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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Numbers 11:4–6, 10–16, 24–29

The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,’ to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.”

So the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again. Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” (NRSV)

“Hey, we may have been slaves, but at least we ate well.” Is it any wonder that Moses went to God and said, “Why have you stuck me with these people?”

Seriously, look at the behavior of these whiny people and you have to wonder why God chose the chosen. It’s like Moses has to watch them every single second. I’d be saying “Hey, these are not my kids. Why are you dumping all the responsibility for them on me?”

Children of God. How childish they can be.

Thank goodness we are all beyond that now, right? We don’t complain about our lives, we don’t pretend that the past was always better when life was all fish and cucumbers. Always looking forward, willing to face any task, bear any burden—yeah, that’s us. Uh-huh.

And God says, “Fine, get some of the people in charge in here.” And Moses does. He gets them all in a tent and God does his thing, and wow, they all start to prophesy. To each other. In the tent. And then they don’t do it again, because, who knows, it’s more special when it’s secret.

But two guys who weren’t in the tent get the spirit, too, and actually start prophesying in the camp, you know, where the people are. And then some of God’s children—including Joshua, who was supposed to know better—decide to tattle on them, like children do. And Moses says, “Hey, I wish God would just go ahead and make everyone a prophet.” Like maybe then they’d be accountable.

What an uplifting story. Who’d have blamed God for saying, “You know, this really isn’t working out” and finding another people. People more mature, more grateful. Willing to work, diligent, uncomplaining. Better people.

It’s easy to judge the ancient Israelites. It’s hard to remember that, all too often, we are they—whiny, ungrateful, dodging accountability. And even though we’d dump people like that, God stays with us. God stays and waits for us to become the better people.

Lord, too often we substitute the childish for the childlike. Thank you for staying with us, and help us to learn what it means to follow you. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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