Be Zealous, Not Jealous
19th Sunday after Pentecost
Be Zealous, Not Jealous
Text: Numbers 11:16, 24-29
It was a mess out in that wilderness. The people of Israel were whining. Again. They were thirsty. God miraculously sprang forth water out of a rock. They were hungry. God dropped manna out of the sky. Still not good enough. Now they were complaining that they had no meat. “If only we had meat like when we were in Egypt.”
Finally, Moses could hardly take it any more. The pressure was building. His blood was boiling. In the verses right before the first lesson this morning Moses erupted in frustration: “What have I done, Lord? Why do I have to deal with all this? I can’t carry this burden by myself. If this is how it’s going to be, you can go ahead and take my life.”
Moses was overwhelmed and overworked. But our gracious God had a plan to help. First, he was going to drop quail out of the sky, so many birds in 30 days that God said it would be coming out of their nostrils. Then for Moses, God had this plan in the first verse today: “The LORD said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.” God was going to assemble a leadership team to help Moses with the two million-some Israelites in the wilderness.
So Moses gathered the seventy elders of Israel. They gathered around the Tent of the Lord, the tabernacle, and the Lord came and spoke to them. They were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, and as a sign of the Spirit they began to prophesy for that short moment.
A problem though—only 68 of the leaders were there. Two men, Eldad and Medad, had remained at the camp. We don’t know if they forgot or overslept their alarm or were just outright lazy and neglectful. For whatever reason they missed. And yet, the Holy Spirit came and rested on them and they began to prophesy too.
This did not sit well with some. We’re told in verse 27, “A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’” This was such a big deal that a young man had to sprint to their leader Moses to tell him this “breaking news.” But even the great general Joshua had problems with this. Verse 28: “Joshua, son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’”
Moses’ response was certainly unexpected. He didn’t say, “Go get the perpetrators!” or “No way! That’s not fair!” or “Those guys don’t deserve it after they missed the meeting with the other 68!” Instead, verse 29 says, “Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!’”
Moses essentially asked them, “What’s your motivation? Why are you telling me this?” Were they jealous that Eldad and Medad were blessed with the Spirit in a different way? Did they think that Eldad and Medad didn’t deserve it? Were they jealous because they liked Moses so much that they couldn’t bear to think of someone else being blessed by the Holy Spirit? What exactly were their intentions and motivations? Moses was simply happy for Eldad and Medad and thankful that more people would serve the Lord.
I’m reminded of my days back in school. There were about 40 of us who made it all the way through four years of college and four years of the Seminary together. Some of my classmates spent four years before that together in high school. It was a tight bond as we struggled through the long journey to become pastors.
However, our church body has some other paths to becoming a pastor. Some are second career students, people who have a career and decide they want to become a pastor later in their 30s or 40s. But since they graduated college, they didn’t have to take as many classes. There is also a special program for foreigners, like Chinese or Hmong or Hispanic or Apache men where they can take a little bit lighter and shorter route to seminary graduation.
There were times over the years when some of us struggled with feeling like that young man or Joshua. Those other track students weren’t like us. They were different, or so we thought at times. Occasionally we resented that they had an easier route through school when we spent countless hours studying thousands of Greek and Hebrew flashcards and spent sometimes several years more in school. What a pathetic attitude. All the while we should have been mature enough to have the viewpoint we finally did later on—we were finally so thankful that God brought those men to become pastors in his Church.
I think also of Lutherans in general. Very often Lutherans have a super narrow mindset and viewpoint. We get so wrapped up in the truth of God’s Word—which, don’t get me wrong, is a great thing—but sometimes we then lose track of the bigger picture. We might forget that though we have doctrinal disagreements with other churches, we also should be thankful for the work others are doing in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What about in your personal life? Been jealous lately? Been jealous because someone else got special treatment, but you didn’t? Been jealous that someone else got a break, maybe even as small as winning $400 on a scratch off ticket, but somehow you never seem to catch a break? Been jealous that that someone else got a promotion but you didn’t? Been jealous that someone else has such a good life, that their marriage is working, that they have more money, that your pastor doesn’t talk to you as much as he does to others, that your opinion isn’t heard but somehow the ideas of others always happen? We could go on an on.
But ask yourself Moses-like questions. Are you jealous? Why? What’s your motivation? What’s your intention? Why aren’t you happy for the success of others or glad that someone else is happy? Why does it have to be like a competition and you feel like you are losing and others are winning? Why is it so hard to praise God for the gifts and talents and opportunities and blessings of others?
I know why. I’m the problem. It’s because my sinful heart isn’t content with what God has given me. I’m not content with my blessings or my talents and abilities and I sinfully think it’s “not fair.” I’m not satisfied with the success of others or the attention they get because I want success and attention. You see, I can’t be happy or thankful for others when my heart is greedy and selfish and concerned with myself—my wants, my needs, my possessions.
There’s only one way that those kinds of attitudes can change. There’s only one way I can learn to have an attitude more like Moses in the story today. That one way is through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Could you imagine how different Jesus’ life would have been if we lived with the kind of jealous heart that you and I have? There would be no 12-year-old boy Jesus in the temple. He would have been out playing baseball and tag with all the other cool kids. There would be no healing or helping, because why should everyone else get good stuff and all he ever did was give, give, give? There would be no washing of disciples’ feet, no suffering or passion, because how dare anyone take away the glory that is rightly his? There would be no dying on the cross, because why would he suffer and die for something someone else did? That’s not fair! Why would he let someone else, some sinner, into heaven? That’s his dwelling. That’s his glory. Why would he share it with others? Again, not fair!
But you and I know well that wasn’t the attitude of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t jealous, he was zealous. He was zealous for his Father’s house, even as a 12-year-old boy learning and teaching in the temple. He was zealous to do the will of his Father and be the Savior we so badly needed. He was zealous with love, to the point of giving himself to suffer and die for the wrongs we have done. He was zealous with joy to share the glory of his kingdom and riches of heaven with simple sinners.
So we ask a Moses-like question again. Why? Why would Jesus do that? What was his intention? What was his motivation? There’s only one possible answer. Love. Jesus did all this out of love. He loves us. He loves us and wants our stains of sin removed. He wants us to taste the glory that mankind once had in the Garden of Eden. And he loves us so much that he humbled himself in life and death so that he could make that happen.
This is is what we have been talking about for several weeks in worship, and we have a few more Sundays to go. Love. Jesus’ love. That’s what changes our lives and our actions and our attitudes. Jesus was so zealous in his love for me, that his love fills my heart to overflowing for others.
So I can be zealous for God’s kingdom as well, and so thankful that though there are differences, there are millions of other Christians worldwide who someday soon will unite with me in everlasting life. I can be zealous for the will of my Father and seek to love my neighbor and help my neighbor and humble myself in the meantime. I can be zealous for the success and the wellbeing and the blessings of others.
The love of Jesus is a very fulfilling love, and it can overflow in our hearts in so many ways every day. If someone has more money than I do and they seem to have it made, good for them! What a neat thing that God has blessed them so much. If someone has more talents, gifts, or abilities, than I do, great! I’m glad those gifts can be used in God’s kingdom. If someone else has more success or attention or recognition, terrific! I’m glad they are successful and happy. If someone else seems to have it all in this life, that’s wonderful. Praise God for his gracious gifts!
You see, with all these things, what does it matter in the big picture anyways? If someone has more than I do or can do more than I do or has it “better off,” what does it matter? One day soon we’ll all enjoy equally the same glories of heaven. So in this short life on earth, I can be zealous for the good of my neighbor, rejoicing in what I have and rejoicing all the more in what others have. All of it, including heaven, comes from the loving hands of our God in heaven.
Jealousy is an awful cancer that can fill our hearts with pride, envy, anger or more. But look at Moses’ example today and look at the selfless of love of Jesus Christ. Learn from Moses and love like Jesus and you too can Be Zealous, Not Jealous.
Posted on October 4, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Eldad, Israelites, Jealous, Jealousy, Joshua, Medad, Moses, Numbers, Numbers 11, Sermons, Zeal, Zealous. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.