Numbers 11:4-6,10-16, 24-29: It’s about God … and Others

Did you ever go on a date where the other person fully dominated the conversation, going on and on, speaking only about herself (or himself)?  Was it so terrible that your date didn’t even allow you into the center of the conversation?  That’s frustrating!  Such a person rarely gets a second date–I don’t care how attractive he or she may look.

So, it shouldn’t surprise you that God doesn’t want you to be that way.  If so, how could you ever focus on serving others?  For if you’re a Christian, it’s not about you–it’s about the Lord and those whom He has called you to serve.

All right, now let’s think about another predicament.  Have you ever taken on a job that you soon realized was beyond your ability?  Panic and fear soon take root, and you cry out: “What did I get myself into?  What do I do now?”

That’s what Moses was asking in our Old Testament reading.  The task of leading the people of Israel was more than he could handle.  Although he continually pleaded for them to remember that God had blessed them by freeing them from slavery in Egypt, they didn’t listen.

Despite his encouragement to thank God for meeting their needs in the wilderness, the Israelites grumbled.  When Moses invited them to look ahead to the rich land of Canaan that would be their future home, they refused.  They wanted life to change now, as they wanted it to be, not in some theoretical future.

How do you lead a people that don’t want to be led?  That perplexed Moses.  So, he turned to the Lord and said, “What do I do now?”  Moses was desperate and frustrated.  He wanted the Israelites to be a godly people, not a complaining people.  But the people of Israel kept thinking, “It’s all about us.”  Moses wanted them to know and believe: “It’s all about Him!  It’s all about the Lord.”

So, the Lord told Moses to gather 70 elders.  The Lord was going to give him assistants to help him lead the people to focus on the Lord.  God would provide 70 men to say what Moses was saying.  Moses would no longer be the lone voice against the many Israelites who chose to grumble and complain.  When you think about it, that’s what the elders in our congregation are also to do.

So, Moses gathered the 70 elders around the Tabernacle and waited for the Lord to keep His promise.  “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him.  He took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and placed him on the 70 elders.  When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied–but did not do so again.”

What did God do?  He gave the same Spirit, which He had given to Moses to speak God’s Word, to those 70 elders.  Remember this is still the Old Covenant.  In the Old Covenant, God didn’t give His Holy Spirit to all believers.  The Day of Pentecost had not yet happened.

And what did the 70 do?  They prophesied.  They spoke a message from God.  Those 70 elders spoke what Moses had been speaking.  They directed people to thank the Lord, to value His grace, and trust His promises.

Yes, those elders prophesied, but they did not do so again.  Why not?  Wouldn’t that have been helpful?  No, it wouldn’t have, for God was teaching the Israelites to listen to Moses.  Moses was the chosen one of the Lord.  He didn’t just prophesy occasionally.  When Moses spoke, directing the Israelites away from themselves and pointing them to the Savior, they were to listen.  After all, it wasn’t about them, but about the Lord.

And the same message that Moses wanted to get across to the people ofIsraelis the message that God wants to place in your hearts, as well.  He wants you to say and believe, “It’s not about me; it’s about Him.”  That’s easy to say but hard to do.

Like the people ofIsrael, we often let what is going on in our lives have a higher priority than God.  We want life to go smoothly.  We would like our health problems to whither away into oblivion.  We would like plenty of money, so we wouldn’t have to worry about getting what we want.  We’re happy for our lives to be about God–if He gives us what we want.  All God has to do is give us what we want, and we will be faithful followers–or so we think.

Who do we think we are?  Who are we to demand from God?  Who are we to think that He owes us blessings?  Have we forgotten our sinfulness and what we deserve from God?  In our foolishness and self-centeredness, we think it’s all about us, when it’s all about Him.

And so, to punish our selfish ways, God sent His Son.  Think of this: Jesus is true God.  He’s the only person who could ever truthfully say, “It’s all about me.”  But instead, He said: “It’s all about Him.  It’s all about the Father.  What the Father wants me to do, that’s what I’ll do.  I’ll trust Him no matter what happens.”  And that’s what Jesus did.  How else could He walk toJerusalem, knowing what would happen there?  How else could He let Himself be executed?  His thought was, “It’s all about Him, God the Father, not about me.”

Yes, it’s all about the Lord.  That’s why pastors wear robes.  It’s not because they like beautiful colors or because that’s the way it’s always been.  No, the robes are meant to hide the man, so more attention is paid to the message instead of the messenger.  The focus is not on the person wearing the robes but on the Lord.  So it is with all of us in our lives as Christians.  Robed in Christ’s righteousness, we know it’s not about us, but Him.

But it’s also about others–those whom God has placed in our lives to serve.  Moses was the leader inIsrael.  The buck stopped with him.  Such power can go to someone’s head, so he might even begin to think that others should serve him and carry out his bidding, so no one would even think about stepping on his turf.

Eldad and Medad stepped on Moses’ turf.  He was the prophet inIsrael, not them.  He was the one the Lord had chosen, not them.  But Eldad and Medad, who hadn’t come with the other elders to the Tabernacle, began to prophesy.  They began to speak God’s message to the people.  They began to do Moses’ work.

A young man who happened to see Eldad and Medad thought, “This isn’t right.  They need to be stopped.  Moses needs to know that Eldad and Medad are doing what he’s supposed to be doing.”  So, he ran to Moses and told him: “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”  The young man was certain that Moses would spring into action and silence these intruders, these imposters, these men whom God did not call to be prophets.

But what did Moses do?  Instead of protecting his turf, he said, “If only all the Lord’s people were prophets and the Lord would place his Spirit on them!”  Moses had no interest for everything to revolve around him.  He, instead, wanted the people of Israel to look to the Lord!  That’s what was essential.  Moses was saying, “It’s not about me.  It’s about others.  It’s about God’s people hearing, trusting, and living the Word.”

Do you say and believe, “It’s about others, and not about me”?  Our new person in Christ says that.  When the Spirit of God entered your heart in baptism, He formed a new person that looks at life differently than the Old Adam.  The Lord, who has prepared in advance deeds for us to do, places many opportunities before us each day.

Think of the people that God has placed around you.  Think about how you can serve them.  You can serve your spouse by listening to him or her.  You can serve others in this congregation by helping them.  There’s no limit to the service opportunities.

What Eldad and Medad offered to other Israelites was speaking the Word of God to them.  That was a noble task.  Where they messed up, was that they spoke the Word of God in the camp as God had called Moses to do.  Yet, Moses was especially generous, knowing that this was a one-time event.

All of us are to speak God’s Word to others–each in the places where God has put us to serve.  We are to speak to other Christians in times of trouble, letting them know of the Savior’s love and the Father’s protection.  We are to speak to those who don’t know Jesus, telling them that Christ has eternally taken care of their sin problem.

We don’t sit idle, doing nothing.  We work, act, and do, for we are the living face of Christ to others in this world.  So, work to bring the Word of the Savior to others.  Speak God’s Word to strengthen those who believe.  Be the Lord’s tool of blessing for those who do not believe.

From the richness of His grace, Jesus considered us more valuable than Himself.  Had he thought about Himself, He would have come down from the cross.  But He was thinking of others–the whole world of sinners–not Himself.

Indeed, the Lord Jesus still serves us, even though we deserve nothing of the kind.  Indeed, we love others because He first loved us.  Amen.