Sunday, 29 May 2016

Learning with Moses - Numbers 11:24 - 30

Last week we saw how Joshua got to tag along with Moses as the people were led by God. The journey was not always enjoyed by the people, and this week the scene is one of complaining and moaning - the people had God-provided food to eat, but they wanted real meat! This got to Moses and led to a sense of burden. He felt he had to carry all 1.5 million people himself.

Leadership can feel like a lonely place, but Moses was wise enough to take his feelings to God. God's response was two-fold: he would miraculously provide the meat the people wanted, and He would put His Spirit on other leaders to share the leadership task. Both represent God's gracious provision: the food and the Spirit-enabled leaders.

The empowering experience involves gathering the seventy with Moses at the special tent, and the glory of God descending on them. We are told that the Spirit rested on the other leaders: settled, at peace, remaining on them. This is the favourite image of a dove - remember Jesus had the same at his baptism by John.

One of the outcomes of the Spirit resting on the leaders is that they start prophesying - speaking the wonders of God. But there is a twist: two of their number hadn't turned up and are still somewhere in the camp. Yet they also start prophesying right where they are. The news gets to Joshua who takes it up with Moses, querying the validity of it.

Moses effectively responds to Joshua: 'Do you think these people are a threat? Are you worried that they might form an alternative power base? Do I need to control them, or the Holy Spirit working through them?'. He then gives these wonderful words: 'I would prefer the Spirit to come on all people and enable them to prophesy!'. All people, not just the leaders, not just those who were keen in some way, but everyone to be included with the closeness of God. Paul echoes this in his instructions to the Corinthians: eagerly desire the gifts especially prophecy (1 Cor 14:1).

Moses is educating Joshua:
  • Let the Spirit do His thing - the Spirit can work outside our parameters, outside our gathered group
  • Let the Spirit work through others - even those you don't expect or who don't fit your mould
  • Let the Spirit surprise you -  the Spirit can work where the Lord chooses, not just where we might direct or according to our plans
Joshua is on a learning curve. He has seen God interact with Moses, but his lesson today is not the Spirit as a dove, but the Spirit as the Wild Goose, moving as God pleases. But there is also a deeper lesson for him to learn: true Godly power is only from the action of the Spirit resting on us together with those empowered by the Spirit to walk with us. The Spirit cannot be kept to ourselves, and is not subservient to us, our desire to control, or operate our own power base.

Try and horde power or pull rank, and you will likely lose the Spirit. A secular author put it well: 'True power is never used - if you use power, you never really have it'. The same author also said 'Compelled behaviour is the essence of tyranny, induced behaviour is the essence of leadership'. Moses was the leader, and God's grace gave him an eclectic bunch of Spirit empowered people to work with. Moses now had to create conditions in which they could thrive in their Spirit empowered roles.

Let us learn the same lessons, giving away human power and seek God to replace it, for the Spirit to rest on us like a dove. Yet with that, let us acknowledge the Spirit is like a Wild Goose, and will surprise us as He continues to work in His way.

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