Why Stop Them? (A Reflection by Fr. Ogoe, based on Num 11:24-29)

So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. Gathering seventy elders of the people, he had them stand around the tent. The LORD then came down in the cloud and spoke to him. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied. Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.”But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all! (Num 11:24-29).

At a point in Moses’ leadership he could no more bear the stubbornness of the people, so he called on the Lord. The Lord asked him to gather seventy men of repute so that he may bestow upon them his Spirit. This happened, but two men, Eldad and Medad, were absent. And the Sacred Author gives no reason for their absence. When it was reported that they too had received the Spirit and were prophesying, Joshua became upset and urged his master to stop them. Joshua must have been surprised at Moses’ reply. It is obvious that Moses and Joshua at that point, were on two different planes. Joshua perhaps felt that in order to “qualify” to prophesy, people needed to meet certain “human” criteria. That would not be a bad idea, only it might limit the number of people who prophecy. Moses had other ideas. For him it would be a dream come true to see all the Lord’s people prophecy. Moses should have lived long enough  to hear the following prophecy of the prophet Joel: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” (2:28). Moses would have been happier still to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, to hear Peter announce to the whole world that the days when “all” the Lord’s people would prophesy had arrived (cf. Acts 2:15-18).

God is delighted to lavish his gifts on his people. And it would be wonderful if we all would rejoice with him to see more and more people receive and exercise the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. God is delighted to shower his blessings on us. Sometimes we forget that God’s graces are always given for a purpose. The gifts of his Spirit, including prophecy, are given for a purpose. It is not ours to determine who, and how many, receive the gifts of God. Ours again, is not to oppose people who are gifted by the Spirit. In addition, let us remember that no individual or group of people can claim exclusive rights over the gifts of the Spirit. No one has exclusive access to the gift of prophecy. No one has exclusive rights over the casting out of demons (cf. Mark 9:38-39). No one has exclusive rights over the speaking of (or praying in) tongues or over any spiritual gift for that matter. No one has exclusive rights to the gates of heaven. God, and God alone, reserves the right to determine which gifts are given at what time, and to whom it is given.

Why stop people from prophesying? Why stop people from casting out demons in the Lord’s name? (Mk 9:38-39). Why stop people from exercising the charisms of the Spirits? Why discourage the children of God from exercising gifts freely bestowed by the Spirit? The Lord has given, who are we to stop people? The Lord needs people to identify, discern and exercise the charisms he has given them! The greater the number of people exercising prophecy and the other gifts of the Spirit the better for everybody: the better for the Church, the better for the world. If we are sad or upset that our brothers and sisters (especially those who are “not part of us”) receive and exercise the charisms of the Spirit, and cast out demons, there is, perhaps, something wrong with us.

We serve a gracious God, and before him we are all equal. If it his divine pleasure to let us have “more” of his Spirit, let us be glad and rejoice. Let us encourage the use of the Spirit’s gifts and not discourage. As God’s children it is part of our inheritance to be filled and empowered by the Spirit for witness in the Church and in the world. Let the Spirit fall on all! Amen.

Invitation to prayer:

Come Holy Spirit. Cleanse me in the Blood of Jesus. Fall on me and on all your people. Unleash the gift of prophecy upon me. Empower me with your spiritual gifts that I may help to build the Body of Christ. Give me courage and strength to reject all evil. Come Holy Spirit. Amen.

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