God’s Word for You
Numbers 11:26-30 Using gifts
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 10, 2021
26 Two men, however, remained in the camp. The name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other was Medad. They were listed among the elders, but they had not gone out to the tent. The Spirit rested on them, and they prophesied back in the camp. 27 A young man ran and reported this to Moses. He said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” 28 Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide from his youth, answered, “My lord Moses, stop them!”
Miracles are God’s own direct action or intervention in history. When the miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit came to the seventy elders of Israel, there were two men missing from the group. For some reason, Eldad and Medad had not gone to Moses’ tent. However, the Holy Spirit did not need then to be present to descend also upon them, and the two men suddenly began to prophesy just like all of the other elders, except that they were in the camp among the other Israelites. The first instinct of almost anyone would have been to go and tell Moses about it, and this is exactly what one young man did.
As soon as he heard about this, Joshua spoke up. We’re told here that Joshua had been Moses’ helper “from his youth.” Can we understand, therefore, that this means something more than Joshua having this role for the past year or so? Wouldn’t this mean something more, something like Joshua actually being with Moses during his exile in Midian? Joshua’s objection is certainly one of respect for Moses.
29 Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all of the LORD’s people were prophets so that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses returned to the camp along with the elders of Israel.
When Jesus’ disciples complained that someone was driving out demons in the Lord’s name, Jesus said, “Do not stop him. No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me” (Mark 9:39). Moses shows his real worth here by wishing that everyone in Israel were prophets. He isn’t jealous at all of his position. The more people who proclaim the Lord, the more people will know him. “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10). This gift was something to praise God about, since it was God’s blessing for God’s people: “I will praise you in the presence of your saints” (Psalm 52:9).
Remember that Moses already told us that this happened just this once, and not again (Numbers 11:25). Moses would have been happy if it had continued, but the Lord provided this sign for more than one reason. We are about to see that his wind was already blowing quail up from the sea at this moment. The Lord’s Spirit had descended on the elders, not only to show that God could and would give his spirit to whomever he pleased, but also that Moses was not jealous of the gift and was happy to share his position of leadership. This makes the rebellion against Moses in chapter 12 all the more inexcusable.
Luther makes another point that is well worth repeating. I will interject a few details to make his meaning more plain:
“The spirit of prophecy is still present in Christendom, but not so markedly as in the apostles. We, too, can predict and know such things [the future fortunes and misfortunes of the church], but only if we have learned this from the books of the apostles. Yet we can do so in a lesser degree. It has been apparent to us so far that although we [formerly] had and read the Bible, we did not understand it [that is, prior to the Reformation and the rediscovery of the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ alone]. Yet even today there are many who fancy that they are masters of Scripture, that they have the Holy Spirit without measure, and that what they have learned is too subtle and deep for any one of us… To be sure, we would be glad to grant that they all have much more learning than we have and they themselves think they have, as St. Paul wishes for his Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:8): ‘And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you!’ This is as though he were also saying: ‘Ah, if only you were all as learned and as spiritual as we apostles are and had an even greater measure of the Spirit! Then you would not need us.’” (LW 24:367)
Some people still think that they have an understanding of the Scriptures but really don’t understand the Bible at all. This will continue to the end of time (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1). How many people in our midst scoff at the Amish because they reject so many modern inventions and live content with the technology of the world when their sect broke away from the Anabaptists in the late 17th century? How many of those same people who look down on the Amish as backward, do the same thing themselves, scorning as simple a technology and gift of God as a vaccination? It is a deadly mistake to proclaim, “If I have a strong faith and eat my vegetables, then I will never get sick because God loves me.” But I have heard this claim with my own ears. Where in the Bible does it ever say such a thing? For a Christian to avoid immunization because he or she thinks it’s against the Word of God had better produce that Word of God before the Lord himself puts their little made-up creed to the test. When God grants us a newer and better technology, it is no sin to use it to his glory. Did David sin by providing newer and better musical instruments for worship (1 Chronicles 23:5)? Did Solomon sin by building big trading ships that brought him gold, silver and ivory for his treasury and apes and baboons for his zoo (1 Kings 10:22)? Did Jeremiah sin by using scrolls rather than stone to record God’s word (Jeremiah 36:32), or did John sin by upgrading to paper rather than scrolls (2 John 1:12)? Certainly we pray for one another when we are sick (James 5:5), but God’s people still can get sick and die from an illness, as happened with the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 13:34). It is one thing to put one’s trust in the Lord, but another to say, “I will not take my medicine,” and put the Lord to the test. Do not put the Lord your God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7). Medicine, including immunizations, do not protect perfectly, or 100% of the time. But to refuse a medicine because it is not 100% effective is foolishness.
Pastor Timothy Smith