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When Moses’s Wish Came True

Editors’ note: 

Take part in TGC’s Read the Bible initiative, where we’re encouraging Christians and churches to read together through God’s Word in a year.

The Office actor John Krasinski recently launched a personal YouTube news show called “Some Good News” (SGN). It became so popular that several other YouTubers started their own knock-offs. Rather than being jealous, Krasinski responded, “That kind of behavior is not only approved; it’s encouraged. Because I’m well aware I’m only delivering the good news. You are the good news.”

In Numbers 11:29, Moses displayed a similar and greater kind of humility.

God had told Moses to choose 70 elders from the people. These men would be given a portion of the Holy Spirit and empowered to “bear the burden of the people” so that Moses wouldn’t “bear it alone” (Num. 11:17). However, two of the men Moses chose, Eldad and Medad, remained in the camp when the other elders gathered. Nevertheless, when God distributed the Spirit, the Spirit rested on them, too. Even while they were still in the camp, Eldad and Medad began to prophesy.

Joshua, Moses’s assistant, was offended for Moses’s sake, because their prophesying appeared to be out from under Moses’s authority. But Moses responded with humility: “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:29).

What the Old Testament Prophets Longed For

Moses’s response was more than just a personal expression of humility. His answer expressed a longing of redemptive-historical proportions.

Moses’s answer expressed a longing of redemptive-historical proportions.

Moses knew that the people of God had a problem: “To this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear” (Deut. 29:4). In the Old Testament, the work of the Spirit was often temporary, sporadic, and selective. The law was etched on tablets of stone. It worked externally, from the outside-in. It didn’t have the power to create what it commanded. The people needed a power that worked from the inside-out. They needed new hearts, with God’s law written on the heart. So Moses longed for a day when “all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

This longing became the great Old Testament longing and expectation for the coming Messianic age.

Jeremiah prophesied of a time when God would say, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33) and “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer. 32:40).

Ezekiel promised a time when God would say,

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek. 36:26–27; cf. 11:19–20; 37:14; 39:29)

In the Old Testament, the work of the Spirit was often temporary, sporadic, and selective.

Joel looked forward to the fulfillment of Moses’s greatest wish:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. (Joel 2:28–29; cf. Isa. 32:15; 44:3; 59:21; Zech. 12:10; 13:1)

Moses’s longing for the Spirit to be poured out on all God’s people became the great hope of the Old Testament prophets.

John’s Deepest Wish

When John the Baptist began his prophetic ministry, preparing the way for the Messiah, perhaps his greatest hope for the Messiah’s ministry was for the fulfillment of Moses’s wish. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, he told the Jews it wasn’t enough to be physical descendants of Abraham; they needed to be renewed and transformed from the inside-out (Matt. 3:9). So he told them, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I. . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).

Perhaps John’s greatest hope for the Messiah’s ministry was for the fulfillment of Moses’s wish.

John knew that there was a limit to what his baptism could accomplish. He could preach and baptize people on the outside, but he couldn’t change people from within. He knew, no matter how hard he preached or how deeply he dunked, it couldn’t create what God wanted and people needed. John could command people to repent, but he couldn’t provide power to keep the command.

What John looked forward to with the coming of the Messiah, perhaps more than anything else, was the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s hearts. In some ways, he thought this would be the greatest benefit the Messiah would bring. (John also echoed Moses’s humility later when he told his own disciples, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” John 3:30.)

Finally Coming True

As John predicted, the desire of these great prophets was finally fulfilled in Jesus’s ministry. Just before his ascension into heaven, he told his disciples to “wait for the promise of the Father,” for “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4–5).

A few days later, at Pentecost, the Spirit came in power on the disciples, and they began spreading the kingdom across the world. Peter preached a sermon at Pentecost, based on the prophecy of Joel 2, that any of God’s people who call on his name would receive the promised Holy Spirit—and that Spirit continued to fall on new believers throughout the book of Acts.

The promise of Joel 2 is now true for all believers. Indeed, the presence of the Spirit in each Christian has become so vital that Paul could say, “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9).

Nothing to Be Jealous Of

Many prophets and wise men longed to see what we see, and didn’t see it. What Moses and the law could not do, weak as they were through the flesh, Christ did—dying for our sins, circumcising our hearts, and sending his Spirit to dwell in us. It took a long time, but Moses’s dream has finally come true.

This isn’t something to be jealous of, but to be gladly shared. The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” The Spirit propels us into the world with the gospel. This kind of behavior isn’t only approved; it’s encouraged. After all, we’re only delivering the good news. And Christ is that good news.

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