September 27, 2015
Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Num 11:25-29
No one likes to think of himself as stingy. Yet oftentimes we actually are. When we deeply care about something, we have a tendency to hold it back from others. Whether it be something as serious as refusing to give money to those we can help or something as silly as protecting your personal chocolate supply from thieving family members, our miserly qualities reveal something about the state of our souls. While a parsimonious approach might sometimes be the order of the day, God shows himself to be a generous Giver of good gifts, not a scrooge.
Keeping God in a Tent
In this Sunday’s first reading from Numbers, we find Moses conversing with God again in the tent of meeting. Moses is bent out of shape because the people of Israel have been complaining again and he is feeling the weight of his leadership role. He frankly needs help. The Lord agrees and has Moses invite seventy elders of Israel to the tent of meeting for a special ceremony:
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. (Num 11:25 RSV)
God redistributes the wealth of Moses’ anointing onto the seventy elders gathered. While before they had simply been older men, now they are all prophets! Moses had been the only one eligible to hear God and speak on his behalf, but now all of these elders take on this prophetic role. The text adds, “they did so no more,” which seems to mean that this prophetic moment was a one-time occurrence. These elders would have new roles of leadership, but would not continually act as prophets.
God Gets Out
Everything seems to be going according to plan until it becomes apparent that two of the appointed seventy elders were no-shows. They overlooked the meeting on their calendars and didn’t make it, but God did not let their truancy get in the way. He let his spirit “rest” on them anyway and they start prophesying out in public (Num 11:26). Horrified by this breach of protocol, Joshua sprints to Moses and asks him to put a stop to Eldad’s and Medad’s prophecies. Moses, unimpressed by his sidekick’s pleadings, expresses the exact opposite notion. Rather than wanting to restrict God’s presence and prophecy to the narrowest group possible, he says “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Num 11:29 RSV).