Eldad & Medad ... Who Shall Speak?
| Numbers 11:24-30
|Sun, May 23, 1999
Rev. Ed Searcy
|Moses was fed up. He was the leader of six hundred thousand hungry, tired Israelites. And he was tired of trying to answer all of their questions and complaints: "When will we eat meat ... we’re tired of this bland old manna" "How long until we get to the Land you Promised we’d find ... Why don’t we just turn around and go home to our shacks in Egypt". Yes, Moses was fed up. And he said to God: "Give me some help ... or let me die ... but don’t leave me alone with six hundred thousand hungry, tired people". Guess what? God answered Moses: "Alright. Get seventy of the elders and gather them in a tent with you. I will come and talk with all of you there ... and I will take some of my Spirit that is on you and put it on them so that they can share the burden of leading the people". And so that is just what God did. The seventy elders in the tent were given the Spirit of God and when they spoke it was God’s message that came out of their mouths.
But just then a youth came running up to the tent, saying "Moses, Moses ... Eldad and Medad are preaching outside ... in the camp". Eldad and Medad. Remember those names. They weren’t in the tent waiting for the Spirit of God. They were back in the camp. They weren’t supposed to be ordained ... no one ever dreamed that they would find themselves turned into preachers. But God’s Spirit is hard to contain. It was supposed to stay in the tent ... with the seventy hand-picked elders. Somehow, though, some of it leaked out and landed on - you remember - Eldad and Medad. Well. When Joshua - Moses executive assistant - heard this he said that it was trouble. They couldn’t let God’s Spirit loose like that ... they had to keep it in the tent with the seventy specially chosen elders. "My lord Moses", he said (trying to keep on his bosses’ good side) "stop them!". And you might think that Moses - who until now had been the only one ordained with the Spirit of God - would have agreed. After all, once the Spirit is loose what is to stop just anyone from claiming to speak on behalf of God? But, instead, Moses turned to Joshua and said "Don’t worry about me. Imagine what it would be like if all of this whole camp were speaking for God because they had been given God’s Spirit".
This is Moses’ dream ... that all the people of God be given the same Spirit, the same voice, that he had been given. Moses dreams that one day there will not be one spokesman for God ... but that all of God’s people will be given voices to speak about God.
Peter had a problem. For fifty days he and his friends had been waiting ... waiting for the Spirit that Jesus had said would come. They had been waiting and wondering ... waiting inside, afraid of the same crowds who had put Jesus to death ... wondering if the Spirit that Jesus had promised would ever really come. But now Peter had a problem. The Spirit had come. But not as any of them had expected. They had imagined a nice, gentle spirit ... a warm and soothing spirit of peace and calm. ‘Spirituality’ some of them had called it. They wanted to be ‘spiritual’ people. Instead, it had burst into the room like a house on fire, stormed into their life like a hurricane. And now all the neighbours were complaining. They said that it sounded like a drunken party next door. All that noise. All those people babbling away. They were knocking at the door, saying "Can’t you keep it down in there". But tourists who were just walking by recognized their own native languages coming out of the house. Everyone was stopping to find out what was going on. Peter and the rest had been praying and praying for God’s Spirit to fall on them ... but they never imagined anything like this.
Peter stepped outside to try to explain: "Listen", he said, "no one here is drunk. That should be obvious. After all, it is only nine o’clock in the morning. Something else is happening here. The Spirit of God that has long been promised has been given to us. And not just to some of us ... not just to the elders or to the men ... and not just to the educated or to the ordained. The Spirit of God has been given to the old and to the young, to men and to women. We have been given voices to speak of God’s great power and love ... to tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth in every language known to humankind." Well. Before that day no one had ever heard of a thing called a ‘church’ because one had never existed before. But ever since that day, the church has spread like wind and fire all across the world because the Spirit has given people ... people like you and like me ... voices to speak of God’s great power and love.
Moses was fed up. He was tired of doing it alone. Does that sound familiar? The church feeling more and more burdened by a world of greater and greater need. Longing for the day when God’s Spirit would be shared with many others. Like Moses we pray that the Spirit be shared. Peter shared that prayer. But then Peter had a problem. The prayers of the disciples were answered ... but in ways that they had never expected. Things were very quickly out of control. The Spirit didn’t just warm their hearts ... it set them on fire. The Spirit wasn’t just a refreshing breeze ... it was a gale-force wind. Maybe that’s not quite our problem. Yet. But do you sense it? Do you sense that our prayers for the Spirit are being answered ... that the embers are about to burst into flame, that the storm warnings are about to go up ... that people are catching fire, being inspired, beginning to speak and, in speaking, to call the church to a new life? There was a time when we could fit ‘church’ into a neat and tidy corner of our lives ... a Sunday morning corner. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Spirit has slipped out of the box we had put it in. Now prophetic voices of all ages and backgrounds call us beyond Sunday ... they call us to share our wealth with the poor of the inner city and with the orphans of the third world ... they call us to reconciliation with the people of the First Nations ... and they call us to open our hearts to the refugees of Kosovo. It is Moses’ wish coming true. It is Peter’s prayer answered. And it is our church being reborn ... by the Holy Spirit of God. And, if you were hoping to avoid it all, I’m afraid that it may just be too late for you to escape the Spirit’s blessing.
To be honest, our first reaction is "oh-oh ... we thought that we were just going to church ... now what have we gotten ourselves into". But, on second thought, we realize that there is nothing else to say but "praise God" ... and then to breathe deeply of the Spirit which brings hope and life for all the world.