The Lord Puts His Spirit on Us Numbers 11:4–6, 10–16, 24–2;
Grace, mercy, and peace …
Today we’re going to talk about what it means that the Lord puts His Spirit on us, based on the last verse of our Old Testament, Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them.
The word spirit can be used in different ways: it might mean the morale or mood of someone or something, like team spirit, this team has spirit, or that player has spirit; it might refer to a person’s nature or qualities, like, she has a caring spirit or kind spirit; it might refer to the mind, like, so and so couldn’t be here today in person, but he’s here with us in spirit, he’s thinking of us; sometimes an alcoholic drink can be referred to as a spirit (Wahpeton story) the word spirit might mean the true or intended meaning of something, like the spirit of the law; it might mean your soul, your spirit within; or it might mean a living being without a body, like the angels; or it might mean God, the Holy Spirit, which it means in our lesson today. This is its first and primary meaning; and where the word spirit originated.
In our lesson, once again we have an indication of the Triune nature of God already early in the Old Testament, as it talks about the Spirit of God. What that means is that God was present and at work in Old Testament times, just as in New Testament times, just as today.
In the first part of our Gospel, Jesus teaches the disciples not to stop others who were ministering in his name, even if they weren’t in their particular group. This shows us that the work of the Lord is a vast thing, and happens by the people of Christ all around the world, and in all kinds of circumstances.
While we do the work of the Lord here in Church in special ways and essential ways, we also serve the Lord outside of these walls, in the way we live and bear witness to the Gospel. In fact it’s outside the walls of the church where the majority of the work of the gospel happens. What happens here sets the stage for, and provides the motivation for what happens out there every day in our Christian lives. So our work for the Lord is a combination of what happens in here and out there.
We see this in our Epistle concerning prayer. We pray both in here and out there, and our prayers are powerful in both places. Prayer is one of the best gifts that God gives his children to help them in life. He says you can come to me and talk with me at any time, any place. The secular culture may try to set restrictions on when or where we can pray, but Jesus has opened up prayer for everywhere, and at all times.
Actor Chris Pratt, who has starred in the latest Jurassic movies, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Avenger movies, at the MTV awards this past June, shared nine pieces of advice for the young people who were there. Here's a summary of some of them: You have a soul. Be careful with it. God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that, I do. Reach out to someone in pain. Be of service. It feels good and it's good for your soul. Nobody is perfect. People will tell you that you’re perfect just the way you are; you’re not! You’re imperfect. You always will be. And if you are willing to accept that, (repent) you will have grace. And grace is a gift. Like the freedom that we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody else's blood (Jesus). Don’t forget that. Don't take that for granted. And learn to pray. It's easy, and it’s so good for your soul.
James says, Is anyone suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone happy? Let sing songs of praise. Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
And that’s not just the prayers prayed in here, but also the prayers offered up out there. God cares about them all; he cares about all the people you pray for you; he cares about all the situations and challenges and troubles and joys you pray about; he wants to hear what you’re thinking about them all, and what your needs are in everything; he wants you to open up your heart, and talk about them. It’s good for your soul. And what’s good and healthy for your soul is also good for your body and your mind.
We see this in our Old Testament today, as the Spirit of God came upon Moses and the 70 elders.
The people were complaining to Moses about the food God was giving them, the manna from heaven. They wanted some tasty meat for a change.
And Moses was complaining to God about the people. He said, Did I conceive and give birth to all these people, that I should have to carry their burden. Why don’t you just kill me now, instead of slowly killing me with this burden I’m bearing.
God listened, and responded in a surprising way; not with food for the body, but with food for the soul. God knew the problem wasn’t with their bodies, it was with their souls. And the same for Moses; the problem wasn’t the people, the problem was Moses’ attitude toward the people.
So God gave a spiritual solution to Moses and the leaders of Israel. He gave them His Spirit for their spirits. He said to Moses, Bring all the elders to the meeting tent. Then God came down to them in a cloud and covered them. And He took some of His Spirit that was on Moses and gave to the elders; and they started to prophesy, showing that the Holy Spirit had come upon them.
Two of the elders, Eldad and Medad, couldn’t make it to the meeting tent for some reason, and yet the Holy Spirit came to them, too, and they prophesied out there where they were, among the people.
Joshua told Moses to make them stop, because he thought that if the people saw others filled with the Spirit and prophesy, it would undermine Moses. But Moses said, I wish everybody would prophesy. In other words, I wish the Holy Spirit for everyone.
In doing this, God let Moses know that he didn’t have to do this task of leading God’s people alone; God would work through others, too. In fact, He would work though all His people, as he always has, and still does.
God has put His Spirit on us, His people living in this time and place. After Jesus died and rose, he ascended into heaven and sent His Spirit to His apostles and his people.
In your Baptism, the same Spirit who came on the 70 elders, and on the apostles, has come to you, with the power to be a child of God.
The Holy Spirit continues to come to us through the Word of God, and the body and blood of Christ. That means we have an abundance of God’s Spirit to live by and be strengthened with, every day, everywhere.
This means three things for us.
1. We are not powerless in this world. We live by the power of the Holy Spirit every day. That means we have the power to remain faithful to God. No matter how hard it gets to believe out there, you have a greater power in here, the Holy Spirit living in you.
You have the power to resist the devil, and do God’s will in the world. Not perfectly. As we heard earlier, we’re not perfect. We sin; we need grace; and we have it in abundance. And with God’s grace comes the power to try again, and to get better at it, better at loving and honoring God, and better at loving and serving our neighbor.
2. We have the Word to live by. We may not prophesy like they did, but have the prophecies and promises and words of God in the Bible to live by. God promises us that His Spirit accompanies His Word, to make it living and active in our lives and in our world.
The words of God don’t just stay in here, but they go with us out there; and where the Word goes there goes the Spirit; and where the Spirit goes there goes the grace and the power of God. Walking in this world, God’s grace and power are with you.
3. We have prayer to cover and comfort us. Because the Spirit extends from this place, and goes into the world with us, so prayer leaves this place and goes out with us.
And it’s a simple thing to do. Our prayers don’t have to be sophisticated or eloquent, they just need to be said or thought. Imperfect though they are, God welcomes them, and the Holy Spirit perfects them, Scripture says.
The prayers of his children are beautiful to our Heavenly Father. And because of that, they have great power; because God has great power.
All this is possible because God created us with a soul, a spirit, so that he could put His Spirit on us, sending His Spirit to live in ours, that we might be empowered to be His dear and godly people in this world.
Thanks be to God, He has put His Spirit on us.
Since the Spirit of God is on you, the peace of God, which passes understanding, will always be with you, to guard your heart and mind, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.