Sometimes, in the shadows of the early dawn, I turn my world upside down and read the Midday office instead of Morning Lauds.
I know, I know. Makes you wonder how I cope with the ensuing hysteria, right?
Most days, I find a way. Yes, like today. (more…)
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)
Way back in the days when the Israelites were in the long wander through the desert, millennia before there was public television, the children used to play a game that was perhaps an early predecessor of a now well known segment of children’s programming. In this game, one Hebrew child would lay out a group of 70 things, 68 of which were the same and two that were different. The game was for the others to identify which two were different. They called it “Two of These Things Are Not Like the Others.” By the time it got to 1970s children’s television, it had to be condensed a little to fit neatly on the screen, and it became three similar items one different item in orderly quadrants.
We know this because there’s an account of one round of this game in Numbers 11. You remember that Moses was being crushed under the weight of leading the stubborn, disgruntled and contentedness-challenged people of Israel. In response, God instructed him to identify 70 elders from among the people, men who already had respect and authority, and He would put His Spirit on them so that they could assist Moses in carrying the load. When they all gathered at the Tent of Meeting, God came down and put His Spirit on the 70. At the moment God’s Spirit came on them, they prophesied, though apparently that was the only time they did.
Now, as it turned out, two of the guys stayed back at camp. Their names were on the list, they were recognized as the elders, they were part of the Gang of 70. But they stayed at camp. The text doesn’t say why. It doesn’t say that there was a good reason. It doesn’t say there was a bad reason. We just don’t know. We only know that Eldad and Medad stayed home. And at the time God’s Spirit was placed on the elders at the Tent of Meeting, on the guys that showed up, His Spirit also was placed on the two guys that stayed home. And they began to prophesy in the camp.
When he found out about this, Joshua, Moses’ right hand man since he wasn’t even a man, had a fit. “Moses, my lord, stop them!” Moses, make them stop! They’re prophesying but they didn’t go to the tent! Don’t let them do this! They didn’t follow the program. They didn’t listen to the instructions.
They didn’t go to the tent.
Moses, on the other hand, tells Joshua to relax. What they’re doing is a good thing. “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” There’s no cause for alarm.
Now, this gets a little dicey, because it seems like maybe in order to be OK with what Eldad and Medad did we have to be OK with guys not doing what God said to do. God told Moses to make a list of the guys and have those guys meet at the Tent of Meeting. So presumably Moses told these two that they were supposed to go. And they didn’t. Yet God still put His Spirit on them. They still were able to prophesy. And Moses was delighted that they were. He had no response recorded in the text to what the other 68 were doing. But these two who stayed in camp, they pleased him.
So here’s what I’m thinking when I read this. If there’s a lesson about obedience for you here, don’t let me distract you from that. Always do what God is telling you to do. No matter what Eldad and Medad did and even if God still put His Spirit on them.
But let’s consider this too. Sometimes we don’t all have to do things the very same exact way. Sometimes 68 will do it one way and two will do it a different way. And God’s Spirit will still do His thing. I have to follow God, I have to be obedient. But I don’t always have to do that the very some way that my friends or brothers and sisters in Christ are doing. My church doesn’t have to do it the way 68 other churches do it. My family doesn’t need to look exactly the same as 68 other families. We need to be where God is going to work in us. Sometimes that’s at the Tent of Meeting. Sometimes that’s back home in camp. Sometimes that’s at church. Sometimes it’s in the office or the store or the gym (well, probably not the gym for me).
Sixty-eight people might do it one way. But for the other two, if they’re where God can work in them, they can do it whichever way they want.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
Sanchez, our orphan kitten, had a rough few days. On the vet’s orders, you’ll remember, we cut off her milk supply. No more formula. She had to start eating solid food so she could mature.
Let me tell you, she wasn’t impressed.
For three days, we set out Friskies and water for her. Even started the first few feedings by lacing the cat food with just a smattering of formula on top. She licked it off and left the rest of the food there like she hadn’t even noticed it.
Wouldn’t eat a thing.
On the third day of her hunger strike, she succumbed to a delicate whitefish blend.
The hunger pains had to be pretty intense by then.
So she gave in and ate her Friskies.
And now? Now she’s insatiable.
She can’t get enough.
Used to be she’d stand at our feet if she thought we might be mixing up a little milk for her, and she’d let out an occasional meow. Nothing major, just enough to let us know she was ready and waiting.
Now if she thinks there’s even a chance the food is coming out (even if I’m just brewing coffee) she hops around where we’re standing and yells at the top of her lungs.
Where’s the good stuff? I want my Friskies! Is it salmon today? Maybe the roast beef dinner?
Oh, come on! What’s taking you so long?
And when she finally gets her food dish back, she snorkles through it in just minutes, licking out every last morsel she can find.
And she’s ready for the next meal as soon as she finishes the first.
Now she wonders what all the fuss was about. It was as though she spent herself on what was not food, what would not satisfy. Now she eats what is good, her soul delights in the richest of fare. And we find that she is much more content on the whole.
Yes, she’d still like to chew my hand right off my arm. But now it’s all in good fun, not because she’s hungry and cranky. Now she’s content from time to time, when she’s not chasing shadows around the living room floor or stalking someone’s bare foot, to just curl up beside us and purr.
She is eating what is good and has delighted in the richest food.
And so she cannot get enough. She has enough to fill her, oh yes. But she earnestly desires more. She knows when she eats that “there’s more where that came from.” And oh, she wants it.
So how about you? Still on your own hunger strike?
Lapping up the milk now and again but not sure you want to commit to the Friskies?
There’s a lot in life that offers to satisfy, and never really does. There’s a lot we spend ourselves on that is not bread, is not food.
God offers us real food for free. Real food that leaves us full and content. Real food that meets our real needs.
Take it from Sanchez.
Don’t spend yourself on what is not going to satisfy. Eat what is good.
Your soul will delight in the richest food.
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14)
Maybe you already know the saga of the cats at our house.
In case you don’t, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, a scraggly mother cat was cared for her young kitten in our neighborhood. Food was scarce, and forced to scavenge she often dug in our trash cans and killed birds on our lawn.
(The rest of) my family felt compassion and began to put out food for them. The cats filled their belly with fresh cat chow.
Soon the cold winds of winter began to blow. And the cats needed a place to stay. The boys crafted a shelter in the garage with comfortable beds and warm blankets. The cats were content to call it their home. (Something that was often lost in the freqent hissing.)
As they became more familiar they got their own names, just like part of the family. There was Mommy Kitty, and Baby Kitty. Clever, I know.
Soon, we noticed other felines staying at the shelter. We presumed it was Daddy Kitty, often accompanied by a cat we called The New Girlfriend. And on particularly cold nights, Daddy Kitty would bring along some others known as The Drinking Buddies.
Our garage was completely taken over by a dysfunctional cat family seeking food and warmth.
Once spring came, it was time for the cats to move on. And once their food supply diminished, they went their way.
We haven’t seen Baby Kitty in months.
But Mommy Kitty still passes by now and then, looking a bit battle weary again.
Perhaps she catches a glimpse in the window of a small kitten that looks . . . just like her.
Her name is Sanchez. She was abandoned, apparently by a Mommy Kitty, in a neighbor’s garage. For some reason, the neighbor thought we might like to have her. After all, she’d seen some cats going into our garage.
When Sanchez came over, she might have been three weeks old. Her eyes were open, but she couldn’t really see. She couldn’t walk very well without falling down. She didn’t meow much. She mostly just screamed.
And she drank milk from a tiny bottle that Lane patiently fed to her numerous times each day.
She stopped screaming, started growing and finally learned to drink from a bowl. Instead of being off balance and falling down all the time, she runs and climbs and pounces on anything that moves.
As you might expect, despite the short-term transitional housing we intended for her, now she runs the house.*
She had her first visit to the vet yesterday. She had some new experiences involving needles and thermometers that reminded her that life at our house is really pretty good. But the vet told us it was time for her to stop drinking just milk.
She needs to grow bigger and stronger. She’s holding herself back with the formula.
We’ve already been trying to move her to solid food for a long time. But she will have nothing to do with it. She likes her milk replacer. She even prefers a certain brand. The others make her sneeze.
She has no intention of giving it up.
But she has to.
She can’t grow strong and mature if she just keeps drinking Perci-Lac.
So in a couple of days, she will go cold turkey. Or cold cat food, perhaps. She will have to decide to eat solid food or not eat at all.
The writer of Hebrews encourages us with respect to our maturity. We need to be growing. We need to eat solid food.
We like the formula. It’s comforting.
We stick with the basics. But God wants to take us further than that. He has much more planned for us. We need to move past the very basics of our faith, dig deep into the Word, and let it do its work in us.
To grow us and mature us.
“Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves” to understand right and wrong, to understand God’s will and plan for us, to understand obedience. We train ourselves in maturity by constant use of the Word.
By constantly allowing God free reign in us to teach us and try us and test us.
Just above these verses, we are reminded that Jesus learned obedience through suffering. We learn obedience by constantly submitting ourselves to God’s direction, which may mean we experience difficulty at times, deal with pain at times, face great hardship at times. But by craving the solid food instead of just milk, we begin to grow strong. We begin to thrive.
Sanchez is about to face some hardship. Some painful times. She’s going to have to learn the hard way how to eat solid food.
When it’s done, she’ll be a healthier cat, and she’ll begin to mature.
But it won’t be easy.
She’ll have to give up the milk.
*This adorable kitten can be yours to take home today. Please contact me for details.