“Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets because the Lord would place his Spirit upon them.” This narrative from Israel’s experience in the wilderness reminds us of three very important things in the life of faith. First, we cannot do everything. This is not the first or last reminder of Moses’ inability to carry the burden of leading God’s people all alone. It is reminder that the people of God are intended to share the work of God’s purposes in the world.
In the larger context of this reading, the Israelites have been struggling in the wilderness post exodus and Moses is worn out from their complaining. God instructs Moses to call others to the tent of meeting so that the prophetic Spirit can be shared and the burden of his role can be spread about. As the Spirit is spread out, the seventy elders prophesy and then never do it again. It is interesting that this act is a one time event, designed to either assist with this particular situation or relieve Moses for a short amount of time. Whatever the particular purpose it reminds us that not one of us is meant to carry the load alone. We serve God best in community where the gifts of the Spirit are shared.
Second, this text reminds us that the Spirit of God may choose to work in places that make us uncomfortable. However, these places are in line with the ways of God’s self revelation. In this text, the Spirit not only falls on the seventy elders, but it also falls on Eldad and Medad, two people, just outside the Tent of Meeting. When the Spirit falls on these two, they begin to prophesy like the others. We then see that Joshua becomes nervous about the way these two are behaving and wants Moses to stop them. It is interesting in our current context, how some speak about the Spirit’s work. In some cases, it seems that the Spirit is leading the people of God to do work in ways that seem uncomfortable to us. Perhaps it is a ministry or a group of people that we simply feel uncomfortable with because they are not like us or don’t fit our demographic marketing. However, if it seems that the Spirit’s leading is in line with the mission of God within the world, we should be courageous enough to follow and not allow our fear or jealousy to keep us from following the Spirit’s leading. Much like when the Spirit fell on Eldad and Medad, we should not be surprised when the Spirit guides us into new ministries if that ministry is in line with God’s purposes.
Finally, as I ponder the sudden death of a good friend and mentor, I am reminded that we are all a part of something much larger than ourselves. The good news of Pentecost is that the same Spirit of God who has been at work in the people of God for ages, and was present with the Israelites in the wilderness, was present among the disciples, and is present in us today. That Spirit, though greater than any one of us, is shared through the testimony of lives well lived in a cruciform manner. My friend, Ed Robinson, did that for me and so many others. He bore witness to the Spirit of God in all that he did. He shared the Spirit with all he came in contact with through his words and actions.
One way the phrase that I began this commentary with could be translated is, “Are you jealous for my sake? Who will share the Spirit of YHWH…” The Hebrew is really idiomatic which is why most translations turn it into a statement. However, maybe we should all ponder this Pentecost, if not us with our very lives, who will share the Spirit of God with others? This Pentecost, may we celebrate the gift of the Spirit and may we commit to living in ways that share the gift with others.