“Eldad, Medad and Me” Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
The 19th Sunday after Pentecost (B) 9/30/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” (James 5:13-14)
In none of this does St. James say, if you face this or that… if you are dealing with this issue or that issue… complain… grumble and gripe. In fact, follow the example of the children of Israel recorded in today’s Old Testament text as well as other times in their journey through the wilderness to the promised land.
Let us keep in mind that the whole depiction of this journey is factual as well as prophetic and symbolic. Prophetic and symbolic in that this account in a most striking way, describes our journey… yours and mine… through this, our mortal journey here on earth.
You heard what the Israelites were moaning about. “Oh that we had meat to eat. we remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” (Num 11:4-6)
They missed all the free food provided to them in Egypt. They had already dismissed the fact that they themselves were free, completely free, from Egyptian dominance and servitude and that they, indeed, had food… free food and divine at that… manna that was given to them free and fresh every morning by their gracious God… our gracious God.
My friends, I said that “they had already dismissed” all the wonderful things God had done and was doing for them, because the account before us occurs only three days… THREE DAYS… into the journey… their journey.
How about us? It doesn’t take us long to forget about all that we have in Jesus Christ – our salvation… our being given freedom from slavery and servitude to sin… and yes, our being given the blessed “manna” that sustains us along life’s way… namely, Christ’s own body and blood. We can hear about these things, receive these things and in less than three minutes, let alone three days or three hours, be complaining… be thinking about all of the things we do not have instead of the amazing things that we have been graciously given.
I would say that we are “just like the Israelites” but in reality we ARE the Israelites… we are the “new Israel”… God’s people, His favored ones, chosen ones… the object of His love and affection, His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus. Given everything, we still find ways of complaining, groaning and griping. And for this, we are rightfully called to repentance.
Moses had had it with the people. It was all too much… THEY were too much. First, he had to deal with Pharaoh, and now with his own people?
Yes, but not alone. We read, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you.’” (Numbers 11:16)
In the Hebrew here, “taking their stand” with Moses refers to these 70 men of God being “stationed” with Moses… put in place to assist Moses in what was NOT a physical matter, but rather a far greater spiritual one. The issue was not food… but faith and the lack there of… the lack of faith… the lack of trust and getting all in a tizzy about this or that. Sound familiar?
Scripture here tells us that the Lord came down and took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the seventy elders. For it is only by the Holy Spirit that Moses could pastor these people and only by the Spirit could the elders help with the same. And the evidence of the Spirit is seen in the seventy being able to prophesy for a while.
But in the text before us, we are not done with prophesying or with “getting in a tizzy” are we? We are told of two men in camp, Eldad and Medad by name, and that “the Spirit rested on them” and they “prophesied in the camp” … among the people… among the whole congregation of Israel. (Numbers 11:26)
Moses is told about this as he gathered with his leaders including the seventy elders. Joshua, Moses’ assistant and eventual successor, hears this and declares, “’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, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!’” (Numbers 11:28-29)
Anyone want to take a wild guess how this applies to today, right here, right now, right with all of you and with me?
“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Would that all of the Lord’s people were Eldads and Medads.
Would that all of the Lord’s people were filled with the Spirit, spoke in the Spirit, acted in the Spirit. The spirit that does not complain, grumble or gripe, but rather gives thanks and praise to God unceasingly. The spirit of love, kindness, patience and forbearance. The spirit that makes one not part of the problem, but part of the solution to whatever the congregation of God’s people face. The spirit that encourages and enables one to action rather than being “all talk” … to get in there and do something, rather than mumbling, grumbling and undermining.
Don’t you see dear brothers and sisters? Whether an Israelite then or “New Israelite” now… we both have the joy and good pleasure of looking back and considering the salvation that has come to us… looking back and seeing how we have come out of the water wherein all that could do us harm was drowned… destroyed… once and for all!
We have the joy and good pleasure of looking at the present and how, on this perilous journey through this life, every step of the way… come what may… we are so lovingly cared for… protected…. led and fed.
And we have the joy and good pleasure of looking to the future… to the Promised Land… to our heavenly home… and know that it is ours for certain… guaranteed and sealed in the blood of the Lamb!
There is so much here to think about. So much to consider. So much for which to repent and so much for which to rejoice… to lift our voices in thanks and praise. We… God’s children… redeemed… forgiven… provided for… loved beyond all measure. Amen.