Publication: Pastoral letter, July 2014
Dear Friend in Christ:
Hebrews 13:7 tells us to remember those who spoke the Word of God to us and follow their faith and conduct. What does it mean to speak the Word of God to someone and how can it affect them? One vivid example comes to us in Numbers chapter 11, with a story of Moses.
I cannot imagine leading several million people through a desert when they are constantly complaining. In fact, how can one lead a dozen people who are negative and critical? That was Moses’ problem. He became seriously frustrated.
The people were tired of manna and wanted meat. The folks were so desperate and unhappy that they were actually weeping. They even wanted to return to Egypt and its slavery. In his frustration, Moses went to God in prayer, “Why have you afflicted me with the burden of these people? If you are going to treat me like this, kill me and do not let me see my wretchedness!” Moses is not the only pastor who ever prayed such a prayer.
The fire that Moses met at the burning bush and the fire that fueled his calling were now merely smoldering embers. Moses was by no means a weak man. He was unusually courageous and strong, but the problems had finally gotten to him. What he had been told to do by God was humanly impossible.
The Lord is never surprised by our discouragement. Our condition often drives us back to the One Who called us in the beginning. So the Lord spoke, “Gather to me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be elders of the people, bring them to the tabernacle of meeting that they may stand there with you. Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same Spirit upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.”
Then God promised to give the people meat until it “ran out their noses.” Moses wondered at how that would be possible, but God did later send great flocks of quail that literally covered the ground.
So, Moses gathered the seventy elders to the meeting place, and as God promised, He met with them in the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came down upon them, they all simultaneously began to prophesy (see Acts 19:1-6).
Let us for a moment examine what the word “prophesy” actually means. We usually interpret it to mean “predict” but that is only one meaning. The broader meaning is to “speak forth the Word of the Lord.” What were these seventy men saying? It wasn’t to each other because they were all speaking at once. They were praising and magnifying God under the power of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 10:46). Great power and boldness came to them! They were reflecting back to God what they had received from Him.
Too often we who follow the Lord in the New Covenant minimize the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Covenant. This is ignorance. Very few of us have had such an experience as they had, and that is tragic because we need that same power.
There were two elders who were not at the meeting, Eldad and Medad. Perhaps they were on their way but late. We do not know. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit came upon them just as He did upon the others. They also began prophesying, not at the meeting, but out in the camp. This was unusual and somewhat disturbing to those who heard them. Some young man ran to tell Moses what was happening and asked that they be forbidden to prophesy. That young man would fit in with most churches. Most churches would forbid such expressions in church, let alone out in the world.
Even Joshua, the assistant pastor, was all for forbidding them to prophesy out in the camp. (Of course sometimes, some people should be forbidden, if they are not truly moved by the Holy Spirit.) But, these men were moved by the Holy Spirit even as Moses and the elders were. When leaders lack discernment, forbidding all manifestations is the easy way out. But Moses knew the Holy Spirit. He sensed that the “forbidders” were jealous for him, and they were fearful that others prophesying would rival his place as leader.
Moses was not insecure, and he saw the benefit of others being anointed with the Holy Spirit and speaking the Word of God. These men would help bear the burdens of the people. Moses’ reply was straightforward, “Oh that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” If we are “the Lord’s people,” then His desire includes us.
What is happening in our daily lives where we live will reflect what is or is not happening in the meeting.If the Word of the Lord is not being spoken in the meeting, it will likely not be spoken out in the world where we live. The Word of the Lord flows from a visitation by the Holy Spirit, whether at church or in the world where we live. A powerful visit from God in the meeting will break out into the world. We desperately need that!
The dynamic that happened in Numbers 11 corresponds to what happened at Pentecost. The Upper Room visitation spilled out to where the people were. They heard the disciples praising and magnifying God. The others gathered to hear what was happening.
The apostle Paul continued to walk in this dynamic as did the other apostles. The glory of God was continually spilling out into the street, into prisons and homes. Paul says, “Desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” He describes prophesy as edification, exhortation, and comfort. He further describes prophecy as opening the hearts of non-believers. In other words, a Holy Spirit given message is a powerful evangelistic tool.
I believe that there is a growing number of “Eldads and Medads” who are being anointed and speaking to others out in “the camp.” When they hear a Word from God and speak it to someone, it can have a powerful impact. This is not a word of criticism but a Word from God that opens hearts,edifies, exhorts, or comforts. If people are not hearing from God, we can be sure that they are hearing from others-words that drain life instead of words that give life. Words from the Holy Spirit quicken, energize, and encourage.
Having said the above, is there ever a time that the Lord will give us a Word of warning to someone? The Bible gives us many such examples and God Himself frequently warns. Both the Bible and history are filled with warnings motivated by a loving concern (see Acts 2:40). Paul warned Timothy to flee youthful lusts (see 2 Timothy 2:22). It was Israel’s “craving” that got them in serious trouble and they had been warned.
The people in Moses’ congregation that had a “craving for quail” got quail, but were also struck with a great plague. Many died even as they ate what they craved. Did what they desired carry a plague, a disease? I do not know, but one thing is sure; sometimes what we crave can also kill us. Carnal craving not only provokes God but yielding to our own desires instead of the Holy Spirit destroys us.
We live in an increasingly “entitlement society.” Many in our culture grow up believing that we deserve whatever we desire, no matter who has to pay for it. Not only are we entitled to have our needs and desires met, but we even deserve not to ever be offended. Having one’s feelings hurt is tantamount to a physical wound in the minds of too many.
So, are many in our culture approximating Israel’s condition in the days of Moses? If so, what is needed? Are we to cater or confront? Remember what the Lord instructed. Gather leaders and I will put My Spirit on them. Moses obeyed and the Lord kept His Word. There was prophecy in the meeting and prophecy in the camp. God was glorified and many were turned to Him from their own craving. God overcame the negative culture by pouring out His Spirit and releasing – praise and prophecy.
Now it may seem a stretch to equate what happened then to what I advocate now, but the dynamics are similar. In both cases, then and now, leaders need to stand together before God and be anointed. Such an anointing will not keep silent but will move them to powerful praise and a new love for the people. Such an anointing will not remain in the meeting, it will overflow into the “camp” where the people are. Yes, there will be objections and “forbidders,” but God will deal with that. Our task is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak with boldness to those who will hear.
The Bible does speak about false manifestations (see Jeremiah 23; Acts 19:11-20). But never does the Bible tell us to forsake real prophetic words because of those that are false. No, the real can be tested and compared with the false, but whatever is of God overcomes, grows, and prevails. It is God we must seek and not gifts, but when we truly find God in the power of the Spirit, spiritual gifts are not far behind!
We do not have to couch the word from God in religious terms. We only have to tell others what the Lord says and let the word do its work. It could be as simple as, “What is God saying to you?” Or, “What have you done about your spiritual life?” Ask the Lord to anoint you as you live in the “camp” and simply say what He tells you to say and see what happens. It could change a life.
I want to thank you for your prayers for us during our 2014 CSM Gatlinburg Conference. God met us in a powerful way. Messages from the Conference and other valuable ministry resources are available at www.csmpublishing.org or by seeing the card enclosed. Please continue to pray for us and remember us in your giving this month, and throughout the Summer. We are finding fresh opportunities in publishing, internet, and international mission. We appreciate – your friendship and support.
Scripture Reference: Hebrews, Numbers, Acts, 2 Timothy, Jeremiah
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.