BE JEALOUS FOR GOD’S KINGDOM
NUMBERS 11:24-29 SEPTEMBER 29, 2002
24So 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. 25Then 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 sev-enty elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.
26However, 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. 27A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp."
28Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!"
29But 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!"
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Dearest Fellow-Redeemed and Saints in the Lord:
As we listened to the text this morning, there is one word that stands out that reminds us of our sinful nature (besides the whole text). That word comes right at the end when Joshua wants Moses to stop the prophesying, and Moses says, ‘Are you jealous for my sake?’ Here’s that word, JEALOUS or JEALOUSY. We don’t think of that word as a very complimentary attribute, do we? We think of lusting after things, items, or objects that don’t belong to us. We’re jealous of other people because of their prestige, their possessions, honor, and glory. The list goes on and on. Yet we’re reminded that jealousy can be used in the right way. The Lord describes Himself as a jealous God. He reminds us that He is a jealous God because He does not want to give His praise to anyone else. He doesn’t want any idols to have His glory. He doesn’t want us to worship anything but Him with our heart, mind and soul.
This morning, our text reminds us that rather than be jealous about all of the wrong things for all of the wrong reasons, believers can be jealous when they are jealous for God’s kingdom. Jesus stated it another way; "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"(MATTHEW 6:33). He reminds us as believers in this world, that we are to focus on God and His kingdom. Our theme from our text this morning reminds us to be jealous for God’s kingdom.
BE JEALOUS FOR GOD’S KINGDOM
I. Not for human reasons
II. But for divine purposes
I. Not for human reasons
We come to the time in the history of the children of Israel when they are wandering the wilderness. Moses is leading them. It was the Lord God Almighty who provided for them day af-ter day, year after year. He was taking them and leading them to the land He had promised to their fathers. The Lord God was very generous in His providing for God’s people; they always had enough to eat and enough to drink. Yet, what happens? Generally we see God’s people, even though they are provided for, grumbling and complaining against what God has given them. Just before today’s text, it becomes so bad that Moses grumbles a bit against the Lord. He wonders. He wonders if they aren’t out on a trip too far from Egypt that the Lord can’t even provide for them. The people are grumbling. Moses grumbles against God too. God answers him. He says, ‘They will have food.’ Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said.
Our text begins: 24So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. They had grumbled against the Lord for providing them with manna. They wanted meat! So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Well, they’re going to have meat. They are going to have so much meat that they will grumble and complain that they have too much. It will become a stench even unto their nos-trils.’ The meat they would have would not last just for a week or two weeks, but for a whole month. We’re told in the words after our text that they were provided with quail, more than they could eat, more than they could even stand, because they had grumbled and complained.
The Lord told Moses that he was going to get help. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent, and the Lord came down from the cloud and spoke with Moses. The Lord took the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. Rather than all of the people complaining to Moses, the seventy elders would help. We’re told that the Lord came down, spoke to Moses at the Tent of Meeting, which was outside the camp. It was a holy place. He took the Spirit of God, not all of Moses’ spirit; it was the Spirit of God. We might think he would be diminished, but then he had God’s Spirit in him to give. We picture it as a light, a light that was in Moses, because the light came from God himself. As a candle is lit, and the next candle is lit, it gives more light, so with these seventy elders. What happens when the Spirit rested on them? They prophesied, but they did not do so again because prophesy from the Spirit of God was just a sign that they received the Spirit. They didn’t have that gift any longer. Something else also happened. Two men whose names were Eldad and Medad remained in the camp. They were among those seventy elders who were going to receive the Spirit, whether they were there at the tent of meeting, whether they were there in the camp, no matter where they were… of course, they were off by themselves. Those in the camp did not realize what was happening at the Tent of Meeting, we’re told in our text: A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." It was causing quite a commotion. Joshua, son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since his youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" He was concerned that this wasn’t right. Even though they were among the seventy elders, they weren’t there at the tent. He was concerned they might have been doing something that they ought not be doing. He was concerned they might be usurping Moses’ au-thority, or speaking against God Himself. 29But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? He asked Joshua, who was going to be the next leader, if he was concerned for the sake of Moses. Was he concerned that Moses wasn’t going to be in authority? Was he concerned for him or ought he be concerned for the kingdom? We’re going to see how he ought to be concerned for the kingdom.
Moses had heard lots of things already. He had heard all the grumbling and complaining even though the Lord’s people had been provided for. Joshua was a little bit selfish. He wanted the Spirit to remain on Moses. He wanted the Spirit to remain on him when he became the next leader. He was jealous for Moses’ power and authority.
It brings us back to our concerns for the kingdom of God. We come back to the verse that says, ‘Seek the Lord’s kingdom and his righteousness’. That becomes more and more difficult in our day and age doesn’t it? Our society teaches us that we are the center of the universe. The world revolves around each one of us as individuals. Sometimes we feel the very same way. Sometimes, not even thinking about the kingdom of God, what is best for the kingdom of God is farthest from our minds. Sometimes, we think we know what is best. Sometimes we do, some-times we do not. Paul wrote to the Philippians in chapter two, right after all this that we heard in our second lesson today. He was reminding the people to think of the example of Jesus. Think of how He gave up His life. Think of how He gave up everything and died on the cross. “For every-one looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ"(PHILIPPIANS 2:21).
The Lord reminds us to be jealous for God’s kingdom, not for our own selfish reasons. You know how it goes sometimes in God’s kingdom…we love to see God’s church grow. We like to see the numbers increase; it means more members. Sometimes we say in meetings, whether we mean it in jest or not, ‘If we have more members, we have more money, we’re more secure, our future is more safe.’ That’s not what God wants, is it? God wants one sinner to repent. God wants us to look at what He wants. It flies in the face of the philosophy of the world when the scripture tells us, ‘the first in God’s kingdom shall be last and the last, first. He who is greatest in the kingdom will be least in the kingdom of God.’ That is hard for us—to be humble so that God might be raised up. It’s hard for us because it goes directly against our sinful nature. Our sinful nature tries to grab everything in this life for ourselves. Our sinful nature has us look out for our-selves rather than our fellow man, look out for ourselves rather than God’s kingdom.
We have examples for ourselves in scripture. We have John the Baptist. Let’s think about John the Baptist for a bit. He was born shortly before Jesus to prepare the way for the Savior. He was Jesus’ cousin, so he knew Him quite well. He preached about the kingdom of God and people who came out to him thought he was the Messiah or thought maybe he was Isaiah come back to life. How easy it would have been for John the Baptist to say, ‘Yes, I am the Messiah’, and have people follow him. But what did John say? He said, "He must become greater; I must become less. (He had the best interest of the kingdom of God in mind.) The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all"(JOHN 6:30,31). He realized that Christ is above all. Yet, what does our society teach us today? It teaches that we are gods in our own right. So again, it is a battle for us. It’s a struggle to be jealous for God’s kingdom, to sit down and pray and think what is good for God’s kingdom…not what I think is good, not what someone else thinks is good, but what God wants for His kingdom and what is good.
In the years that we grow, we sometimes grow a little cynical about God’s kingdom. We think of the disciples. When Jesus went to Jerusalem, they didn’t want Him to go there. They didn’t want Him to be put to death, but that was what was needed to further God’s kingdom. They listened to that and they forgot to listen to Jesus when He said He would rise on the third day. It became so bad that Jesus warned Peter to get behind Him because he (Peter) had in mind the things of men not the things of God. Another time the disciples tried to stop people from bringing their children to Jesus. They didn’t want them to ‘bother’ the Savior. What does the Sav-ior say? "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it"(LUKE 18:17).
We are reminded to be jealous for God’s kingdom not for human reasons but for divine purposes.
II. But for divine purposes
To be jealous for God’s kingdom and what that means for us, we look at our text. We re-member the picture outside the camp. The main camp was over one million people. It was a good-sized camp. Sometimes we forget that large number as the children of Israel are wandering through the wilderness. At a distance from the camp was the Tent of Meeting. Moses was there with his seventy elders (really sixty eight because of Medad and Eldad being in camp). The Lord comes down in a cloud and speaks to them. They prophesy. Joshua is concerned, he wants them to stop. Then the question, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Moses asked.’ What did Moses reply? He says, ‘I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and the Lord would put His spirit on them. Then all of the people would understand.’ Remember Moses had gone to complain to the Lord because God’s people had complained to him so much and said, ‘How are we going to help these people? How are we going to feed them?’ The Lord says, ‘We’re going to feed them until they don’t want to eat any more.’ Moses understood that. When he told the people, they didn’t understand it. Moses was saying, ‘I wish they would all understand like these prophets so they wouldn’t have to be told over and over again. Then the people wouldn’t come grumbling and com-plaining before God.’ Moses didn’t want to limit God’s kingdom or the Spirit. He wanted it to grow beyond the seventy to every believer because that’s what God wanted.
We ask ourselves then, what is God’s purpose? What are His divine purposes? In order for you and I to understand and appreciate God’s purposes in this world and in our lives, we have to realize the simple fact that His ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. "As the heav-ens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts"(ISAIAH 55:9). It makes sense, doesn’t it? We limit our thoughts and our ways in what we can see in the things of this life. The Lord says, ‘my ways are higher than that. My thoughts are higher than that.’ He has a simple, divine purpose, that there would be forgiveness. Scripture also reminds us that, as the heavens are higher than the earth and as far as the east is from the west so the Lord has removed our transgressions. Forgiveness is a divine purpose, not earthly, directly connected to God’s kingdom.
Another example from the New Testament; we are reminded when the disciples were given power to do great things—cast out demons and heal the sick—they came along to some people who were doing that on their own, but were not disciples. They came to Jesus just about like Joshua came to Moses and said, ‘Stop them! They are doing something which they ought not to be doing!’ Jesus reminded them: "’Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ’No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us’"(MARK 9:39,40). A house or a kingdom cannot be divided against itself. Satan cannot cast out Satan, but Jesus can do miracles. We want to remember that today. If we only remember one thing: We want to be busy about building up God’s kingdom. If we’re not building up God’s kingdom, we’re tearing it down. You may want to think back on this last week of your life of ac-tivities in this world when you were building up God’s kingdom. Maybe you’ll have to think a long time. Maybe there was a time or two, maybe there wasn’t. Be assured, if you weren’t building up God’s kingdom, very often, because of our sinful nature, we are tearing down God’s kingdom. God says, ‘Who is not for us is against us.’
One of God’s divine purposes is forgiveness and repentance. Jesus, in His parables tells about the lost coin and the widow who swept the house for it; tells about the lost sheep and the shepherd who went searching for it. The conclusion for these parables, Jesus says: I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent (LUKE 15:7).
God’s divine purpose is that His kingdom will grow, one sinner by one sinner who repents. That’s what it means to be jealous for God’s kingdom, to look first to His kingdom, realizing He takes care of all the rest. Like the children of Israel here, grumbling and complaining, day after day the Lord still gave them food and drink—all that they needed. It wasn’t good enough. He gave them the quail until they became sick. Moses says, ’Be jealous for God’s kingdom.’
Putting aside our own human reasons, look to God’s divine purposes, realizing as Paul says in Co-rinthians: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God"(1 CO-RINTHIANS 10:31). In other words he says, be jealous for God’s kingdom. Amen.
Pastor Timm O. Meyer