Speak When the Spirit Says Speak

Scripture: Numbers 11:24-30

Key verse(s): And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” (v. 28-29)

Observation: In this 11th chapter of the book of Numbers the people are complaining about a lack of meat as they wander through the wilderness. They recall fondly the fish, cucumbers, leeks, onions, garlic, and melons they “enjoyed” as slaves in Egypt. They are rejecting the liberation that God has provided through Moses. Moses feels the strain of leading such a large number of people, over 600,000 according to verse 21. God responds by taking a portion of the Spirit that rested on Moses and giving it to 70 elders chosen by God through Moses. The seventy elders are charged with helping Moses lead the people. As soon as the seventy elders receive the Spirit they begin to prophesy. However, there were two who did not go out to the tent of meeting but they still received their portion of the Spirit and prophesied in the camp where the people could hear them. Joshua, Moses assistant, took their prophesying as a threat to Moses’ leadership and called on Moses to stop them. Moses does not and instead prays that God would give the Spirit to all human beings so that everyone might prophesy.

Analysis: This passage anticipates God answering Moses prayer on the day of Pentecost. Just as Moses requested, God the Holy Spirit is made available to all human beings so that they are able to prophesy. They are able to speak the words of the Lord to people who are rejecting God’s gift of freedom and life. The elders were charged with helping Moses keep “the rabble” (v. 4) from stirring up dissension among the people with all of their complaining. God revealed himself through the sharing of the Holy Spirit so that the people and the elders would know that God is the source of power and authority. Both the people and the elders could be confident that God has called these elders to lead as evidenced by God the Holy Spirit making it possible for them to prophesy. However, they did not prophesy again (v. 25). The miraculous was not the point; the purpose for the sharing of the Spirit was the point. We see this as Eldad and Medad are able to prophesy even though they were not with the others. God can and does share the Holy Spirit with whoever, whenever, and wherever God wants. Moses was not the center of Israel’s deliverance, God was and still is. We who are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit are not the center of the salvation of the world, that power and authority rests with God and God alone. We are filled with the Spirit to speak when the Spirit says speak and to get out of the way when it is time for someone else to speak.

Prayer: Gracious God, we give you thanks for the precious gift of God the Holy Spirit. Help us to remember that you, God the Holy Spirit, are not a tool or weapon given to us for our benefit or to grant us glory. Teach us to speak and to be silent. In Jesus name. Amen.


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