Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: Out of Bounds

Numbers 11:24-30

11:24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 

11:25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

11:26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp.

11:27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

11:28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!”

11:29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” 

11:30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

This story is assigned for Pentecost Sunday, but seldom used, since the focus is on the Pentecost story in Acts 2. Both stories point to the radical freedom and unexpected nature of God’s Spirit. And the story of Eldad and Medad raises the issue of the boundaries of religious authority.


1. Where have you experienced the Spirit? In your own life? In the church? Outside the church?

2. Can you think of examples when the church tried to control or boundary the activity of God’s Spirit? Who are the Eldads and Medads of today?


Out of Bounds

But Moses said to Joshua, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!” – Numbers 11:29

The people of God have always wrestled with the question of where God’s Spirit is at work. In Numbers 11 we hear a strange story that raises this very question.

Moses had gathered seventy of the elders around the tent of meeting. God took some of the spirit from Moses, and put it on these seventy and they prophesied. But there were two men, Eldad and Medad, who missed the memo and remained in the camp. Still, the spirit came upon them and they prophesied in the camp.

But a young man ran to tattle on them, and Joshua, who was Moses’s assistant told Moses to stop them. This is when Moses rebuked Joshua.

There is a similar story in the Gospels, when the disciples complained to Jesus that some strangers were casting out demons in his name, and he should stop them. Jesus, like Moses, said to let them be.

I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and proud to be one. Still, the “Reverend” before my name doesn’t mean that I am wiser or more spiritual than anybody else. In fact, one of the things I had to learn in my ministry was that sometimes when I was at a meeting stuck for the right word or idea, if I just shut up, there was someone at the table at that moment wiser than I.

In this season of Pentecost we do well to recall that God’s Spirit is not our instrument, and the Spirit’s gifts are not under the control of the church. The Spirit of God operates out of God’s own radical freedom. When we are truly wise we keep an eye out for it!


Draw us in the Spirit’s tether, O God, so that we may be responding to what you are doing in our midst.