Read This Page in My Language
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Sermon: Numbers 11:16, 24-29
Pentecost 19 – September 30, 2018 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
We all know what job security is. Anyone who has the responsibility to support him or herself, and especially someone who has the added responsibility of supporting a whole family, knows very well what job security is, that they will have a job or can find another job if they desire.
If we are to believe the glowing economic reports and job statistics that we hear on the news we can be quite confident that people have a lot of job security. The reports are that the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in a long time. The Gross Domestic Product is higher than anyone expected, and the stock market is roaring. These statistics are all indicative that people’s jobs are pretty secure or that they can readily find a job.
Even pastors and Lutheran school teachers have pretty good job security right now, but for different reasons than good economic news. Many graduates in our synod from the large preacher and teacher classes of the 1970’s are now retiring opening up many pastor and teacher positions. All 2018 graduates from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and Martin Luther College quickly received calls. Some pastor and teacher positions went unfilled because there weren’t enough graduates.
Even pastors and teachers enjoy good job security because, like anyone else, they have to support themselves and their families as well. But clearly with those who preach and teach the Word of God there’s something more important than just good job security. They’re also motivated by the desire to proclaim the gospel, the message of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus’ name.
In our text today Moses was also motivated by his desire that the Word of God be proclaimed among God’s people. In this very interesting and unique lesson it becomes clear that Moses wasn’t at all concerned about his job security. He actually wished that all of God’s people could be prophets like him, and in a sense, work him out of his job.
Today we’re going to consider that
Not only was Moses not concerned about job security, we get the impression that on this occasion in the 11th chapter of Numbers he didn’t even want his job of leading the people of Israel. You know that the LORD God had called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan. That meant convincing angry Pharaoh to let the people go. That meant leading about two million people through some not so inviting territory to get to Canaan and to provide food and water for a lot of hungry and thirsty people.
If that challenge were not enough the Israelites proved not to be a very cooperative or patient people. From the very beginning they complained to Moses about the lack of water, not enough food, the threat of their enemies. They really didn’t trust the promises of the LORD’s provision and protection.
On this occasion what is referred to as the rabble began to particularly complain about the food. The rabble were quite honestly trouble makers. They were likely non-Israelites who had left Egypt with God’s people to get away from Egypt and perhaps find better opportunities in Canaan. They caused a lot of trouble for Moses. They wanted some good meat and not just manna. They remembered the great variety of good vegetables and fruit in Egypt. The rabble incited all of Israel to complain.
Their complaining made the LORD God very angry. Their complaining made Moses frustrated to the point of wanting to die. He went to the LORD and asked, “Why have you brought this trouble on me? What did I do to make you so mad that you’re doing this to me? Where can I get meat for all of them? If this is how you’re going to treat me then put me to death right now!” Not only was Moses not concerned about job security, he didn’t want this job at all.
Have you ever felt like Moses? Have you ever been so frustrated with your job, with your family, with your situation in life that you just can’t understand why God would have allowed you to end up in such a situation? I suppose we all have felt like Moses to some extent. We’ve probably all questioned God. But God came to Moses’ rescue and helped him.
In the middle of his frustration Moses didn’t care about job security. He didn’t want this job at all. But when the LORD came to his rescue we find that Moses was not concerned about job security for a much more honorable reason.
“The LORD said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people.’” The LORD God was going to appoint seventy men who would assist Moses in doing the mammoth task of leading the people of Israel. He instructed Moses to bring these men to the Tent of Meeting, a place where God often met with Moses to speak to him. There he was going to take the power of the Spirit that was on Moses and give it also just as powerfully to each one of these men. The Holy Spirit would now empower these men to help Moses lead the people.
And so we read, “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with [Moses], and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.” This was a one-time miraculous display to assure the people of Israel that the LORD had chosen these men to help Moses and that they had the power of the Holy Spirit to aid them. This event reminds us of that special Pentecost about fourteen centuries later. The Holy Spirit miraculously empowered the disciples to praise God in different languages and to assure the people that they indeed were messengers of the gospel.
But then we read something very interesting. There were not really seventy men who came to the Tent of Meeting. There were sixty-eight. For some reason two of these seventy elders, Eldad and Medad by name, had not come to the Tent of Meeting but remained in the camp with the people. But still the Spirit had been poured out on them too and they were able to prophesy like the others.
A certain young man witnessed Eldad and Medad prophesying, was concerned, and ran to tell Moses. Joshua, Moses’ aide and helper, was concerned too. Joshua was concerned that these two men were not on the approved list of prophets, that they perhaps were imposters, and threats to Moses’ authority. Joshua said to Moses, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
Joshua’s concern reminds us of John in our gospel reading today who witnessed a man casting out demons, and presumably preaching the Word of God, who was not one of the twelve disciples or even Jesus’ larger group of followers. John asked Jesus if he should stop him. But Jesus told John not to stop him. Jesus said, “If he’s not against us, he’s for us.” In other words, “If he’s opposing Satan and preaching the Word of God, even if he’s not part of our group, that’s wonderful. He’s doing God’s work. He’s proclaiming the gospel. He’s helping to build God’s kingdom.
Moses said something similar to Joshua: “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them.” Moses was not at all concerned about his job security. He wished that all of God’s two million people had the power of the Holy Spirit on them, that they were all prophets, that they all could have the wisdom and ability to proclaim the Word of God. They would work Moses right out of his job. Moses didn’t care. Moses just wanted the Word of God proclaimed by the most people and in the most powerful way.
I’m not very concerned about my job security either. That’s real easy for me to say. I’m already on Medicare and if I had to I could go to the Social Security office tomorrow and apply for Social Security benefits. But in all seriousness Moses wasn’t talking about retirement. I know what Moses was saying. If God suddenly poured out his Holy Spirit on all of you right now in a very special way so that you all had the equivalent of a seminary education, the experience of proclaiming the Word of God, the desire and motivation to proclaim the Word of God, and if someone came to me and said, “Pastor Radunzel, we won’t be needing your services any longer because we’ve got over one hundred people who can do your job,” I would love it. That would mean there were more people to proclaim the Word of God, more people would hear the Word of God, more people would believe, the kingdom of God would grow, and God would be glorified.
But the LORD didn’t make all the people of Israel prophets, and it’s not likely that he’s going to make all the lay people of Christian churches into preachers of the Word of God. So pastors’ and Christian teachers’ jobs will be pretty secure for now.
But keep this in mind: When Jesus gave the Great Commission, “Go, and make disciples of all nations,” he was talking to you and me and to every Christian who would ever live in this world. When the Apostle Peter wrote, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who call you out of darkness into his wonderful light,” he was talking to you and me and all Christians. And when Peter also wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have,” he was telling you and me and all Christians to be prepared, to have the words, to have the wisdom, to have the courage to tell other people about Jesus, about the forgiveness of sins, about eternal life in Jesus’ name. And the more people who tell others about Jesus the better.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on a cross to take away the guilt of our sin. He rose again from the dead to show us and the whole world our sins are forgiven and we are justified, declared not guilty. And he said that all who believe in him will be saved. And he said to all of us, “Go, and tell other people about me. Go, and tell other people that I died for their sins. Go, and tell other people to believe in me and be saved.”
Come to church to hear the Word. Come to Bible class to learn more of the Word. Read the Bible at home. And ask God to give you the opportunities, the words, the wisdom, the courage, and the love for souls to talk to others about Jesus. And the more people who tell others about Jesus the better. Amen.