The best leaders are good people who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve by leading.

  1. Good leaders are men and women who have a measure of natural leadership ability.
  2. Better leaders are men and women who not only have natural leadership ability but also embody the character qualities of an Elder.  (See 1 Timothy 3:1-13;  Titus 1:5-9)
  3. The best leaders are men and women who not only have natural leadership ability and godly character but also are being empowered by the Spirit of God to serve by leading. (See Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25)

In a moment we will see the Biblical basis for these statements.

Distinction: The Spirit “IN”  vs.  the Spirit “ON” or “UPON”

In order to resolve the leadership crisis in the newly formed nation of Israel, God directed Moses to hand-pick seventy elders and bring them to the tent of meeting.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone, (Numbers 11:16-17, ESV).

And that is exactly what happened.

 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him [Moses], and he [the LORD] took of the Spirit that was on him [Moses] and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again,” (Num. 11:25, NIV).

Holy Spirit, Spirit within, Holy Spirit inHoly Spirit, Holy Spirit upon, baptism with Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit baptism, Holy Spirit on, empowerment, Holy Spirit empowermentGod intentionally used the preposition “on”,[i]  not “in”.  When we take a drink of water, the water goes “in” or “into” us, but when we stand under a waterfall, the water falls “on” or “upon” us.  God placed the Spirit “on” the seventy.  This crucial detail lays the foundation for Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you …” (ESV), as well as for a Biblical understanding of baptism with the Holy Spirit.

When we read that the Spirit came “on” the elders (Numbers 11:17, 25), we are reading the language of empowerment.  We will see in other parts of the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament that when the Spirit comes “on” or “upon” a person, that person is equipped and empowered by God through the Holy Spirit to do powerful works and/or speak powerful words.

Three ‘levels’ of leaders in Numbers 11

1.  Elders.    “… whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them …”   Num. 11:16, ESV

2.  Elders who are officers.    “… whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them …”   Num. 11:16, ESV

Many of us are satisfied with this type of leader.  But not God.

3.  Elders who are officers who are empowered by the Spirit.    “Then … he [the LORD] … put the Spirit on the seventy elders.”   Num. 11:25, NIV

In Numbers 11, God sent the Spirit “on” the seventy elders to empower them to serve by leading. “Best leaders” are good people who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to lead.

Why does it matter?

God could have said to Moses, “Moses, you have selected seventy good people who are elders.  Release them to lead.”   Although placing good people in leadership roles is standard operating procedure (SOP) in many of our churches and Christian organizations, that was not – and, is not – good enough for God.  God knew that one more essential ingredient was needed in order for the seventy to truly provide spiritual leadership.  They needed to be empowered by the Spirit.

The best leaders are good and godly people who not only have natural leadership ability but also have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to serve by leading.  They cooperate with Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to lead vibrant families, businesses, ministries, and churches for the glory of God.  In our day Jesus remains actively engaged in the special work of anointing those who thirst for Him with the Holy Spirit, empowering them to serve well in the roles to which He is calling them.

Invite the Spirit to come upon you and empower you!  … for the glory of God and advancement of the gospel.

 

An Elaboration of Numbers 11

Since some of us may not be familiar with the flow of the Old Testament, let’s do a quick review.  The first five books of the Old Testament are:

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

Holy Spirit, Moses receives the Ten Commandments, Ten Commandments, Mt. Sinai

These five books are also known by other names including the Five Books of Moses; the Pentateuch; and, the Torah.

The book of Exodus is about Israel’s exit from bondage (i.e., slavery) in Egypt and their journey to Mt. Sinai.  At Mt. Sinai they received Ten Commandments and God shaped the family of Abraham into the nation of Israel.  Their form of government was a theocracy, meaning that the supreme ruler of the nation was God Himself and that the people were citizens of His Kingdom.

Chronologically, the book of Exodus ends at Mt. Sinai and the book of Numbers begins at Mt. Sinai.

The opening chapter in the book of Numbers takes place two years and two months after God liberated Israel from bondage in Egypt.  Approximately 1445 BC, God signaled for Israel to break camp and travel northward across the desert.  (See Numbers 10:11.  Although the exact date is a matter of debate, we are reasonably sure that Numbers covers a 38-year span of time).  Stressed by the challenges of the desert, the Israelites began to grumble and complain.  God punished them for their lack of gratitude and lack of faith by forcing them to wander in the wilderness for forty years.  The Book of Numbers concludes (~1405 BC) with Israel camped on the Plain of Moab poised at long-last to enter the Promised Land.  The Plain of Moab is NNE of the Dead Sea and east of both the Jordan River and the city of Jericho.

Holy Spirit, wandering in wilderness, 40 years wilderness, wilderness wanderingNumbers 11 occurred  ~3 days after the nation of Israel left Mt. Sinai (see Num.10:33) and headed north across the desert toward an oasis named Kadesh Barnea.  One of the major themes in Numbers 11 pertains to leadership.  Here is Moses’ description of the situation:

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”    Numbers 11:4-6, NIV

A turning point in this drama in the desert occurred when Moses exclaimed to God in exasperation:

” I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me,” Numbers 11:14, NIV.

What is too heavy for Moses?  The burden of leadership.  To Moses it felt like a heavy weight.

Moses suggested a solution that revealed that he was at the end of his rope.

“If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now – if I have found favor in your eyes – and do not let me face my own ruin,” Numbers 11:15, NIV.

Apparently Moses was afraid that the people’s discontent regarding their diet would escalate and, in their anger, they would form a lynch mob and kill him.  Moses would rather die at the hand of God than the hands of a mob.

God’s solution surpassed Moses’ by far.  God’s solution was to raise up a leadership community.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you,” (Numbers 11:16, ESV).

Please notice two important details.  God did not instruct Moses to summon

  • all the people in the nation of Israel to gather at the Tent of Meeting, or
  • all the Elders in the nation of Israel to the Tent.

Rather, God instructed Moses to bring to Him seventy elders who were serving as officials in Israel.  Surely there were more than seventy elders in the nation of Israel at this time.[ii]  Out of the total group of elders Moses was to select seventy; hence, some of the elders would not be included.

Note:

  • No nominating process.
  • No voting.
  • But Moses hand-picked seventy (70) men.

God instructed Moses to stand with the seventy around the Tent of Meeting.

“I will come down and speak with you [Moses] there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone,” (Num. 11:17, NIV).

God did not side-line or marginalize Moses or, as the cowboys say, “put him out to pasture.”  Rather, God affirmed Moses as Israel’s primary leader, while the 70 were present, when He declared, “I will come down and speak with you [Moses] there” (Num. 11:17).  In other words, God spoke directly to Moses while the seventy listened, thereby affirming Moses’ on-going leadership role.  Every good team needs a God-appointed team leader and Moses remained in that role.  Everyone knew it.

Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit upon, baptism with Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit baptism, Holy Spirit on, empowerment, Holy Spirit empowermentAfter affirming Moses’ continuing leadership role, God declared, “I will take of the Spirit that is on you [Moses] and put the Spirit on them,” Num. 11:17, NIV.

And that is exactly what happened.

“Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him [Moses], and he [the LORD] took of the Spirit that was on him [Moses] and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again,” Num. 11:25, NIV.

John Gill commented, “Several of the Jewish writers, and particularly Jarchi, illustrate it [Num. 11:25] by the lamp in the golden candlestick in the sanctuary, which was always burning, and at which all the rest were lighted, without any diminution of its light at all.”[iii]

“The Spirit on”

As we mentioned above, this is the language of empowerment.  When the Spirit comes “on” or “upon” a person, that person is equipped and empowered by God through the Holy Spirit to do powerful works and/or speak powerful words.

We are baptized with, and empowered by, the Holy Spirit when He comes upon us.

God promised that the result of the Spirit coming “on” the seventy will be this: they will be equipped to share the burden of leadership with Moses.

“They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone,” (Num. 11:17, NIV).

Holy Spirit, Holy Spirit on, Holy Spirit Upon, baptism with Holy Spirit, prophecy and praise

In Numbers 11:25, Moses included another detail that deserves careful consideration.

“Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him [Moses], and he [the LORD] took of the Spirit that was on him [Moses] and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again,” Num. 11:25, NIV.

Although we cannot be certain, in this context “prophecy” probably refers to an outburst of praise. Moses heard it; so did the seventy.  For a similar meaning of prophecy, see 1 Chron. 25:1-3.

Why this outburst of prophetic praise?  Three reasons:

  1. For Moses’ benefit.  By this tangible means God communicated to Moses that the Spirit now rested on the seventy and that God had indeed equipped and empowered them for their new leadership roles.
  2. For the benefit of each of the seventy elders.  By this tangible expression God communicated to the seventy elders that something indeed had happened.  They had been equipped to serve in the power of the Spirit.
  3. For benefit of others Israelites from within the camp who, out of curiosity, were standing nearby watching and listening.  When they heard the outburst of praise they would conclude that God truly had selected these men to serve as their new leaders

Outcome

The happy result was this:  The burden of leadership no longer rested on Moses’ shoulders alone; rather, the seventy Elders were now equipped by the Spirit to shoulder leadership roles.

Moses’ Prophetic Longing

In the last paragraph Moses spoke prophetically about Jesus’ desire for each of His followers in our day.

“However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.

A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

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!”

Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp,” Num. 11:26-30, NIV.

Holy Spirit, Spirit falls at Pentecost, Holy Spirit, You will receive power, baptism with the Holy Spirit, baptism in the Holy Spirit

What Moses prophetically longed for, Joel predicted, and Jesus turned into reality on the Day of Pentecost.  On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus poured out His Spirit “on”  “all” people.   See Acts 2:17-18, NIV

What might happen if we were to invite the Spirit to come “upon” us?

Just imagine: What if the Holy Spirit rested “upon” and empowered every person on your leadership team?

I believe that this is Jesus desire for us.  Invite the Holy Spirit to come “upon” you!  Let’s move from being good, to being better, to being best leaders in our homes, businesses, churches, and world!

 

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© 2017 Philip J. Noordmans

Originally posted Nov. 2012.

 


[i] Hebrew `al.  Strong’s #05921.   prep 1) upon , … 1g) down upon, upon, on.

[ii] 600,000 men on foot.  See Num. 11:21

[iii] John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.  http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/numbers-11-17.html