The Happy Surprise

Putting the good book to good use

Gems from Numbers 11: Prophesying without Permission!

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.

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!

Admittedly, I understand the reaction of those who witnessed what happened.

A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!”  Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ right-hand man since his youth, said, “Moses, master! Stop them!”

I can hear Joshua’s voice in my head. (It sounds strangely like Mydad. pun intended) Put a stop to this right now! Tell them they are not supposed to be prophesying because they didn’t do things the RIGHT WAY! Prophesying without permission! What if someone sees them and thinks you’ve lost control of the camp! I think that last statement gets to the heart of the matter. Joshua was very concerned Moses’ authority would be questioned because Eldad and Medad got the gift of prophecy outside The Tent.

But Moses said, “Are you jealous for me? Would that all God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.”

God’s Spirit does not always follow the rules as we understand them to be. This little incident is just a precursor to the fantastic outpouring Joel predicted at Pentecost where God gave his Spirit to young  and old, women and men.  The lesson I take away is that God does not always follow His rules when it comes to pouring blessing out upon His people. Sometimes He uses the Eldads and Medads who are like us, a little bit different, to speak with power and grace.

Will you be like Joshua and seek to silence the Spirit even when given to someone you don’t approve of? Or will you be like Moses? Would that God would put his Spirit on all of us.

Satan’s best tactic

How many of you have heard the sermon about what to do when tempted? <raises hand>

I bet the teacher used either the temptation of Jesus or the armor of God as text, right?

  • What did Jesus do when faced with temptation? He quoted God’s Word, of course!
  • We must weild the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God!

But does quoting the Words of God alone work in our battle against sin? Nope. Words are not a talisman of protection against strong desire or deceit. In fact, referencing God’s Word is Satan’s best tactic in tempting Christians to act like heathens. As the first woman learned to her shame.

The Bible describes two famous temptation scenes: The First Humans and Jesus.

These two stories have much in common. Both Jesus and the First Humans were perfect. Neither knew what life was like unconnected to God. Unlike us, they were not enticed by the evil desires of their flesh, because their flesh did not desire sinful things. (James 1:14-15) Could that be why a literal Being presented itself as the tempting force?

Both the First Humans and Jesus were tempted by the evil one, who took visible form and talked with them. Not only did Satan appear, he initiated.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman…

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him

The devil used food as his opener.

…“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” It asked the woman.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Both Eve and Jesus battled with God’s Word.

[The woman said] … God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

Satan responded by using God’s Word. To the woman he said God said something He never did, and to Jesus he twisted the context.

You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:  “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Eve used God’s Word, but it wasn’t enough.

These two situations had more in common than not. But the distinction is what made the difference between success and failure. Eve was deceived.  She probably didn’t even know she was being tempted! She believed something that wasn’t. She acted on information that was false. Believing she was doing the right thing, she ate. But she understood God all wrong. And she was ashamed that she was duped by lies.

Oh dear. How often have I done the exact same thing? Believing my actions were what was required from God’s Word, I’ve sown discord, pain and destruction. Looking back, I realize I was tempted with pride, self-righteousness and the fear of man. I succumbed to the deceit of those desires. And, I too am ashamed I fell for the lies I believed about God.

3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  2 Corinthians 11

Paul, who wrote those warning verses, understood deceit. He was a zealous Jew. He loved God’s Word. He believed killing Christians was the right way to serve God. His sincere desire was to live -or die - for the Lord. But he got it all wrong.

Deceit blinds us to the temptation.

13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  1 Timothy 1

I wonder at this. Can I even tell I’m being tempted if there is deceit sugaring the bait? How can I battle this ignorance? Paul was blindly sinning away, all the while believing he was acting righteously…based on his understanding of the Word of God. Only an encounter with the true Word, the incarnate and resurrected Christ, set him straight. And this is what he taught as the antidote to deceit. Holding our beliefs up to the light of Jesus, with the help of His Spirit. Paul knew how easy  it is to be deceived, and so he warns Christians to be aware to the possibility that teachers are twisting God’s Word to bind us to a gospel that is not Jesus’. Just like Satan. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

Heed the warning.

There really isn’t a formula of Words. Sure, knowing God’s truth helps us discern error, but what if we ignorantly follow an interpretation that is in itself an error? It is Satan’s best tactic. He twists God’s Word to tempt us.

 

 

Don’t Tell a Soul

“Do you wish to talk today, my lady?”

I whispered the words, leaning in to show her my face. Her tired eyes opened and focused. She gestured for the cup in my hand, and I helped her upright. She drank the honeyed goat milk and nodded.

“Are we alone?” she asked, unable to see farther than my face.

“Yes, my lady.” She had requested me to listen to her orality. She was dying and tradition dictated it was time for her to pass along her history. I was honored, because she had never spoken of it, as far as anyone knew, ever.

She shifted her hips and cradled her cheek to the pillow, and began in a wooden tone.

“When I was 14, I was summoned to the palace to see the king. My mother had prepared me to expect a betrothal. There was talk of an alliance with the Danaii. At that age, my mind was filled with gossip and silly songs. I was excited by the idea. I wasn’t so scared then. I didn’t know.” Her mouth tightened with bitterness, but she continued to talk.

“But it wasn’t to discuss marriage that my father had me summoned. My brother…” and at this, she spat the words “…it seemed, had gotten himself ill. My father thought it was humorous that he was asking for me instead of the court healers, but he was the crown prince and my father encouraged his frivolities. He told me to go to Amnon and do whatever he wanted. I was dismissed.

“Amnon was in bed when I arrived with my women. I’ll never forget what gown I was wearing that day, because it was blue and I’ve never worn blue again.” I looked toward her wardrobe and the monotonous dirty white that hung from the knobs. She continued.

“And the sleeves were embroidered with pomegranates. It was belted in purple. I think I left that sash there, in his room. I never saw it again.” Her voice caught and she scratched it with a clicking noise. Her inflection soured.

“He was supposed to be sick, but when I saw him he appeared in high spirits. No fever. No pain that I could tell. He dismissed everyone with the excuse he wanted me to feel comfortable to serve him without the servants around to interfere. Then, he made me play at baking while he watched. In my naivety, I thought he was simply hungry.” Her face hardened. “I guess he was.”

“My cakes were not very good, and the heat of the oven had me flushed. He paid little attention to my food and reached to loose my collar. He said I looked too hot. I had never been around Amnon before. I thought maybe he was just affectionate by nature, and allowed the intrusion. But his hand…” She crossed her arms at the memory of the trespass and stopped talking.

“My lady, you don’t have to tell me the details.” I said, trying to be kind.

“Okay.” She readjusted her weight and said dully, “He ruined me.”

“I know.” I reassured her. The whole kingdom knew. There were many rumors of the exploits of Amnon. I suspected she wasn’t the first virgin he’d raped, or the last.

“He kicked me off the bed when he was done,  and told me to get out. I was aghast. I had comforted myself through the ordeal with the acknowledgement that marriage to my half-brother would not be so bad. I would be allowed to live in my homeland and be close to my mother and brother. And so I asked him if he would speak to our father to settle the dowry that very day.” She spoke in a staccato lilt. “But he didn’t even look at me. He threw my clothes at me and pushed me out the door.”

She rolled on to her back and pressed her palm over her eyes. Her mouth opened in a gash of misery. An unuttered wail swelled her chest, and her body shuddered in memory.

“I wasn’t allowed to make a scene. My mourning rags were burned and replaced with normal attire. The king, when he heard the gist of what had happened, sent word that I was to keep quiet. Even your father, after questioning me on the specifics, told me to keep my humiliation a secret. Only, its hard to keep a princess who has been taken off the auction block a secret, eh? With my virginity gone, I was useless to the king.”

“Please. Don’t tell a soul.” Her last words to me. She was my aunt and my namesake: Tamar.

 

Gems from Numbers 11: The blessing of rule-breaking misfits

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.

Bang, bang!

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?

Gems from Numbers 11: How the meek burn out

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.

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