The Horrible, Impossible, God-given Task

To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church.                                                                                                 Ephesians 3:20

To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…

Numbers 11 recalls how the Israelites suffered from God’s gracious gifts.  They suffered from a condition called Freedom.  It relates how wretched it was to be fed miraculously, enough for 600,000 men and their families and livestock, in a desert place where little grows.

It’s easy to be facetious.

Their grumblings are just words on paper; easily mocked from our arm-chair critique.

Maybe their complaints were just.

Hard labor never hurt anyone.

There are perks to slavery: access to civilization, culture, the spoils of prosperity. If you can be content with no sense of self, no heritage and no legacy, slavery can be quite enjoyable.

Here in the desert no one is cracking a whip, sure, but the Sun is more exhausting than the hardest task master.  Mile upon slow moving mile, can any footwear drive away the heat or the rocky punishment of the ground?

In slavery there were daily goals.  Objectives.  A sense of mission accomplished.  A reason to get up in the morning.  Grumbling about oppression and voicelessness seemed more palatable over well-seasoned fish, salad and fruit.

In Egypt, being slaves, we are united by our shared suffering.

In the Wilderness, being free, we are divided by a suffering we own and cannot blame on another.

Personal responsibility is the hardest task master of all.

Being unable to imagine freedom, we stop asking for it.  To suddenly have personal freedom thrust upon us– that is a type of suffering we rarely consider.  Even with start-up capital and sustenance graciously supplied in abundance, the life adjustment is a wild-fire before an earthquake followed by a flood.

There is a reason it is immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine.

I’m not prepared to accept it; not equipped to receive it.

It’s just too much.


Maybe their complaints were just.

Dying of dehydration they grumble against those with running water only to wake up drowning.  

…according to His power which is at work within us…

Enter Moses.

Pitiable lifeguard at the public swimming pool of personal responsibility for the Israelites.

I can’t feed all these people.

I can’t be personally responsible for them all!

This is the horrible, impossible, God-given task.

Moses has some serious situational depression going on.

He can’t make everyone happy.

Convinced that God thinks he’s a failure,

his resignation is vocally penned with acid in the acrid words:

put me to death right now — if I have found favor in your eyes — and do not let me face my own ruin.


Right there

in the middle of the pool

as the life guard, Moses,

is being taken under by a drowning man’s survival grip

an amazing thing happens.

Leaders emerge.

70 elders

They gather at the tent of meeting where Moses speaks with God.

Experiencing God as Moses does, they see what Moses sees, know what Moses knows.

Oh, that?

That’s not the amazing thing.

Help is always around us.  New leadership is developing as these words scroll past.  Veteran leadership waits in the wings for an ear willing to hear.

Leadership hinders us, daily, like heavy traffic — if you care to notice.

Oh.  You didn’t notice?  Too busy trying to get to that place or do that thing or leave somewhere never to return again?

Veterans of the highway are all around you.  Fellow sojourners. Vehicle masters. Communication experts. Entertainment program directors.  Everything you need for a long journey into a promised land surrounds you every second.

The amazing thing is the less obvious thing.

The Spirit of God was placed on each of 70 leaders.

This was not a new, divine anointing from some ethereal container but a portion of the Spirit that was already with Moses.

The Spirit of God with Moses was sufficient in measure  to inspire 70 other men.  

Is the Lord’s arm too short?

The people around you– the church– the congregation of God’s people– help carry the burden of our responsibility for one another.

The power of God already present and sufficient to bring us into a promised land.

Moses said, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!”

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions…and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…there will be deliverance…  –Joel 2:28-32

…to Him be glory in the church. Amen.