TODAY’S READING: Numbers 10–11
“So they started out for the first time” (Num. 10:13). It’s fascinating that the very first time the presence of God as connected to the tabernacle moved, Moses invited an Arab from Saudi Arabia along. Moses says to his father-in-law, a Midianite (Midian is present day Saudi Arabia): “We are setting out for the place which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the Lord has promised good things to Israel” (v. 29). How glorious! Jehovah declared He will be Israel’s God; Israel covenanted to be His people; Jehovah descended to “tabernacle” with men; together Jehovah and Israel will bless the nations; Jehovah gave the commission to go; and Moses invited a Saudi! Makes you want to do handstands! God’s great missionary heart on display. Indeed, “rise up, O Lord! Let your enemies be scattered” (v. 35). Let any who hate this great passion and plan of God flee away.
It’s intriguing that two verses later (11:1), right after Moses invited along an Arab, the people complained. This may be incidental, but it’s certainly indicative. To invite along the “other” is always uncomfortable. To include other races and other traditions in the household of faith always means a ceding of power and preference. Let us not forget that those who complain about the uncomfortable commission of God face His consuming fire (v. 2). The context centers around difficulty and the deprivation of luxuries (in this case, food), but the wider context cannot be ignored. Sandwiched around the complaint about delicacies was the invitation Moses gave a Saudi to enjoy the good things God promised and the pouring out of the Spirit, including on two people outside the camp.
In an interesting historical note…two elders, Eldad and Medad, prophesied as the Spirit rested upon them “in the camp” (v. 26) rather than around the Tent of Meeting with the rest of the seventy, where the Spirit had come upon them for that purpose (v. 16.) But Moses refused to rebuke the prophetic manifestation of the two. Instead, seemingly anticipating the great day later prophesied by Joel, Moses said, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them” (11:29). Later this would take place as God’s chosen means for accomplishing His mission.
The people complain and face God’s wrath in between two “out-of-camp” experiences: Moses inviting a Saudi into the blessings of God and God pouring out His Spirit away from the centered tabernacle. Surely this is didactic, not accidental. God wants the other included. God wants to pour His Spirit out on all flesh. God pours the Spirit out on the guys outside the house, the Gentiles (there were Arabs at Pentecost, too; see Acts 2:11), so that the gospel can go to every people by every people. Saudis and Arabs and all nations are invited to travel with the glory and blessings of God. How marvelous! How wonderful! And my soul shall ever sing. Now if only I can find some Hausa to sing with me!
 John V. York. Missions in the Age of the Spirit. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2001. 29.