Although yesterday was Memorial Day, I spent a little time in the office, beginning my preparation for next weekend’s sermon. (Note: This is not my preferred way to spend a holiday; but hey, Sunday’s comin’!) The text on which I plan to preach is Numbers 11:24-30, in which Moses complains to God about the heavy burden of leading the Hebrew people through the wilderness. In response to this need, God instructs Moses to gather 70 elders, upon whom He will place some of the same Spirit that rests upon Moses. In this way, they will be empowered to share in the work. The interesting “twist” in the story — which makes it a good text for Pentecost — comes after the elders have been assembled — and after the Spirit has given — when two additional men receive the Spirit, leaving the community to discern how they should respond when God moves in unexpected ways.
At a purely “fun Bible fact” level, many commentators connect this story to the one that appears in the gospel reading from today’s Daily Office. In Luke 10, we’re told:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:1-2)
Interestingly, where this text says that the Lord appointed “seventy-two others,” a footnote indicates that some early manuscripts read “seventy others,” which gives additional support to the notion that Jesus had this Old Testament story in mind. Maybe it’s just the “Bible geek” in me; but I think it’s fascinating to see how Jesus conducted His ministry in ways that created “resonances” with the movement of God across history.
At a more “life application” level, however, both texts invite us to ask: Do we understand that we’ve been given the Spirit so that we, too, can share in the ongoing mission of God? And how will we respond when the Spirit “shows up” in unexpected ways, unexpected places, and unexpected people?
May we know ourselves to be filled with the Spirit today. And may we join the workers in God’s harvest field.