Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Numbers 11:24-30 24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. 26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
Our reading begins with the word so. “So Moses went out.” That word so tells us we are at the end of this story. Much has happened before the few verses we heard today. When Moses says, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them” (v 29), he is speaking words that bring to conclusion a much longer series of events. And those words, spoken in response to Joshua’s call to stop two men from prophesying, become a promise that would be fulfilled many years later. Moses probably had little idea he was speaking about what would happen on Pentecost Sunday, but on that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured down on God’s people. And ever since, the Spirit has been placed on all God’s people in a way greater than before, greater the Moses could ever imagine.
We are familiar with what happened before this. The Israelites were in slavery in Egypt. We remember well the plagues, the exodus across the Red Sea and that miraculous deliverance. We know how they journeyed a short distance and came to Mount Sinai where God gave them the Ten Commandments and made his covenant with them. There God promised to be their God, to love them, defend them from their enemies, and provide for all their needs. But that event was marred by the people erecting a golden calf, a false god. an idol. A short later they arrived at the edges of the promised land and Moses sent spies to appraise the land and its people. But the spies came back with a faithless report saying that the people were too strong and to great in number for them to take the land. So the people lost faith in God again and rebelled against going into the land that God had promised them. This resulted in 40 years of wandering in the wilderness until all those adults who were alive had died, and only their children would inherit and enjoy the promised land. Again the people grumbled that they had no food and God sent manna for bread and quail for meat. But soon the people grumbled again, tired of the same food day after day they wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt. It was a story of grumbling, dissatisfaction, not being content, turning back to Egypt, and rebellion. This is one part of the story behind our text.
The other part is Moses himself. All this grumbling, complaining, and rebellion of the people weighed heavy on his shoulders, and he became discouraged, and angry. He too complained to God saying, “Have I not found favor in your sight that you burden me with all these faithless people?” “Where am I to get bread and meat for all these people?” “I am not able to carry all this people alone, the burden is too heavy for me. I you will treat me like this, then kill me at once.”
In answer to Moses’ prayer, God gave him seventy elders to help take some of the burden off Moses. And these seventy elders showed some type of prophetic behavior that authenticates their call to help Moses. Then the Lord told Moses to gather the seventy men at the tent of meeting.
What is the tent of meeting? It was the forerunner of the tabernacle. It is the place where God came down to meet with Moses and speak to Moses. Where God revealed his will to Moses. It was the place where God met man and dwelt with man on earth. So now God says he will come down and meet with Moses and these seventy men and he will take some of the Spirit that is on Moses and put it on the seventy elders that they should bear the burden of the people with him so Moses wouldn’t have to bear it alone.
These are the two back stories. The grumbling and rebellion of the people and the seventy elders who would share the burden with Moses. Here we come to our text. “So, Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent.”
Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. In addition, there were two other men who did not come out to the tent of meeting, Eldad and Medad and the Spirit rested on them as well and the prophesied in the camp.
Someone ran out to Moses to tell him about Eldad and Medad. Then Joshua, Moses’ assistant, spoke up and said, “Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.”
Now Moses wasn’t intentionally speaking a prophecy in his response to Joshua, but it becomes one. We have a tent of meeting where the Spirit is placed upon all God’s people. His name is Jesus. No longer does God come down in a cloud, but in a manger, he comes as a baby. His ministry begins with his Baptism, and the Father’s voice is joined by the Holy Spirit as a dove. Jesus’ whole ministry is accompanied by the Holy Spirit placed on him. All Jesus said and did revealed what God wanted for his people. When people heard Jesus, they heard God speaking to them. When they saw Jesus doing something, they saw God in action. In Jesus, we meet God. Jesus was now the new tent of meeting, the tabernacle, the temple.
And on the cross, Jesus meets everything that would keep the Spirit from being placed on us. all our complaining and discouragement, rebellion and weariness, idolatry and deep resignation—all of it meets Jesus, and he sheds his blood to bring forgiveness for all of it. He secures an eternal redemption for us. We are delivered.
When Jesus rises from the dead, he spends time with the disciples. But then he ascends into heaven. And ten days later, he sends the Spirit. Pentecost! When the disciples were filled with the Spirit and tongues of fire appeared on their heads and they spoke the gospel of Jesus in many different languages so that all the people could hear and believe in Jesus. Then at the preaching of Peter, the people repented of their sin and were baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on three thousand new believers. Would that the Lord would put his Spirit on all his people, and in Jesus, our tent of meeting, his words come true. The Lord places his Spirit on us.
Where do we meet Jesus as our tent of meeting today? When does he place his Spirit on us now? Go back to your baptism when the water was combined with “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Jesus scooped us up as his own people. All of us received his Spirit on that day. When we come to the Lord’s Supper we meet Jesus in his very body and blood, and he sends us from that altar with the Spirit placed on us again. When we open up the Bible, and the Word brings us to Jesus. We meet him there, and his Spirit pours into our lives.
Moses spoke words or promise: would that the Spirit be on all the Lord’s people. In Jesus, our tent of meeting, those words come true. When we meet Jesus in his Word and Sacraments the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is placed upon us. and Moses’ words come true.
Moses’ words—that the Lord put his Spirit on all his people—find fulfillments when Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to his church to confess his name. You confess Jesus as Lord several times in your life in the church. At your Confirmation you confess Jesus. When we speak the Creed in our Sunday morning worship service we confess his name. When we sing hymns of the church we confess the name of Jesus. Every time we confess Jesus as Lord, we see the Holy Spirit active in our lives, and we know that Moses’ words have come true in our lives. Amen.