Jun 17, 2014

Empowered for Ministry

Numbers 11:1–30

"Moses said to him, 'Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!'" (v. 29).

In reading the Old Testament, we are often struck by the great faith that many of the people displayed, as well as the way in which so many people did great acts in the power of the Holy Spirit. For example, consider the judge of Israel named Samson. Judges 14:19 tells us that "the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon" Samson, enabling him to defeat many people at Ashkelon. This is just one of many such instances in Samson's life, and we read of many others in the Old Testament who were empowered by the Spirit as Samson was.

As we read the Old Testament, however, it can be easy for us to think that such empowerment was more common than it actually was. In fact, very few of the old covenant people of God received any significant power for ministry from the Holy Spirit. Individuals such as David and the prophets were actually exceptions. The vast majority of people in the nation were not anointed by the Spirit for ministry. Those who were saved by resting in the promises of God did so only because the Spirit regenerated them. Since those in the flesh cannot please the Lord (Rom. 8:8), the people who lived under the old covenant administration had no capacity to make the God-pleasing decision of repentance and faith apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Yet, it seems from reading the Old Testament that some of those whom the Holy Spirit regenerated did not receive an extra impartation or anointing of the Spirit for ministry. Most of the people whom the Spirit regenerated and saved during the old covenant administration were not given extra power for service.

In fact, one characteristic of the old covenant period is its longing for all of the people of God to be anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry. This was Moses' hope, as we see in today's passage. When Joshua became concerned that some others in Israel were prophesying in the Spirit and wanted them to stop, Moses replied, "Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit in them!" (Num. 11:29).

The hope for the Spirit to empower all of the saints of God for ministry becomes more pronounced in the Prophets. Seeing that the Israelites had not been able to keep the covenant, the prophets saw that the people of the Lord would have to receive the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way to fulfill their vocation. Thus, prophets such as Joel looked forward to the day when the Spirit would anoint all believers, gifting them for ministry so that they could proclaim God's truth with power (Joel 2:28-32).

Coram Deo

We do not always appreciate the tremendous blessing we have as those who live under the administration of the new covenant. Had we lived under the old covenant, most of us would likely not have been granted a special anointing for ministry. Living under the new covenant, each of us who believes in Christ has been anointed for ministry and given gifts to serve God's people. We can serve the Lord confidently, knowing that He will use us to advance His kingdom.

For Further Study