Let’s tell a story about a man named Eldad. Eldad was an Israelite that lived in Egypt under the reign of the Pharaoh. He was among the many people of Israel who had cried and prayed to God for deliverance. Eldad joined the Exodus out of Egypt, walking through the parted waters of the Red Sea, amazed and glorifying God every step of the way. Eldad, his family and friends were on their way to the promised land.
But after more than two years in the desert, the excitement of going to a promised land was getting old. You can almost hear the people asking: ‘Are we almost there yet?’. The people murmured. If you have listened to enough Bible stories, you know that murmuring is not a good thing.
God gave Moses a committee, a committee of seventy elders to help Moses administer the camp and respond to complaints. There were over 600,000 in the camp so being set aside as one of the seventy was a big responsibility, and Eldad was one. Moses invited the seventy to meet near the Tabernacle tent, which was some distance outside the camp. There, God ordained them with the Holy Spirit to help them with their task. As soon as they received the Spirit. they began to prophesize which didn’t mean they told the future but did mean that they spoke God’s truth.
Except that Eldad didn’t go. He and one other, a man called Medad, stayed in the camp. We don’t know why. Perhaps Eldad was shy or felt too humble to step forward. Perhaps he himself had murmured against Moses and so felt unworthy. It could be that he was afraid, or maybe even felt rebellious against God. It could be that he had other important business, family issues perhaps, that were pressing. Maybe he just wanted to wait and go on another day.
It didn’t matter. It wasn’t that Eldad chose God, God chose Eldad. And so Eldad the reluctant received the Holy Spirit and began to prophesize in the camp, right where he was. People around him turned in surprise. Who was this ordinary guy speaking with the authority and the wisdom of the Spirit, wisdom that they up to now had heard only from Moses? A messenger was sent running with a message for Joshua, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide. Something unexpected had happened. Eldad was drawing a crowd. Surely this isn’t right. Even the elders, the sixty-eight who had gathered at the tent, were questioning. Eldad was not one if them after all.
Moses’ response was classic: “Would that ALL the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!”.
Would that ALL the people of the LORD were prophets!
You, sitting here today, are you a prophet? You received the Holy Spirit at your baptism, and that gift was strengthened in Confirmation. You were baptized in Christ as priest, prophet, and king. So, let’s hear you prophesizing! Let’s hear you tell the truth of God. Be like Eldad.
Eldad spoke God’s truth where he was, in the midst of the camp, among his neighbors and family. You can do that too! Speak God’s truth by reacting first with love. Spread God’s truth by treating everyone with the respect that they have as children of God, without regard to deserving or power or the odds that they will return that respect.
The other sixty-eight elders spoke God’s truth where it was expected. They spoke it in the company of Moses, amongst themselves who had been set apart. And that is right and good.
But you, you can be like Eldad and speak God’s truth when it is least expected. In mixed company you might say. Speak with love in the midst of those who show they don’t respect God. Or, and this is a tough one, speak God’s love in the midst of those who slander their family and friends with gossip and talking behind backs. You might say – Who am I to judge? So don’t judge! Love! The Spirit gives you what you need to speak God’s truth without being judgmental.
Maybe you are shy, or don’t like speaking up. Well, neither did Eldad, but he did it. His superpower was the only true superpower found in heaven and on earth – the Holy Spirit. The same superpower you received at baptism.
It could be, and I think many of us fall in this category, you feel unworthy. After all, you have your faults, you’ve had times when you rebelled against God or his Church. If you feel unworthy, guess what, you are! Eldad knew his unworthiness and didn’t let it stop him from prophesizing. Be like Eldad!
Fast forward to the Gospel. The apostles saw someone outside of their group doing a good deed in Jesus’ name. He wasn’t even one of them! It’s a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. The apostles sent John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples to report that something unexpected had happened. Surely this isn’t right! I could almost guess that the unknown exorcist’s name was Eldad Jr.
Jesus’ response both incorporates and expands Moses’ response to the Eldad crisis. Would that all the people of the Lord were performing mighty deed in my name! And not just mighty, but even small kindnesses done in my name are worthy of merit. Be like Eldad! Be like Eldad Jr.! Perform mighty deeds, not by your own power but by the power of the Spirit. Speak God’s truth, be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Speak it in the midst of the camp, in your home, at school, and at work. Remember Eldad the reluctant and overcome your hesitation and feelings of unworthiness. Those feelings do not come from the Spirit you inherited at Baptism. The Lord has bestowed the Spirit on you! Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!