at work and that is enough for me and can be enough for you too, my faithful friend.
But how can he tell? Only one way – The Word. Because these guys, like the other 68, are speaking GOD’S WORD; not words of pagan gods or just their words. They are speaking God’s word (prophesying).
THEIR WORDS show that this is the Spirit of God at work, even when outside the human plan, outside what are used to and expect, beyond our normal and our human understanding or ability.
Moses says to a loyal and faithful Joshua, “I wish everyone in the whole camp could receive this special moment of God’s Spirit. I wish they all could have what I have been given”.
Do you remember someone else saying similar words in a similar moment?
38 ‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’
Jesus sounds like Moses:
39 ‘Do not stop him,’ …‘For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40)
A person who confesses faith in Jesus and is doing his work is not against us.
Friends, the Holy Spirit has always moved among unexpected people in unexpected places, and as we are learning in this COVID time, unexpected ways!
I wonder what the wild and free Spirit of Jesus is up to in this very unique time.
I hear today, on Pentecost Day, that we don’t get to restrain, control, withhold or determine where and with whom the Spirit moves and works.
We do get to listen to the words spoken which tell us that this is God’s Spirit and those words will always in one way or another say “Jesus is Lord”. As Paul says;
3 …….. I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
We can’t gather in the Temple together as one yet. But I heard Jesus proclaimed with joy in one of our house groups last Sunday.
A group formed themselves together and invited me to come and join in and celebrate Holy Communion with them. I was with Eldad and Medad out in the camp! It was great.
One thing is clear so far. Our goal is not to ‘return to normal’ as quickly as possible so we can return to our usual undisrupted comfy life.
That would be like Moses shutting Eldad and Medad down; robbing them of the joy, the community of the blessing.
I believe the Spirit is calling us like he called Moses, Joshua, the disciples, the first church leaders and millions ever since to watch and pray; to listen to his Word and share it as we are surprised at just how he is working at transforming his church to meet the current moment as he always has.
Friends, gather small, listen to the Spirit’s Word, speak the Spirit’s Word, and pray the Spirit’s Word. We don’t need to ‘get back to normal’ as much as we can ‘go to what’s next’.
On Pentecost Day we hear plenty of inspiration to enter what is next for us as a mission church and for you as a Spirit-filled baptized loved person of Jesus.
As Paul encourages us;
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit….” (1 Corinthians 14:1)
Friends, love each other, eagerly seek the wild and free work of God’s Spirit in his Word, because;
“Whoever (and whatever) is not against us is for us”. (Mark 9:38-40)