Monday 16 May 2016

Bible Book:

“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. 29)

Numbers 11:24-30 Monday 16 May 2016

Psalm: Psalm 67


Moses is regarded highly in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam asa great prophet through whom God liberates the Hebrew people fromslavery and delivers the law that will bind them in covenant toGod. Both the books of Exodus and Numbers reveal that he was oftena beleaguered leader, the target of the people's grumbling, and onecharged with mediating the disputes the people had with each otherand with God. This passage from Numbers 11 is part of the largerstory of the people's 40-year journey in the wilderness underMoses' leadership. Although God gave manna from heaven to feed thepeople when they complained of hunger (Exodus16), the people were now demanding meat. God will provide it,but not quite yet. A different story seems to interrupt the accountof God providing food.

God commands Moses to gather 70 elders from among the people.The 70 will receive a share of the spirit that is upon Moses. Thisseems to be more than simply a reference to Moses' energy. Thespirit that rests on Moses is a gift-bearing spirit, one thatbrings him wisdom and authority as a leader.

When 'the seventy' (though really the 70 minus 2) are assembled,the mystery of God's presence descends "in the cloud" (v. 25) andthe spirit rested on the elders. There is no implication here thatMoses' authority or energy for leadership is diminished. Instead,the responsibility is shared or multiplied amongst the otherelders. There is the sense that the spirit resting on the cohortmeans that it settles with them because they gift they receive isperpetual.

Although some might (and do) interpret the word 'prophesying' inthe text as referring to speaking in tongues or preaching, otherinterpretations point to the role the elders would have inmediating disputes, making judgements, and taking responsibilityrelated to governing the people.

The Spirit's role in empowering and sustaining people forleadership is also exemplified in the account of Eldad and Medad,on whom the Spirit chooses to rest even though they remained in thecamp and were not with the elders and Moses in the tent. Theycontinue to prophesy or exercise leadership even when the othershave ceased to do so. Instead of objecting, Moses affirms theirleadership and wishes that the same spirit to empower all God'speople (verse 29). The passage conveys the sense that authority forministry does not rest with one person alone, but is exercised in acommunity in which many receive gifts for leadership.

To Ponder

  • To what extent does leadership involve spiritual gifts?
  • What is the role of church leaders in identifying andencouraging the leadership of all God's people?
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