I tend to be a rule-keeper. Well, kind of. There is a good bit of the rebel in me. But in general, I have no problem sticking to a set of policies … as proof I claim my near-flawless demerit record at Bob Jones! (They still stuck me in the spiritual-problem-child dunce hat a number of times regardless of my rule-keeping. So, I guess my inner rebel always finds a way to peek through.) I totally see the necessity in rules. Even dumb ones. They bring order and cohesion.
There are those people who always break the rules. You know them. Maybe they are ignorant, and don’t understand they are breaking rules. Even though you tell them over and over again. Maybe they are cantankerous, and must. always. rebel. Or maybe they are naïve, and break the spirit of the law while toeing the line.
As a leader in Christian ministry, what do we do with the times our policy is broken or a rule is stretched way out of shape? Discipline? Overlook? Warn? Laugh? Sometimes it is tough to decide.
God’s Spirit knows best.
Moses was stressed out with the load of leading a million whining ex-slaves. So, God has asked Moses to share the load. Specifically, He wanted Moses to share His Spirit with 70 hand-picked leaders.
He called together seventy of the leaders and had them stand around the Tent. God came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy leaders. When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied. But they didn’t continue; it was a onetime event.
God gave his instructions. Go to The Tent where I always meet with you, and this time I’ll meet with your 70 helpers. But there was a problem. Apparently, only 68 of the elders actually showed up!
Meanwhile two men, Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp. They were listed as leaders but they didn’t leave camp to go to the Tent.
Two of the men did not follow instructions very well. That, or they got the time wrong. Or maybe they got waylaid with a broken down cart. Or maybe they didn’t understand they were chosen. Or maybe they had a gig to finish up first. I’m sure they had a very good reason for not being at The Tent when God showed up.
This next part is chilling.
Still, the Spirit also rested on them and they prophesied in the camp.
I could just stop there. I think you get it. But, I gotta hammer this point a bit.
God gifted those who were outside The Tent! His Spirit indwelt those who didn’t follow the “meet in The Tent” policy! No wait…. God used the two misfits wandering around the camp to bless His people!
But they were in the wrong place!
But they got off schedule!
But they bungled the plan!
It doesn’t matter when God’s Spirit is at work. For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3)
Can we be like God?
Can we allow those who break our policies and rules to be blessed of God and in turn bring blessing to His people? Does it rub you the wrong way to “reward” rule breakers? Is God’s Spirit the ultimate rebel?
Moses couldn’t handle it anymore. Not all alone.
He tells God, “I can’t do this by myself—it’s too much, all these people.”
“You don’t have to,” was God’s answer. “Gather together seventy men from among the leaders of Israel, men whom you know to be respected and responsible. Take them to the Tent of Meeting. I’ll meet you there.”
Share the load.
Now, I would have been thinking, What will everyone think of me? Will they think I’m weak? And then, What if these 70 elders make a big mess of everything I’ve worked so hard for? Or even, What’s it going to cost me? And most embarrassingly, What if they get the credit and people think they do the job better? Secretly, I’d want them to bungle it so I’d be appreciated more.
But these thoughts were far from Moses mind. He was willing to give up what was dearest to him, freely. Without reservation. He shared what he had, the very Spirit of God.
God said, “I’ll take some of the Spirit that is on you and place it on them.”
Moses was not me, and his reaction earned him the label: meek. Because you see, Moses did not think he was special! He wanted everyone to experience the intimacy he shared with God. He didn’t hoard it. He shared his resources and gifts.
His burn out brought blessing to the 70 leaders of Israel. Meek Moses encouraged and empowered with the Spirit of God when he was at his personal low.
The riffraff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, “Why can’t we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.”
Those cukes were probably muskmelons. The melon was cantaloupe and watermelons. The leeks were any green grassy-type herb. Think chives, green onions, or even fresh hay. Onion and garlic are what we know them to be today. Want to try a recipe? Visit this site!
Variety. Spice. Flavor. This is what the Israelites were craving. This was the best of the Egyptian diet they used to eat. And it was free! (Like the manna wasn’t?)
I get cravings. Don’t you? I have a fond memory of gorging on Brazilian white chocolate while reading The Silver Chair. I crave that sweet and chalky flavor every time I hear the characters of that story referenced. I don’t think cravings are bad…until they become a critiquing demand.
When craving turns to criticism, it starts to tick people off. Relationships start to blow up. And you might just drown in quail.
The Israelites were believing lies. In times of craving it is easy to be deceived. In fact, we kinda want to be. Here are a few of the lies they wanted to believe.
Lie #1: Moses (and by extension God) would not give them meat. They were poor victims of God’s stinginess.
Let’s face it. Its easy to believe the worst about someone. Even God. Because the Israelites assumed God would not give them meat, they started to immediately complain. In doing so, they skipped the right way: the Righteous way. Asking.
I am familiar with this tactic of complaining to get what you want. My son is the expert. Here’s how he does it. “Mom, this cereal has too much sugar in it! You shouldn’t buy it so I don’t want it so bad.”
My response is usually silence. He then keeps complaining until I stop him with, “Henry, are you going to ask me a question?”
Then he remembers. “Mom, can I have some of this cereal?”
You see, Henry ASSUMES I won’t give him what he wants. He believes a lie. The truth is I love giving him good things. He is believing the worst about me when he starts in with complaints. And, it hurts and angers me.
The truth was that God never said he would not give them meat. They had not asked.
Lie #2: The fish was free in Egypt.
On the face of it, this is true. Anyone can go to the Nile and fish at no cost. But, what were they doing in Egypt in the first place? They paid for everything they ate in Egypt with their own lives and the lives of their children. They were slaves. Everything Egypt gave them carried a terrible price.
When I crave something, I begin to look for props; reasons to excuse my desire to indulge. The Israelites said, We are used to free fish! Of course, we have a craving for meat. A dieting woman might say: I deserve this chocolate. I had such a rough day. She ignores the truth that her bad day stemmed from all her “good” days of overeating. The danger is that she focuses on her excuse, and ignores the truth behind her reasoning.
But when I acknowledge the truth of my excuse, criticism might flip to gratitude. Or I can be like the Israelites and continue to exaggerate (or embellish) the truth until it begins to deceive.
Lie #3: Nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.
Eating the same thing over and over is boring. This is truth. But not the whole truth about manna. Hearing partial truths can deceive us. It also births a critic.
The truth was manna was delicious when they first tasted it. It kept them from certain starvation in the wilderness. It was EASY. It didn’t need to be grown, nurtured or harvested through hard labor. They went out their front door and picked it off the ground! It was free. It was abundant.
But instead of seeing the whole truth about manna, they critiqued the parts they didn’t like.
Ask. Be grateful.
Its basic manners that we teach tiny children. Say please. Say thank you.
In times of craving, ask! Especially when dealing with other people. Ask for what you want. Don’t hint around the issue. Don’t use passive-asking techniques like my son. Don’t assume the answer is no until you ask! Assuming the worst is a sure way to end a relationship.
And take a moment, in times of craving, to look around and see what you good you already have. Take your focus of your desired object long enough, and you may not want it anymore compared to what you might have to give up to get it.
Be honest. Are you starting to criticize everything around the situation, circumstance or people you think are keeping you from your deepest desire? If so, beware. You might end up drowning in it.
Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it.
In Numbers 11, Moses was stressed out.
“ What did I ever do to you to deserve this? Did I conceive them? Was I their mother? So why dump the responsibility of this people on me? Why tell me to carry them around like a nursing mother, carry them all the way to the land you promised to their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people who are whining to me, ‘Give us meat; we want meat.’ I can’t do this by myself—it’s too much, all these people. If this is how you intend to treat me, do me a favor and kill me. I’ve seen enough; I’ve had enough. Let me out of here.”
In my head, his tantrum sounds just like the one I had this morning with my three children. Moses felt the stress of a mother*, who constantly cares for her children only to have them complain about the ONE THING they don’t have. And he lost it.
Oh Moses, I so get you.
*Or father, or nanny, or any full time caregiver of children.
Have you seen the pro-life checkbooks? My sister uses these, and as a kid I got a kick out of reading them.
A person is complaining to God, “Why haven’t you sent someone to cure cancer or world hunger?”
God replies, “I did. But you aborted them.”
This is how I feel about our traditional understanding of women’s roles in the church and family. For example, I have often heard oversees missionaries worry about “Timothys.” These are the young men who they hope will take over the ministry one day. Or, American pastors wonder where are the men to step into leadership spots in their congregations?
They ask, “Where are the men? God, why haven’t you sent someone to lead in your church?”
I wonder if God is replying, “I did. But it was a woman.” And, she was overlooked.
The church thrives when it embraces the leadership and gifting of ALL its members.
I consider myself a Reformed Baptist, so I could address God’s sovereignty in this situation. Yes, I believe He is at work regardless of how the church has used or misused gender in His body. Yes, women are ministering to other women, children and as servants; and are contributing in valid, commendable ways. Yes, I believe gender limitations in the Western church have pushed strong, courageous, Spirit-gifted women into the wilds and sparked revival in India, China, Africa, Ecuador and elsewhere. He WILL use his body, even when we try to amputate parts. God will do his work. I believe this.
But, what more could the church do if it doubled its leadership team? Korea is home to the world’s largest church. In the book, Why Not Women?, the pastor of this uber-church answers the question of what is key to the success of his church?
I told them to release their women, but they insist that’s not the problem. They ask me “What’s the key to your church?” I tell them again, “release your women…”
No wonder some churches are hurting for godly leadership. They are ignoring half (and sometimes more than half!) the Christians the spirit has gifted to teach and lead his congregation.
Freeing women from gender constraints is right.
I know it bugs some people when I compare gender issues with slavery. (Ha! my husband won’t even let me bring it up in argument.) BUT, I’m gonna anyway. And this is why. I insist, the core principle is the same.
In Christ, all people are one. If that is the heavenly reality, why on earth do we make such a fuss over people born with certain unchangeables (skin color, body parts, or geographical birthplaces)? Even though the Bible affirms the culture of slavery (in parts), we realize slavery is wrong. Even though the Bible affirms the culture of patriarchy (in parts), we need to follow suit and renounce gender discrimination in God’s family. Freeing women from gender constraints, as the church worked to free slaves and include Gentiles without conversion to Judaism, is right. As Christians, that is our duty. To do right.
A duet of man and woman is God’s ideal.
God tells us right from the start that man alone is not good. Men partnering with women – are good! Men and women working together, even in the highest ranks, bring a balance that is needed to care for ALL of God’s flock.
What’s to be gained by erasing gender roles in the Christian community? A thriving, righteous and complete church of God.