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.

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ddRickFloyd2013.jpgAbout the Author
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A writer and author, his most recent publications are Romans, Parts 1 and 2 (with Michael S. Bennett), new titles in the “Listen Up!” Bible Study Series. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.