And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.…
Moses wondered that Joshua should be so excited about this matter. He correctly estimated the young man's temper; he said, This is envy: why this envy, Joshua? is it for my sake that thou art making a grievous miscalculation of my spirit? do not be envious on my account. Contrast the spirit of Moses with the spirit of Joshua. From the greater expect more. Thus is the quality of men revealed. Our judgments are ourselves put into words. Not that this was necessarily what might be termed the most wicked jealousy or envy. There is a kind of envy that may be regarded as almost chivalrous. That may be the most dangerous envy of all. Let us get at the root of this matter. Moses certainly delivered himself from all imputations of the kind, for instead of wanting the prophecy to be confined to himself he would have it multiplied over the whole host of the people of God. Great men do not want to be great at the expense of others. The text, though an inquiry, is as much a revelation of the quality of Moses as it is of the quality of Joshua. The most dangerous envy is often envy by proxy. Two men are at deadly feud; circumstances arise which lead to explanation; explanation leads to adjustment; adjustment soon becomes hearty reconciliation; the two principals are satisfied. But what is all this tumult in the air? what all this petty criticism? The two principals are satisfied, but there are others that are fighting the battle over again, and professedly in the name of one of the reconciled men or the other. This is folly. We should rather anticipate reconciliation and make the most of it than say, through wickedness of heart, Though you may be satisfied, we are not, and we mean to continue the battle. That may be high temper, but it is the temper of the devil. Along the same line of illustration we come upon over-zeal. The Jehua rose up a million thick on the road. What are they doing? Converting men by force. They are going to stand this no longer; if men will not go to church, then they shall go to gaol; if men will not obey spontaneously, they shall obey coercively; they shall have no longer any parleying with the enemy. The only compulsion that is as everlasting as it is beneficent is the compulsion of persuasion. "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." Herein is the dignity and herein is the assured duration of the kingdom of Christ; it is a kingdom of light and love and truth and reason. Love is the everlasting — and I will add, is the invincible — law. What was Joshua's motive? Was he afraid that other men would rise and be as lofty as Moses? That was not the view which Moses himself took of the occasion. Moses was not afraid of competition. Moses proved his right to the leadership by the nobleness of his spirit. Would God that this proof of Divine election attended all our policy! No man can pull you down but yourself. Moses knew that what was lacking in appreciation of himself would be made up in proportion as the people themselves became prophets. The more the people prophesied the more they would appreciate Moses. They would know what he had to bear; what occasional torment of soul. Have pity upon one another; believe, and be kind, and hope; let the devil do all the bad work, you get to your knees and to the work of brotherly sympathy and help. Moses saw what Joshua did not discern. Moses saw that it is part of the prophet's function to make other people prophets. Great men are not sent to create little men. Wherever there is a great prophet there will be a prophetic church; the whole level of life and thought will be elevated. Not that the leader can always command this kind of evidence and credential. It may come after his death. Some men have to die that they may be known. Great men are inspirations, not discouragements. That is the difference between real greatness and factitious greatness. Where there is real greatness it acts as an inspiration, as a welcome; there is a benign and generous hospitality about it. Real greatness can condescend without appearing to stoop; real greatness can be humble without being oppressive to those to whom it bows itself; real greatness encourages rising power just as the sun encourages every flower in the garden. The Church of Christ is not afraid of rival institutions. The Church says, "Enviest thou for my sake?" — nothing can put me down; I am founded by Christ, saith the Church, I am built upon a rock; the gates of hell cannot prevail against me — "Enviest thou for my sake?" — cease thine envying, it is wasted energy. We are building up all kinds of rival institutions, and yet the Church rises above them all. Let the Church have time and opportunity to utter her gospel and declare herself; and let her be faithful to her own charter, and all will be well. Truth always wins, and wins often at once; not in the palpable and vulgar way called winning, but by a subtle, profound, mysterious, eternal way that asks ages by which to justify its certainty and its completeness.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.