Eldad and Medad
Eldad and Medad had been slaves in Egypt. Born slaves of a nation of slaves, they hardly dared hope that deliverance would come in their own lifetime, until Moses came their way. The name of Moses had been familiar for many years to all their friends and acquaintances in the slave village which was their home. He was a great man and lived at the King’s Palace and was reputedly the son of the King’s daughter. Eldad and Medad knew better; it was whispered from mouth to mouth, when the Egyptian taskmasters were looking the other way, that Moses was in reality one of themselves. Some of their own kindred had seen and spoken with his father and mother. Miriam his sister, and Aaron his brother, were slaves like themselves. There was a reason, too, for Moses being at the King’s Palace. He was learning all the wisdom of the Egyptians so that one day he could lead the slaves out of their bondage into a land where they could live as free men. Eldad and Medad, young men both, straightened their backs and their eyes glowed with pride and hope as they talked about that. They had been brought up by godly parents and although very few of their fellow‑slaves believed in God or had any hope that He might one day deliver, Eldad and Medad had been well instructed in the ancient stories of their ancestors and they knew of God’s promise to their forefather Abraham, that after many years in Egypt He would cause them to be delivered. There was no outward evidence that the time had yet come or was anywhere near, nevertheless there were days when they hoped, and talked with brighter eyes and fast‑beating hearts.
Then came the bitter disappointment when Moses left the King’s Palace and disappeared—none knew where. There was talk of some trouble; an Egyptian overseer had been killed and Moses was concerned in it; no one seemed to know much about the details but one thing was definite—Moses was no longer their hoped‑for champion. Eldad and Medad conversed about it at times but for the most part they kept their thoughts to themselves, even yet hoping against hope that in some wonderful way God might remember them and fulfil his promise.
They had waited a long time—forty years since the disappearance of Moses and in all that long period no sign that God either knew or cared. Eldad and Medad were no longer young men now; they had both passed their three score years and began to find the daily task of brickmaking strangely arduous, much more so than of yore. But there were compensations. To the little circle of slaves that, unlike the majority of their fellows, refused to worship the gods of Egypt but held fast to the dim traditions of Abraham and the promise, Eldad and Medad had become pillars of strength. They still believed, strong in faith, and looked daily for the coming of the Deliverer. Somehow there was in them the workings of a Spirit, telling them that the time would not be much longer delayed…
He came with breathless haste, that young man, so zealous for the honour of his master and leader, the great Moses. From the centre of the camp of Israel he had run, across the level sand shimmering in the blinding glare of the noon‑day sun, to where Moses stood at the gate of the Tabernacle. The seventy elders, grave, dignified sons of Israel, supremely conscious of their position of ministers to the Lord’s people, made way somewhat reluctantly to give him access to the Leader. Joshua, taut and rigid in his soldier’s attire, stepped forward a half pace, hand on sword, almost as if to challenge the newcomer’s progress. Only Moses remained calm, unruffled.
The runner halted, panting. He was almost out of breath, but not so much that he could not turn and point, with not altogether steady finger, to the dense crowd of men and women which could be discerned, even at this distance, in the great space at the centre of the black goatskin tents. He spoke, hurriedly, his voice one in which subservience and indignation were strangely mingled, and as he spoke the enquiring eyes of the listening elders sought the face of Moses and remained fixed on him. "Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp!" (Num.11:26‑27)
It was true! While the rest of the elders of Israel had gathered at the Tabernacle to hear the instructions of God at the mouth of Moses, the Divine Spirit had rested upon those two who had remained back there in the Camp and now they were telling them of the things of God, without any mandate or permission from Moses the Leader. Disapproval showed itself on each countenance; resentment that these two men should apparently have appointed themselves to proclaim and teach the truth of God without waiting for or seeking an ordination from Moses the accepted leader of the people in things relating to their covenant with God. A whispering began, a shaking of heads; these two men were surely slighting the company of the elders, setting up their own judgment as against the judgment of the majority. This independence of thought and action ought to be stopped; the Lord surely had already shown that his favour was with the organised body of elders and the priesthood in whose care reposed the Tabernacle and all its ceremonies. What right had these two, owning responsibility to no influential company in Israel, subject to no kind of control from priest or prince, to assert for themselves the privilege of preaching to the people? Surely Moses would quickly put a stop to this incipient heresy. He had been in the mountain with God and had spoken with God and God had given him the Law which he had written with his own finger; Moses would surely very soon put these upstarts in their proper place. The elders turned towards him expectantly, still burning with indignation at this audacity. "Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp."
Joshua had sprung forward, his youthful features alive with fiery zeal. The hand grasping the sword twitched nervously. There was outraged loyalty and hot jealousy for his Leader’s honour in his tone, as he cried impetuously "My lord Moses, forbid them!" (Num.11:28)
The magnificent figure of Moses stood motionless, his clear eyes piercing into the distance straight to those two dynamic forms in the middle of the crowd, moving from side to side and gesturing with hand and arm as they addressed the multitude. Long did he gaze, and slowly withdrew his eyes from viewing that distant scene to turn them upon those who now crowded around him so closely. He looked upon the runner, waiting before him, so secure in his knowledge of duty well done; upon the righteous elders, every movement of their robes betokening the quivering of outraged dignity; upon Joshua, standing there in wrathful indignation; and as he looked, the keen eyes suddenly softened, the stern lips, almost hidden by the shaggy beard, parted in a half smile and in an indulgent, almost fatherly tone, he asked them "Enviest thou for my sake?" (Num.11:29) The strong hands moved suddenly in a gesture of entreaty; the fine eyes looked upward with an expression of unutterable longing. "WOULD GOD" cried the great Prophet of Israel "WOULD (TO) GOD THAT ALL THE LORD’S PEOPLE WERE PROPHETS, AND THAT THE LORD WOULD PUT HIS SPIRIT UPON THEM!" (v.29)
More than three thousand years have passed since that memorable day. We have not learned the lesson yet. We, many of us, still circle around our favourite leader, our favourite organisation, our favourite avenue of service, and refuse to admit to ourselves the supreme truth that God, Who has all the resources of all his creation at his command, all the heart’s devotion and life’s endeavour of all who have given their lives to him on which to call, is not limited to one means of expression or one channel of revelation in the world of men. The One Who "hath made every thing beautiful in his time:" (Eccl.3:11) Who has evolved the flowers and the trees, the insects and the birds, the mountains and the valleys, into a thousand different forms and has never made any one sunset exactly like another must surely be pleased to beautify his truth with the same variety of expression and diversity of ministration. The Apostle Paul tells us as much. Does he not say "there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all...all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (1 Cor.12:4‑11)? We must needs be positive in our own beliefs in Divine Truth and zealous in the discharge of the work that has been committed to our hands; that does not entitle us to assume that there can be no other acceptable service for our Lord nor that none who have not received their ordination to ministry through our own channel can share in the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. No single well can give forth all the stored waters of the earth and no one river can carry all the rainfall from the heavens; neither can any one of us comprehend, far less expound and minister, more than the veriest fraction of the accumulated treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are gathered up within God’s holy Word.
Let us then in our own service and ministry bear this great truth in mind and look with sympathetic brotherliness upon all who are serving with their talents our gracious Master. Let us seek to find true fellowship wherever the Spirit of Christ is manifest and let us, in our own allegiance to the things we ourselves have received, try to help, rather than hinder, those who are labouring in a different corner of the vineyard. The disciples tried once to restrain one who "followed not (with) us," and Jesus reproved them. "Forbid him not" He said, "for there is no man that shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me." (Mark 9:38‑40) When Peter, more concerned about the Lord’s intentions for others than for himself, asked "Lord, what shall this man do?" (John 21:21) he was told, very kindly but none the less plainly, to mind his own business and see to the execution of his own commission. "Go thou and preach the gospel." So with us; we enter most into the spiritual presence of our Lord if we realise that He is conducting a great work here on earth in this our day; that to each one of us is committed some very small and yet some very definite and very important part of that work; that we individually are not permitted to view the whole work in its entirety and indeed could not do so, but that our Master has all the threads in his own strong hands and will bring all together in one harmonious pattern in his own due time. Meanwhile we do well to pray and labour for the increase of the number of those who will serve the Lord. "Pray ye...the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into his harvest." (Matt.9:38) The need is great, there is room and yet room for all who will come and serve our Lord. Would to God, let this be our prayer, would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them!