Bible Study with Jairus – Numbers 11

This chapter begins with the Israelites complaining and arousing God’s anger against them, which resulted in some of the people being consumed by the fire of God.  They also complained to Moses about how they craved the leeks, cucumbers, fish, and meat back in Egypt.  God told Moses he would give the people meat, but Moses’ response was a bit confusing.  He said, “The people among whom I am   number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’  Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them and be enough for them?  Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them and be enough for them?” (Numbers 11:21-22, ESV).

A woman in our study said that Moses’ response was baffling.  God had led the Israelites out of Egypt with many signs and wonders.  Why would he doubt God’s ability and power to provide meat for the people? It didn’t seem to make sense. Moses even begged God to kill him because he was so overwhelmed by the demands of such a great number of people and didn’t want God to see his wretchedness.  God told Moses to appoint seventy elders to help him.  He took the spirit of Moses and put it upon the elders.  The woman asking the original question also asked if the Spirit of God on Moses would be lessened if it was put on the seventy elders or would Moses possibly be estranged from God.

After the Spirit of God was put on these elders, the Bible states that “As soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.” Why did they begin to prophesy, but then they didn’t do so anymore afterward?

Later in the chapter, a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Joshua, Moses’ assistant, wanted Moses to stop them. Why? Moses’ response was very positive. He said: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (ESV, Numbers 11:29).

In the end, God’s judgment came upon those who craved meat in the form of a plague. This raises another question. Since God proposed to give meat to the Israelites, why would He kill them? Isn’t this entrapment?

These are the questions that came up at the beginning of our Bible study.

One more question was asked regarding verses 1-3. God’s anger was kindled when he heard the people’s complaints. He “burned among them and consumed some at the outskirts of the camp” (Recovery Version).  A woman noted that the translation of the Chinese Union Version reads, “When God heard them, his anger was aroused. Then fire burned among them until it reached the outskirts of the camp.” The question is, did the fire burn some people at the outskirts of the camp or only the tents at the outskirts?” She thought this was a warning from God.

We have no way of knowing, but we know the history of the Israelites. When the Israelites later rebelled against God even more, especially when they worshipped the golden calf, God’s anger was kindled toward them. The Lord let Moses go out to the tent of the meeting, which was outside the camp (Exodus 33:7). Then the pillar of cloud would fill the tent of the meeting. The pillar of cloud was with the Israelites whenever they camped (Exodus 13:21).  But here in Exodus 33, the pillar of cloud only filled Moses’ tent outside the camp. It meant that the Lord’s presence was mainly with Moses now. It may indicate that God’s presence was temporarily withdrawn from the majority of His people.

Of course, we know that God’s presence was always with the Israelites during their journey to the Promised Land.  However, it doesn’t mean that God can’t remove His presence temporarily or chastise His people.  It is also true in the New Testament sense. Sometimes we may sin and feel the loss of God’s presence.  But once we confess our sins, we can regain the presence of God.  We know Jesus will be with us always until the end of the world, but sometimes we may not feel His presence (Matthew 28:20).  Why? God wants to be present with us, but He will also chastise us by removing His presence if necessary.

Whether it burned the tents on the outskirts or some of the people, it indicates that God’s presence has not left the main areas of the tabernacle where the Israelites are. Later the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down (ESV, Numbers 11:2).  So this was indeed a warning.Verse 4 (ESV) says, “The rabble that was among them had a strong craving.  And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “oh that we had meat to eat!”  The question was asked, who is the rabble?  The note beside the word rabble refers to Exodus 12:38 (ESV), which says, “A mixed multitude also went up with them and very much livestock, both flocks, and herds.”  At that time, the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians so that they let them have what they asked (Exodus 12:36, ESV).  It could be that the “rabble” were those didn’t trust in God but were caught up in the Israelites favor and enjoying plundering the Egyptians.  They probably didn’t understand what it would cost them to follow the Israelites into the wilderness.  The same can be said when Jesus came to Earth.  Many of His disciples, including Judas, expected Him to be King over Israel, which would undoubtedly bring glory and wealth to them.  However, they soon discovered that Jesus was taking the path to the cross, leaving them at a total loss.  In the end, Judas sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  Jokingly, I said that if Judas looked at following Jesus as a gamble or some sort of investment, when he saw Him about to be crucified, he thought that he made the wrong choice and sold Jesus at a meager price.The “rabble” in verse 4 represents our flesh.  They came out of Egypt, which represents the world.  There were still parts of Egypt in them. As the Israelites were going through God’s trials in the wilderness, it can be likened to the transformation of the soul.  Moses represents the human spirit.  His job was to draw near to God, yet when he faced pressure in the flesh, his human spirit was suppressed and weakened.  This is a good spiritual picture of what Paul was talking about in Romans 8:6 when he said that setting the mind on the flesh is death, but setting the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Verse 4 says that the “rabble” were the first ones to complain about their cravings.  Then the Israelites also wept and complained about who was going to give them food.  It definitely looks like the Israelites were influenced by the rabble.  God’s purpose for providing heavenly manna, which represented His Spirit, to the Israelites, was to help them break away from the influence of Egypt and taste of his heavenly food, which would change them from the inside out (Jesus refers to Himself as the food from Heaven).  Unfortunately, even though they left Egypt, they were still under its influence, craving fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, and garlic.

Watchman Nee said that Satan is a deposed king who can only use his power through our flesh.  He attacks us from the outside to influence and control our mind, will, and emotions known as our soul, and attempts to suppress our spirit.  God works from the inside out, giving us life through the Holy Spirit represented by the manna, to change our soulish nature and body to glorify him.

I was discipling a fellow believer for several years, hoping to help him grow spiritually.  He loved the Lord and was faithful to attend meetings, and enjoyed fellowship with other believers.  I was encouraging him to go deeper in his prayer life and Bible study.  Unfortunately, he was so busy with school that experiments and thesis dominated his mind.  He wasn’t committed to prayer wholeheartedly.  I suggested that he take time to pray as he was walking to school from his dormitory, and I tried to train him to pray-read scripture, calling on the name of the Lord and singing praises while he was walking home from school.  He never did apply these things.  Later, I told him that it wasn’t because he didn’t have time to practice; He just wasn’t motivated.  His mind was too occupied with school, and his spirit was suppressed, keeping him from prayer and praise.  He has since moved on from our fellowship, but I hope he has made progress and had some breakthroughs.

Many Christians experience the same thing as the man in the story above.  It’s not that we don’t have time to pray but that we get easily distracted, or our minds are too occupied with other things.  Often our spirit is too suppressed to overcome the domination of the mind and flesh.  We should take time to eat a little manna every day like the Israelites.  Read God’s word, pray and slowly allow our spiritual life to grow to a place where it will overcome the suppression of our soul and the control of the flesh.

When Moses realized how angry God was about the Israelites complaints, he got mad too and complained to God how overwhelmed he was with the job he was expected to do.  A man in our study noted that Moses’s complaining was different than the Israelites.  Their complaints were against God, but Moses just wanted God to kill him, relieving him of the burden of his job.

At this time, God’s response was to take His spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 elders. What was His intention? Remember what I said earlier about Satan stirring the intense craving of the “rabble”? Rabble represents our flesh which prompted the Israelites to complain, representing our flesh stirring our soul.   Together they suppressed Moses, who represents our spirit, making Moses feel weak and overwhelmed. What was God’s solution at this time? It was to increase Moses’ spiritual power.

There is a teaching in the Local Church Movement that there should be more Christians during evangelistic meetings than unbelievers so that there is an atmosphere of faith and evangelism can be effective. If the unbelievers outweigh the believers during meetings, the spiritual air is thinner, making evangelism difficult.

This is a true statement. It can also be applied to Moses’ experience in Numbers 11. Many of the Israelites lived in the flesh and in the soul, while only Moses had the spirit of God, which made him feel lonely and weak. When the spirit of God was put on the 70 elders, Moses’ “spiritual environment” changed. Like the example I gave earlier, when there are more believers in the meeting, the spiritual air is thick, making the gospel easier to preach.  In Moses’ situation, when the spirit of God was also put on the seventy elders, it changed the atmosphere and made things easier for Moses, releasing him from suppression and making him happy.

Verse 25 specifically mentions that as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. A question was raised as to why they did not continue doing it. My guess is that the moment the Holy Spirit was being poured upon them, they prophesied under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but they may not have received the gift of prophecy. Verses 27-28 specifically mention that Joshua asked Moses to stop Eldad and Medad from prophesying in the camp when the spirit rested on them.

It could be that they received the gifts or calling to be a prophet when the Holy Spirit filled them.  None of this occurred to Joshua, and he asked Moses to stop them.  Moses wasn’t about to stop them.  He realized that if more people were filled with the spirit, his job would be much easier.  Moses represents the life of God in our spirit.  If our soul gives Him a chance, He will become greater within us.

Moses didn’t stop them because the Lord had helped him change the spiritual atmosphere. Instead, he said he wished that all of the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them (Numbers 11: 29). This prophecy is also confirmed in Joel 2:28, which says: One day God will pour His Spirit on all flesh. Joshua didn’t realize how Moses felt or God’s will for the situation.

At the end of the chapter, God killed some of the people who craved other food. This is about dealing with the flesh. God put his spirit on Moses and strengthened him in the spirit.  He also dealt with the outward behaviors of the flesh.  We experience this in our lives today.  God fills us with the Holy Spirit, but he also uses our circumstances to discipline us.  Numbers 11 is a good picture of how Christians experience dealing with the flesh, changing the soul, and growing spiritually.

Every Christian should also pursue the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  I was saved in an evangelical church and had some knowledge about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but that wasn’t enough.  I eventually left the Local Church Movement to pursue the baptism of the Holy Spirit and learn more truths in the Pentecostal Movement.  When God filled me with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I fell and could not stand for quite some time.  I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but it is a manifestation of His power.  After the initial baptism, I experienced several other manifestations.  I would sometimes feel like electricity was running through my head, leading me to be more courageous.  I also received wisdom and gifts of the Spirit as well as healing in my body.  I have experienced demons being cast out of me.

There are many believers in evangelical churches that have varied views and prejudices about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Through my own experience with the power of the baptism, I realized that my efforts alone to grow spiritually and learn His truths were not enough.  Although we tried our best in the Local Church Movement to exercise the spirit and deal with the flesh, it came up short. The baptism of the Holy Spirit empowers us to stand against the attacks of the flesh and Satan. This is what Moses experienced in this chapter.  If we look at the Israelites as one collective person and Moses’ life as the baptism in the Holy Spirit, we can see that the spirit expanded to the seventy elders, which equates to our soul being expanded by the spirit, increasing our power and ability to withstand attacks from the enemy on our flesh.

This point is crucial. I know that many people long for spiritual growth. They work hard to exercise their spirit, but we need God’s strength. This is what the baptism of the Holy Spirit can do.  Sadly, many have misunderstandings about the Pentecostal Movement and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, leading them to miss out on God’s blessings. When Moses was experiencing this, he was baptized by the Holy Spirit once again. After this baptism, not only did he gain strength, but it also spread among the Israelites. In our spiritual experiences today, we can also receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit at different times and in other ways as well.

In the Local Church movement, we work hard practicing the process of entering the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies from the outer courtyard by dealing with the sins of the flesh and the impurity of the soul and slowly coming near to God in the spirit. This method is from the outside to the inside. But the filling of the Holy Spirit is to allow the Holy Spirit to come out from the Holy of Holies to pass through the sanctuary and the outer courtyard. This method is from the inside to the outside. The two should complement each other to make us more spiritually mature.

I know that many people in the Charismatic Church have experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but they are not necessarily spiritually mature. Why? They pay too much attention to the gifts of the spirit flowing from them and lack the discipline of dealing with the sins of the flesh on the outside.  There must be a balance of allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through you as well as you taking the time and discipline to read, study, and meditate on His Word.  

When John the Baptist announced Jesus, he mentioned two things.  Jesus is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) which represents the work of the cross.  We can apply the work on the cross to deal with our flesh and soulish sins so we can come near to the Holy of Holies to fellowship with God.  The second message John the Baptist mentioned about Jesus is that He will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. This represents the work of the Holy Spirit. These two different works complement each other.  You cannot ignore either one of them.

The work of the cross was a one act event for Jesus, and he accomplished it on the cross. But for us, it is a continual act.  When we first believed Jesus, we received the work of the cross by faith. But it should not stop there.  Many believers have stopped there.  We should continually apply the work of the cross to deal with our flesh and soulish sins so we can become the same image as our Lord Jesus Christ.

Likewise, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also not only one act or event. We must continually receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit indwelling in us as the life of God described in John 20:22 is one level of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 brings us to another level of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The first case is the Holy Spirit as life in us and the second case is the Holy Spirit as power on us.  Many people have stopped with the first level. However, we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many people think the baptism of the Holy Spirit only gives us power and gifts outside. No.  Not only does it bring power and gifts outside, it also gives us power within to overcome the weakness in our soul or the strongholds in our flesh (2 Corinthians 10:4).  Once I read a parable about prayer.  Many people thought their prayers didn’t work and God didn’t hear them.  This parable says our prayer is like the worker digging a tunnel under a rocky mountain.  If you dig one foot on one side, then God will dig another food on the other side.  Eventually, if you keep digging, you will meet God in the middle.  But if you give up, God won’t do your part, so you will not meet Him.  It wasn’t God who wouldn’t answer your prayer; it was you who stopped praying.

This parable is a good illustration of the relationship between the work of the cross and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  We need them both.  Jesus did His part on the cross, and we need to apply His work in our experience by faith.  When we apply the work of the cross to deal with our flesh and sins in our souls, the Holy Spirit who lives in us will work on the other end to help us.  He helps us by strengthening us with more power through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  If we deny the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are basically refusing the help from the Holy Spirit.  I understand the Holy Spirit has other ways to help us, like groaning and interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:26) or convicting our sins (John 16:8), or reminding us what Jesus has said (John 14:26).  However, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a very powerful way for the Holy Spirit to help us.

Unfortunately, some camps or denominations of the body of Christ do not pay attention to the continual work of the cross.  They only take this as one act or event when they received Jesus as savior.  The result of doing this is to remain fleshy or soulish in our spiritual lives.  Although all of our flesh was crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), Paul charges us to “by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).  Then we will live.

Other camps or denominations only pay attention to apply the cross but deny the fact of the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  They claim that all believers are baptized once and for all when the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2.  Or they argue over the manifestations of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, especially the validity of speaking tongues but avoid pursuing the baptism of the Holy Spirit itself. They also often use the immaturity of believers who were baptized in the Holy Spirit to argue the validity of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

There are two sides to one coin.  We need both.   If you were baptized with the Holy Spirit but lack holiness in your life, begin to apply more of the cross.  If you have weaknesses and strongholds that you can’t seem to overcome by applying the work of the cross, seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit.   The Holy Spirit will help you.  This was the case for Moses in this chapter.  When the rabbles (flesh) aroused the Israelites (soul), it eventually brought harm to Moses (spirit).  But when God baptized 70 elders with the same Holy Spirit Moses had, it relieved Moses’s pressure.

This is why Moses wouldn’t stop those who were prophesying.   He even went so far as to say that he wished God would put His Spirit on all the prophets (Numbers 11:29)!  We all face strongholds as Moses did here, and we need the Holy Spirit’s help to deliver us.  Take time to pray and ask God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.   You may be surprised that this experience may not be what you were thinking or were taught.   I pursued this truth when I was involved in the Local Church Movement but didn’t receive it to the level I experienced in the Pentecostal movement.   There are many books and teaching on this subject.  I challenge you to look deeper so that you can experience what I and many others have.