Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Program Police

…and the spirit rested upon them;.. but went not out into the tabernacle:
(Numbers 11:26)

In this passage from the book of Numbers, we see the children of Israel had been complaining about wanting flesh to eat. The people were grumbling, and Moses was becoming weary. God had Moses appoint 70 elders to help handle the burden, and the men were given of the Spirit that was upon Moses. Then these elders began to prophesy, and went into the tabernacle, but two stayed behind and prophesied in the camp. Joshua, believing that these men were in the wrong, and out of order, told Moses. Joshua was probably “right” in his zeal for order, but Moses’ answer holds significant impact and import for us today. Moses told Joshua his hope that all would receive the Spirit. Rather than feel threatened by the delegation of power, Moses understood something Joshua had yet to learn. He had the presumption of faith; he had become one of the program police.

The two men who did not go into the tabernacle shows us an interesting point; these men were apparently supposed to go to the tabernacle, but the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:32), and they did not go. God may have someone do something out of the ordinary, or perhaps a person isn’t quite in the way they should be, but we must not be so “rash to do good” that we lack patience or meekness with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jealous for the Kingdom, yes, but we must remember that we are dealing with fellow fallen humans, and must not forget the words of our Savior, For he who is not against us is on our side (Mark 9:40). Not everyone is going to do things “in order”, especially our version of it!

J.I. Packer has said that God has an “ardor for order”, and this is true, God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). However, sometimes we take this concept too far, and impose our own rigid standards where God has left room for spontaneity. Surely we have seen the excesses of going too far to each side. Paul said let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40), but notice he said let all things be done. We should be wary of becoming so structured that our ministry runs like clockwork, instead of Christ-work.

Moses’ desire to see the Spirit poured out can be linked with the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-29) and the events of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21). Today, we can all enjoy the gifts of this anointing: Jesus Christ, the Anointed One lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. While all may not be prophets in the strictest sense of the term, the Spirit is indeed upon all who believe, and we are all given spiritual gifts. God does not simply use the gifted talkers and thinkers to lead his people; the most well read scholar is not chosen because of his much learning of the Greek or Hebrew languages alone. How many men leave seminary as a “Master of Divinity” yet they are a disaster of ministry? Pushing through a program, whether for ministry training, discipleship groups, or Sunday morning service does not guarantee the blessing of God.

It is good, and even important to study, and specialized, formal training has its place. We need scholars, but true pastor-teachers, prophets, and evangelists of the Lord are called by Him, and will be empowered by Him. Consider the unlearned disciples, but also the learned Paul; the point is that God isn’t in the business of calling the gifted; He goes about gifting the called. And as Christians we are all called. Whatever the task God calls us to, He is sure to provide us with the grace by the Holy Spirit to fulfill His purposes. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

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