24.) So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle.
25.) Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.
26.) But two men remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp.
27.) And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28.) So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”
29.) Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”
30.) And Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.
It’s Pentecost Sunday. The season of Easter has ended, and the celebration of Jesus’ promise of the Comforter begins. Pentecost is the day we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church. The Jews celebrate Pentecost also. For them, it marks 50 days after the Passover and the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. For the church, Pentecost falls 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus; and instead of the law, the church, which was made up of the disciples, received the Holy Spirit. On the Jewish Pentecost, Moses had been on the mountain for 40 days, so the Israelites had decided to build a golden calf and worship it as their god. When Moses came down off the mountain, he broke the tablets with the law written by the hand of God. If he hadn’t, the outcome would have been a lot worse, but as it was, over 3000 people died. In the church’s Pentecost, the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit and over 3000 people were saved.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter, who had denied Jesus before His crucifixion, preached, and over 3000 people were saved. Acts 2 tells us that there was a mighty wind that all the people who were in Jerusalem that day experienced. Acts tells us that in the same way the dove lighted on Jesus at His baptism in the Jordan, tongues of fire were upon the heads of the disciples. The disciples began to speak in other tongues, but these tongues were not indiscernible to the pilgrims from other countries who had come to Jerusalem for the feast. In fact, Acts tells us that many heard the Gospel preached in their home language, and many were added to the church that day.
Much too often we like to focus on the Tongues. Modern charismatics like to focus on the gift of Tongues. Today, I would like for us to focus on the real message of the day. The scripture text this morning may seem unusual for this important Christian day, but it speaks to the real sustenance of the Holy Spirit. The children of Israel had not been in the wilderness too long at the telling of this story, but they were already complaining. This wasn’t the first time they had complained, and it wouldn’t be the last; but they were already tired of the manna and were wanting meat. Moses had brought that and other priorities before the LORD. Besides the meat, how was he to dispense justice, since he was just one person and the demands were too great for him. God tells him what to do and to go back and tell the people what He, the LORD, was going to do. Let’s zero in on what God told Moses to do about the justice part. He told Moses to choose 70 elders (known leaders of the tribes) and bring them to the tabernacle. This is what Moses does. He gathers the 70 elders and brings them before the tabernacle. When this is done God comes down on a cloud. Literally in the Hebrew. God came down on His pedestal and spoke to Moses – not to Moses and the elders but just to Moses. Then the Scripture tells us that God “took of the Spirit that was upon him (upon Moses) and placed the same upon the seventy elders.” Not some or a part of the Spirit, but the same Spirit that was with Moses and upon Moses was given to the 70 elders. Moses did not have less of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the Holy Spirit was given to the seventy elders also. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, what do the seventy elders begin to do? They begin to prophesy. Like the disciples on that first Christian Pentecost Sunday, they began telling of the goodness of God, the mighty works of God, the promises of God, and the power of God. And because two of the seventy elders decided not to follow Moses to the tabernacle, but stayed in the camp, the people heard the prophecies also. The point is that the seventy elders were being called to do a great task: to help Moses with the governing of Israel. In order to do that. they had to be empowered. How did God empower them for this work? He gave them the Holy Spirit!
All of you know that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. It takes me awhile to figure some things out. For example, early in my ministry, I had a difficult time understanding Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. The Scripture plainly tells us that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. So why did Jesus have to be baptized? After all, He was sinless. I always focused on the baptism and the voice from Heaven which said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” I even recognized the dove that descended, but I always equated it with the voice from Heaven. The Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit descended like a dove. I have known since confirmation that the dove and fire were the church’s symbols for the Holy Spirit. Yet in my struggle to settle in my mind the reason for Jesus’ baptism, it took me a long time to realize that Jesus did not go to the Jordan for sin. He went to the Jordan and into the water out of obedience. Everyone else went for repentance, promising to be obedient afterward. Jesus went out of obedience, and from that act of obedience, He received the missing piece to His ministry – the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Where did this baptism come from? It came from God the Father. Where did the baptism of the Holy Spirit for the elders in our text come from? It came from the LORD. Where did the disciples’ baptism of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost come from? God the Father.
This tells us that the Holy Spirit is a gift. It is not something we can get for ourselves. It is not something we can earn. The Holy Spirit can only be received. The elders in our text only knew what Moses had told them. He had repeated God’s message. But they had to receive. Likewise, Jesus’ disciples had been told to wait in Jerusalem for the power. They had to be at a point where they could receive. The disciples had watched Jesus ascend into heaven. The forty days of Jesus’ appearing to the believers after His resurrection were over. Acts tells us that they went back to the upper room, and Acts 1:14 says, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” They prepared themselves through prayer. They united themselves together in belief. They were in one accord. They replaced Judas with Mattias, thus there was 12 once again. Like Jesus, the disciples through their obedience prepared themselves to receive.
This also tells us that not only is the Holy Spirit a gift from God but it is also the power of God to do His work. The elders of our text were being called to help Moses in ruling the children of Israel. It was a job they could not do within their own wisdom, knowledge, strength, or power. God didn’t just tell Moses to choose 70 leaders and appoint them to their position. God told him to choose the 70 and bring them to the tabernacle where He would give them the same Spirit that Moses had. The disciples were given the great commission by Jesus, but he also told them to tarry in Jerusalem until the power had come upon them. Once that happened, they made 3000 new disciples in one day! Jesus did not begin His ministry until He received the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit. He could not have withstood the temptations in the wilderness. Without the Holy Spirit, He could not have turned the water into wine, healed the man from Capernaum’s son from Cana, healed the sick, raised the dead, given sight back to the blind, or suffered the indignations of the Passion. This leads me to question – if Jesus couldn’t do the Father’s will and work without the Holy Spirit, why do we think we can?……
There is a real misunderstanding in the church today, a misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit. We give Him lip service. There are doves and flames of fire on our banners and in our stained-glass windows. He is part of the blessings, the benedictions, and the Apostles’ Creed. But how much is He a part of the life of our church? How much is He a part of our personal lives? Do we rely on His wisdom to make right decisions? Do we rely on His knowledge to know the difference between our will and God’s will, our work and God’s work? Do we rely on His power to do the work we think we can’t or really don’t want to do – to be where we really don’t want to be, to sacrifice what we really don’t want to sacrifice? Do we trust in the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to truly take up our cross and follow Jesus, to really be a disciple and not just play one in the church pew or the world? God the Father has called us to be His and to do His work. Yet He has not just called us. If we will recognize it, He has also empowered us for that work by that gift of the Holy Spirit!!
I believe that is where our biggest misunderstanding lies. The Father has given, but we have not received? The elders received. The apostles received. Even our Lord, Jesus Christ, received. The Holy Spirit is given to us with our profession of faith, when we confess our belief in Jesus as God’s only Son, sent to redeem us from our sins. When we confess our belief that through the finished work of Christ on the cross, we receive eternal redemption through His blood and unconditional forgiveness of sins through His death. When we confess that through His resurrection we are eternally justified, that in His ascension the work is complete. The Holy Spirit is given to us right then. But have we received? Do we want to receive? Have we regulated the Holy Spirit or compartmentalized Him so that we are not led by Him except when we deem it appropriate? There are people who are scared of the Holy Spirit, afraid of what they think He might make them do. They fear where He might ask them to go or what He might ask them to give up or change about their life. So, they try to determine God’s will and work in their own wisdom and knowledge. Or worse, they try to determine God’s will and work according to the world’s wisdom and knowledge. They are afraid of their cross because they want to be a disciple just by following what they believe is right. In doing this, they ignore the POWER that enables trust completely and freely. They ignore the POWER that the Father has placed right there for a walk in victory. The POWER to be what we are called to be by the Father is right there in front of us. All we have to do is RECEIVE.
The main reason many do not receive is fear of the unknown, but the Holy Spirit is not unknown. As we read Scripture, Jesus tells us all about Him. The Holy Spirit is our comforter. He comes to give us assurance of the Father’s love for us, assurance of our salvation found in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, assurance of our relationship with a living, resurrected, and ascended Savior. He comes to give us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding about the Father’s calling upon our life. He comes to lift up Jesus in us that we may walk in the way Jesus wants us to walk and the power to be what Christ has called us to be. The Holy Spirit comes to give us the peace of Christ, the peace that passes all understanding. The Holy Spirit comes so that we may be the disciples and makers of disciples Christ has called us to be.
Another fear which causes people not to receive the Holy Spirit is the fear of what He might make them do. Church, the Holy Spirit is not going to make you do anything. That is totally and completely against God’s will. Rather, Holy Spirit will lead you if you are willing to be led…. He will teach you if you are willing to be taught. He will strengthen you if you are willing to be the Father’s worker and follower of the Father’s will. He will give you the wisdom and knowledge of God if you are willing to ask, seek, and knock for it in God’s word. He will give you all you need to be a faithful follower of Christ. He will do it freely and gladly. But the Holy Spirit will not make you do anything.
What is interesting again in our text for today about Moses is that two elders did not go to the tabernacle, yet they also received the Holy Spirit. These two elders were still in the camp among the people, but they received the Holy Spirit and were prophesying. Their names were Eldad and Medad. The Scripture tells us a young man ran to boldly declare to Moses what was going on back in the camp. It also tells us that Moses’ most trusted assistant, Joshua, wanted Moses to shut them up, but Moses would not. Instead, he said, “Oh that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!”
Church, that is exactly what God did on the day of the Christian Pentecost. He gave His Holy Spirit to all who were ready to receive. He gave the power to proclaim the good news of His Son’s finished work. He gave power to endure and victoriously overcome persecution. He gave power to go out to the highways and byways and compel not just the Jew but also the Gentile to come in. He gave the power to heal in places where simply the shadow of the apostles fell upon a person. God gave the promise of our salvation and our resurrection. God gave the internal presence of the eternal God and an internal witness to our eternal life. God gave His Holy Spirit.
If you are reading this today and have not received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I hope you will take steps to do that right now. Thank Jesus for His great gift of salvation through His death, tell Him you want His authority in your life, and accept His love for you as you give your love to Him. Then prepare yourself to receive Jesus’ presence in your life through the Holy Spirit. It’s that simple and that awesome…..
If for some reason you have already received Jesus but for fear or lack of knowledge have not received the Holy Spirit – or if you have received the Holy Spirit but have relegated Him to a back seat in your life so that you can be in control instead of Him – I pray that you will freely reach for and accept the Holy Spirit today. I pray that you will release Him in your life today so that you can enjoy what the Father wants you to have and be what the Father has created you to be.
Remember to read Psalm 91 in the first person – every day.
BLESSING: Now may the God of peace which passes all understanding, the Son who makes that peace available to all who are willing to receive, and the Spirit that bring that peace into the center of our very being, be in you and keep you. Amen.