The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

September 30, 2018

Numbers 11:16, 17, 24-29

The Good Lord Grants Good Helpers

 

The LORD said to Moses:  “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people.  Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.”  So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said.  He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent.  Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders.  When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.  However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp.  They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent.  Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.  A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”  Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aid since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”  But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake?  I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were working very hard at something while someone else was just standing there watching you work?  How did it make you feel?  Were you angry?  Did you become frustrated?  Did you get to a point where you felt like just giving up?

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were working very hard at something and then someone stepped up to help you?  Now how did you feel?  Were you relieved?  Were you thankful?  Were you re-invigorated to continue your work?

 

Our text for this morning focuses our attention on a very tense time in the relationship between God’s people Israel and God’s servant, Moses.  As we observe this situation let’s see how it illustrates a truth that still holds true right down to this very day.  That truth is this:  The Good Lord Grants Good Helpers.  There are two questions we want to address this morning.  The first question is— Why?  Why does the good Lord grant good helpers?  The second question is — Who?  Who are the good helpers that the good Lord grants?

 

Why does the good Lord grant good helpers?  To answer that question we need to look at the larger context in which we find our sermon text for today. In Numbers chapter eleven we see that God’s servant Moses had become very frustrated in the work that the good Lord had given him to do.  Why was Moses frustrated?  In Numbers 11:1-15 we’re told that God’s people had once again begun to grumble against the Lord, their God.  The people of Israel were tired of the manna that God had graciously been providing for them.  God’s people wanted meat— like they had back in Egypt.  Israel’s grumbling not only angered the Lord, but it also frustrated Moses.  (See Numbers 11:10)  Moses’ frustration comes out very clearly in verses 13 and 14.  We hear him say, “Where can I get meat for all these people?  They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’  I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.”  Yes, my friends, sometimes even God’s servants feel frustrated and overwhelmed by the work that God has given them to do.

 

That reality helps us to understand the answer to the question of— Why?  Why does the good Lord grant good helpers to His servants?  Look at the opening portion of our text.  We read, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people.  Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them.  They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.’”

 

Why does the good Lord grant good helpers to His servants?  Because the good Lord cares!  Because the good Lord is concerned!  God was concerned about His servant Moses.  God was concerned about His people Israel.  God was concerned about His work getting done.  So what did God do?  In His grace and in His mercy the good Lord granted His servant Moses good helpers— people who would help Moses carry out God’s work among God’s people.

 

That brings us to our second question— Who?  Who were the helpers that the good Lord provided for Moses?  There are two parts to the answer to that question.  First, God told Moses to select seventy men who were “known as leaders and officials among the people.”  God wanted Moses to make sure that the men who helped him carry out God’s work were men who would be respected by God’s people as well as men who would set a good example for God’s people to follow.  Second, look at verse 25 of our text.  We’re told, “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him (Moses), and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders.  When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.”

 

Notice very closely, my friends, that what made these men good helpers for Moses was not simply their natural abilities.  While these men were indeed “leaders and officials among the people,” God is the One who supplied them with the power they needed to be good helpers for God’s servant, Moses.  How did God supply these men with power?  He “took of the Spirit that was on (Moses) and put the Spirit on the seventy elders.”  Picture in your mind our Christmas Eve service here at church.  I light my candle from the Christ-candle on the Advent wreath.  Then from my candle all your candles are lit.  Is my candle in any way diminished?  Not at all!  In fact, one might even say that my candle is “enhanced” by your candles.  That’s what the good Lord did for Moses here in our text.  Without diminishing Moses in any way whatsoever, the good Lord granted Moses good helpers— men who would enhance the work of the Lord being carried out among the people of the Lord.

 

Now look at the closing verses of our text, verses 26-29.  We’re told that two of the men, Eldad and Medad, did not come to the Tent of Meeting as they had been told.  Did that prevent the Lord from empowering them with His Holy Spirit?  Not at all!  God still used them to carry out His work.  We’re told that they “prophesied in the camp,” or we might say, they proclaimed God’s Word to God’s people right where they were.  And when Joshua, Moses’ faithful aid, heard about what was happening in the camp, he reacted in much the same way as Jesus’ disciples in our Gospel lesson for today (Mark 9:38-41).  Joshua said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”  And what was Moses’ response?  Moses said, “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”  Moses was willing to take as many good helpers as the good Lord was willing to grant!

 

While this account recorded here in our text is both interesting and insightful, does it really have any application in our lives and in our church today?  In other words, does the good Lord still grant good helpers in His church today?  The answer to that question is a resounding— yes!  Let’s see how this text applies to our lives and to our church today by asking the same two questions.  First— Why?  Why does the good Lord grant good helpers in His church today?  Second— Who?  Who are the helpers that the good Lord grants today?

 

Why does the good Lord still grant good helpers in His church today?  Because there are times when God’s servants today become just as frustrated and just as overwhelmed as Moses was here in our text.  Think about it.  Satan is still working just as viciously among God’s people today as he was in the days of Moses.  Satan still uses anything and everything he can to get God’s people to “grumble.”  Like Moses, God’s servants today can get to a point where they say, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.”  (Verse 14)  Does God still care about His servants today?  Is God still concerned about His people and about His work getting done today?  Absolutely!  So what does the good Lord still do?  The good Lord still grants good helpers in His church today!

 

That leads us to our second question:  Who are the good helpers that the good Lord grants to His church today?  While there are a number of ways to answer that question, we will look at just two.  Let’s start with the most obvious answer to that question.  Due to the way that our church is organized, the good helpers that the good Lord grants to whomever is the pastor here in this congregation are found in our elected leaders.  These are men who through regular use of God’s holy Word and regular reception of God’s holy Supper are being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  These are men who help the pastor proclaim God’s Word to you, God’s people.  These are men who help carry out the Kingdom work here in our midst.  If you are feeling weak and weary, they will help point you to the cross for guidance and for strength.  If you are troubled by your sins, they will help point you to the cross for the assurance that through faith in what Jesus has done for you, all of your sins are completely forgiven.  If you lose sight of why it is important to come to church, why it is important to receive the holy Supper on a regular basis, why it is important to continue to grow in your understanding of Scripture by attending Bible class, they will help point you to the cross to remind you of how awesome our God is and how amazing it is to learn even more about what the God of heaven has revealed to us here in His holy Word.  Yes, my friends, the elected leaders of our congregation are included among good helpers that have been granted to us by the good Lord Himself.

 

Perhaps a less obvious yet just as important answer to the question of who are the good helpers that the good Lord grants today is very simply— you!  You come into contact with people whom I and our elected leaders might never meet.  Share the Truth of God’s Word with them.  You might look around in church on Sunday morning and say to yourself, “I haven’t seen John and Marlys for a long time.  I wonder if they are Okay?”  Call them on the phone when you get home from church today.  Send them a card this week.  Invite them to dinner.  Do whatever you can to encourage them to come to church on a regular basis.  Yes, my friends, you are included among the good helpers that the good Lord grants so that His work can be carried out among His people.

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you were working very hard at something while someone else was just standing there watching you work?  How did you feel?  Have you ever been in a situation where you were working very hard at something and someone did step up and help you?  How did that make you feel?

 

Take those two scenarios and apply them to the work of God’s Kingdom here on this earth.  Instead of standing on the sidelines and watching as other people do the work, instead of standing on the sidelines wondering why this isn’t getting done or criticizing how that is getting done, lift up your eyes to the cross (Pointing to the cross) and remember.  Lift up your eyes to the cross and remember what the good Lord has done for you.  Lift up your eyes to the cross and remember that the good Lord still grants good helpers in His church today.  Lift up your eyes to the cross and remember that you are one of those helpers.  Lift up your eyes to the cross and humbly ask yourself, “What can I do to help?”

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen