“The Spirit on His People”
The Day of Pentecost, June 4, 2017 Confirmation
The Spirit on His People
Text: Numbers 11:24–30
Our reading begins with the word, “so.” “So Moses went out.” That word “so” tells us we are at the end of the story that comes before. Much has happened before the verses we have today. When Moses says, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them” (v 29), these are words that bring to an end a big chunk of history for Israel. And those words, spoken in response to Joshua trying to stop two men from prophesying, become a promise that would be fulfilled 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead. Moses probably had no idea that what he said would happen on Pentecost Sunday 1500 years later on that first Pentecost. And ever since, our Heavenly Father has placed the Holy Spirit on all God’s people.
Now as I stand here today, I am assuming you are all familiar with the Exodus account, or the movies that depicted it. The Israelites are made the slaves of the Egyptians. The Hebrews pray for centuries for God to get them out of Egypt. God calls to Moses from a burning bush. Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Let my people go.” Pharaoh says, “No. So let it be written. So let it be done.” God sends plagues. With the tenth one, the killing of the firstborn, Pharaoh lets the Israelites go. He changes his mind and goes out to get them back. God parts the Red Sea, leads the Israelites across and drowns the Egyptian army. God gives the Ten Commandments. When Moses is up on the mountain with God, Aaron makes the Golden Calf and the people worship it. They eventually get to the promised land. They send in 12 spies to check it out. Joshua and Caleb report, “We are good to go.” The other ten say, “If we go in there, we will die.” The Israelites wander around in the desert for years. They complain about water, food, whatever. God gives them manna every day to feed them. And that brings us pretty much to our text.
The number of people Moses was leading could easily have been one-and-a-half to two million people that needed to be fed. While God was feeding them manna every day, after a while they were complaining, asking for meat. You can probably understand their griping on this one. Imagine eating the same thing every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They complain again, saying they were better off in Egypt, and God promises them meat (quail) that they will eat every day for thirty days.
Think about poor Moses for a second. Can you imagine being 80 years old and having to look after 2 million whiny, grumpy, crybabies? I told you last week what happened to me when I had to teach 42 13 year olds for an hour a day for one school year. Try 2 million of them every day, all day, for 40 years. Moses had it tough. It got so bad for Moses he actually asked God to kill him!
In answer to that, God told Moses to appoint 70 elders. In other words…Delegate! The new elders went to the tent of meeting, and they all were hit with the Holy Spirit and they all started preaching/prophesying. Two of them, Medad and Eldad, did not go to the tent, but the Spirit hit them anyway. Joshua wanted them to stop, but here is where Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.”
Moses wasn’t intentionally speaking a prophecy in his response to Joshua, but it becomes that. God came down to us in Jesus. God doesn’t come down in a cloud anymore, He came in a manger, as a baby. His ministry begins with His Baptism, and the Father’s voice is joined by the Holy Spirit as a dove. Jesus’ whole ministry is accompanied by the Holy Spirit placed on Him. All Jesus said and did revealed what God wanted for His people. When people heard Jesus, they heard God speaking to them. When they saw Jesus doing something, they saw God in action. In Jesus, we meet God. Then on the cross, Jesus takes everything that would keep the Spirit from being placed on us. All our complaining and discouragement, rebellion and weariness, idolatry and greed—all of it is thrown on Jesus, and He sheds His blood to bring forgiveness for all of it. He secures an eternal rescue for us. We are delivered. We are saved.
When Jesus rises from the dead, He spends time with the disciples. But then He ascends into heaven. And ten days later, He sends the Holy Spirit. You just heard about that. The loud rushing wind. The tongues of fire. The apostles speaking the languages of all the pilgrims in Jerusalem. On that day, Moses’ wish…“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.”…came true. In Jesus, His words come true. God places His Spirit on us.
Where do we meet Jesus today? When does He place His Spirit on us now? Go back to your Baptism. When the water was combined with “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Jesus scooped us up as His own people. All of us received His Spirit on that day when we were baptized. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we meet Jesus in His very body and blood, and He sends us from this altar with the Spirit placed on us again. We open up the Bible, and the Word brings us to Jesus. We meet Him there, and His Spirit is on us here, too.
I am very happy to say here this morning that Moses’ words have come true for us. Paul tells us in 1 Cor 12:3 that “…no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” And we see evidence of that for us when we are here. The Spirit leads us to confess our sins as we begin our worship together. We demonstrate the Spirit within us when we confess the Creed here every Sunday. And we have four young people showing how the Spirit has touched them as they confess their faith here later in the Rite of Confirmation.
And we remember this and celebrate this with these folks this morning. We rejoice as a church that they are here today, that the Holy Spirit is in their hearts and that they believe that Jesus Christ is their Savior. And they will say “Jesus is Lord” shortly. In a few moments we will observe, for them, the rite of confirmation. What is confirmation about? Is confirmation equivalent to graduation? The answer to that is no. I know it kind of looks like a graduation here, but that is not what we are up to today. And I have impressed that upon all those who have had confirmation class with me. These confirmands have not learned everything they need to know about God, so that they do not have to come to church anymore. Instead, they have learned the basics of what they need to know about God to help understand what is going on in the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and all the major doctrines of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. They have been given the information they need to be responsible communicant members of this, and future, congregations. Today is the beginning of their communicant membership here, not an end. So what is confirmation then? Let’s again consult the catechism. The current catechism, question 306, says this, “Confirmation is a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.” In other words, confirmation is that period of time where we as a church body, take the time to educate our young people on the Word of God, and the way our church body interprets that Word of God. It is the opportunity we take to teach them the doctrines of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, so that when they come to the communion rail, they know what they will be receiving there, and have that faith in common with those who come up to the rail with them. And we start to equip them in such a way that they may share their faith and what they know about Jesus.
And I need to remind you, and you all, that we need Jesus. One of the shocking things going on in our church body today, and has been going on for decades, is the number of young people who disappear from church from the time they are confirmed to the time they get married or need a baby baptized. I don’t believe that is going to happen with you. I don’t think your families will allow it. But when you go off on your own, whether that is to college or wherever, the devil will tempt you to think that you don’t need to go to church. That you don’t need Jesus. But you do. And you will. We all do and we all will.
Therefore, it is a big deal today that Juliana, Erica, Alexandra and Levi are going to stand up here in a few moments, and confess their faith in Jesus as their Savior, as well as partake of the Lord’s Supper for the first time. As it is written in the Book of Joel, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” This is a happy day, for you guys, and for all of us. It is a day we get to witness the Holy Spirit at work.
God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross and rise again from the dead to win for us the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. The Holy Spirit, working in the Word, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper delivers these blessings to each of us. Right? Therefore, as we rejoice that these folks have received these blessings, we can rejoice today that each of us has received them as well.
Moses spoke words of promise: would that the Spirit be on all the Lord’s people. In Jesus, those words come true. When we meet Jesus in His Word and Sacraments, the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is placed upon us. And Moses’ words come true.
There are many things in our lives where we are quick to say what side we are on…who we belong to. You have been quick to tell me if you are a Sooner person or a Cowboy person or a Golden Hurricane person or a Longhorn person or a Jayhawk person or a Wildcat person. With the Holy Spirit in here, we are enabled to say “Jesus is Lord.” That makes us a Jesus person. Moses’ Words—That the Lord Put His Spirit on All His People—Find Fulfillment When Jesus Sends the Holy Spirit to His Church, to Us, so that We Can Confess His Name. Every time we confess Jesus as Lord, we see the Holy Spirit active in us, and we know that Moses’ words have come true in our lives.
Adapted from material in Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 27, Part 2.