The Transgressive Spirit: Part 1, Prophecy in an Unauthorized Zone

Our Bible class at church was doing a study on the Holy Spirit using Jack Levison's book Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life. I wanted to devote a few posts to Chapter 4 in Fresh Air, as I found it really provocative and insightful.

In Numbers 11 Moses is struggling under the load of leadership. So God tells him to gather seventy elders to help him lead the people:
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. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone." (Numbers 11.16-17)
Moses gathers the seventy elders around the tabernacle and the spirit of God falls upon them and they begin to prophesy:
So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied...(Numbers 11.24-25)
So far, so good. But something strange also happened. For some reason, two of the appointed seventy elders, Eldad and Medad, did not go with Moses to the tabernacle but remained behind in the camp. Still, the spirit of God fell upon them and they prophesied back in the camp:
However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” (Numbers 11.26-27)
This prophesying back in the camp bothers Joshua, Moses' right hand man. Apparently, Joshua thinks that Eldad and Medad's prophesying in the camp, apart from Moses' direct supervision and authorization, will constitute a crisis of authority for Moses:
Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake?" (Numbers 11. 28-29a)
Joshua seems to be concerned about prophecy occurring in an unauthorized zone, outside the command structure and chains of authority--renegade, unsupervised prophecy.

But Moses is unconcerned, his view of prophecy is wider, more generous and more liberal. Moses responds to Joshua's concerns:
But 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!” (Numbers 11.29)
In the posts to come, we'll reflect more on Moses' wish that "all the Lord's people" would become prophets.

But for this post, we simply note how the Holy Spirit has this odd habit of showing up in unauthorized zones, causing crises of authority.

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