In Praise of Shouting
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’
10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favour in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child, to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors”? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15 If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favour in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.’
16 So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.
24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.
26 Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ 28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, ‘My lord Moses, stop them!’ 29 But Moses said to him, ‘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!’
Drama thrives on situation, conflict and a resolution of some kind or other. Manna had been given to resolve the conflict of hunger, but now the gift itself led to more complaint and conflict. The Israelites wish they were back eating a variety of veg in Egypt, and God is fed up with their moaning. So is Moses, who is caught in the middle, and takes it out on God, who – typically – is more than happy to carry a genuine complaint and turn it into something unexpected.
In Exodus it is Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who persuades him to delegate. Here God makes it even clearer with the gift of his Spirit to 70 others. That is surprise enough, but then something happens which even catches out Moses’ young assistant Joshua – two men are not in the right place when the Spirit is given, but still prophesy noisily. Here is a poem which celebrates a bit of holy disorder.
In Praise of Shouting
Shout about this marvellous God,
have no doubt, just let it out,
throw his fame from East to West,
hurl his name from North to South,
stretch your throat and roar a note
of godly glee as antidote
to shushing, creeping, blushing, sleeping.
Let the Spirit take you over,
don’t be shy, you will recover,
raise your hands and gaze at heaven
amaze yourself, you’ll be forgiven,
call on Facebook all your fans,
amplify a thousand bands
with trumpets outing grumpets doubting.
Make it raucous, keep in focus,
open throttle, hold your bottle,
God deserves your best typhoon
when the Spirit storms at noon.
PRAY Lord, we bless you for all those who shout praise, for all those who spread their sheets to the wind of the Spirit and sail the gospel seas, for all those who brave the storm of the Spirit. Heal our sore throats and inspire us to join them. We keep on praying for good leaders in church and nation, in the name of Christ, Amen.