Numbers 11:29, "And Moses
said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all of the LORD'S people
were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!"
This morning, jealousy continues to plague us in various forms and places. Considering man's condition, as marred by the depravity of the fall, we are all susceptible to becoming jealous or envious of things that we should not. Today's world displays jealousy and covetousness in broad strokes as certain venues of life even reward and commend the jealousy that arises, particularly in the entertainment world. Certainly, God's jealousy over Zion is vastly different from this worldly covetousness. (Zechariah 8:2) But unfortunately, the walls of Zion are plagued from time to time with jealousy that does not come from the heavenly portal of God's throne. As is so often the case, the jealousy generally arises from the watchmen that are set for the protection and care of her inhabitants.
Preacher jealousy is not a new thing, for we see from different places in Scripture that it is a plague that has early roots as shown in the passage from our verse above. God has just finished "ordaining" seventy men to help Moses care for the people of Israel in the wilderness. God imparts the same spirit of wisdom to these men that His prophet Moses had, and they immediately begin to prophesy in the camp. (Verse 25) However, there are two other men (Medad and Eldad) that are not present at the tabernacle that also prophesy as well. This situation is immediately reported to Moses, which report incites indignation from Joshua to encourage Moses to forbid them from doing so. (Verses 26-28) After Joshua makes this indignant statement to his "father in the ministry" Moses, Moses reproves him with the statement in our verse above.
One of the things that we might think is in this passage is a teaching of the unimportance of the order of things. Since Medad and Eldad were not present in the tabernacle when Moses' spirit was imparted to the other men but Moses does not reprove their subsequent prophesying, we might think that the way a man is brought along or comes to a particular position of public teaching does not really matter. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Paul is very clear about the order of things as he writes to his son in the ministry Timothy. (I Timothy 4:14-16) It must be the due order for a man to be recognized today that he come under the hands of the presbytery, but what of the Eldad/Medad situation?
We find from further examination of this passage that these men were of the names that were written for this work. They were not in the tabernacle when the others were, but they were still ordained by writ as part of those that would assist Moses. God had still chosen to ordain them to this work, but their presence at the tabernacle was not a necessary prerequisite for the spirit to rest upon them. It rested upon them anyway. Therefore, what Moses is saying to Joshua is not that they are doing something of their own accord, for they are doing what was intended for them to do. Rather, Joshua's reproof from Moses speaks of the unimportance of Moses himself being present there for the imparting of their spiritual gift. It is in this venue of thought that we would like to address the remainder of our thoughts about Moses' statement.
Even though God had set Moses to be the deliverer of His people out of Egypt and the man would speak to Him as a friend does with friend, God had never told Moses that his presence was altogether necessary for anything profitable to happen to the children of Israel. The Lord was able, and did on this occasion, to bless two other men irrespective of Moses's physical presence at the time. Furthermore, the same imparting of the spirit unto these two men (of the same spirit which Moses himself had) being away from Moses's presence shows God's ultimate power and authority to do so without Moses being there. Too many times, men may think that their presence is necessary for a certain thing to happen. Sometimes even other men will think this as well in being envious for their friend's sake.
One of the torments that ministers can put other ministers through is the "pulling of rank" to act as high sheriffs among God's heritage to dictate who goes where. I have sadly seen some men consider themselves to be the experts of which man should serve which flock and tell both the man and the flock of his opinion. No man upon earth should be so brazen as to infringe upon God's turf! Joshua no doubt thought that his statements would be met with Moses's approval and perhaps was acting sincerely in what he thought the people's best interests were, but the simple point is that God can and does move outside of the boxes that our minds so often draw.
As Joshua was focused on ancillary details to the situation, so also today do men focus on the ancillary details of similar situations. Quite often, the man that tries to dictate who should go where focuses on the personality of the man coming in based on the man who just left. They might say, "Well, that will never work because Elder So-and-so is nothing like Elder Such-and-such.
At the end of both scenes, the church can still be tranquil, but one man was better at planting and the other better at watering with God ultimately giving the increase at the end of the day. (I Corinthians 3:6) Sometimes it is good when a grower is followed by an expounder and vice versa. Sometimes, the church needs someone quite different from who she has had before. The Lord knows the situation, and the decision is with Him.
Notice also from our verse that Moses makes the exclamation that there be more people like Medad and Eldad to prophesy and work in this fashion. Sometimes, we see ministers that initially desire help and assistance but then refuse what comes their way. Too often the jealousy arises within them at seeing the help that has come as a threat to them personally. Moses did not see these two as a threat to him, but rather, they were a continued answer to his prayer that the Lord bless men to work with him at leading and directing the people.
We are quite possibly today at one of the most critical ratios that I can recall from our history of churches without pastors to recognized ministers among us. Certainly many of us - without breaking a sweat - could list dozens of churches that are currently without supply. Due to this dire need, the prayer that the Lord raise up labourers into His harvest is needful. (Luke 10:2) However, to keep the jealousy away and prevent us from viewing any future labourer as some form of threat, why not pray also that the Lord raise up many, many men to the harvest (as Moses did) and that they be filled with such a spirit of wisdom that their efforts bring forth manifold more fruit than our thoughts could comprehend? If that seems unimaginable, God is still able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think within His church. (Ephesians 3:20)
Moses teaches his son an important lesson on this day that the matters of the nation of Israel are far more important than any attachment that Joshua might have for Moses. Even if Joshua was thinking of Moses in the fondest of ways, that leaves no excuse to put any man before the people that the man serves. Today, no matter what we may think of a man or minister (even if blessed by God with special gifts and qualities), his person should never supersede the matters of the kingdom. Envying for his sake is still wrong, for the kingdom is not about us and comes before us.
Finally, all men are different and blessed with diverse gifts from God. Moses did not expect the men coming along under him to do things exactly like he did, but he expected them to look to the same One that he did (as he later charges Joshua). May we grant the liberty to one another that every man use his gift that the Lord has given unto him in the best way he can use that gift. May our spirit of envy never be stirred up, even for what we might think of as a good reason, and may we ultimately pray that more and more would be raised up in like manner to care and serve such a great people. Moses felt the strain of serving Israel, and Paul felt the strain of the care of the churches. (II Corinthians 11:28) To do it all and control it all is more than a man can handle, but God has, is, and will always be able to do it without the slightest strain upon Him. May we leave matters reserved to Him with Him and always pray that He bless us to do our duty and calling to the fullest and best that we can.