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Shemot/Exodus 3:16 Go and you will assemble the elders of Israel, and you shall say to them ...
This command is part of third cycle of HaShem instructing Moshe to go back to Egypt so that He may use Him to set the Israelites free from their bondage and servitude. Notice that the command starts with , an imperative form of the verb , to go or walk, as HaShem tells Moshe: "Go!", and is followed by two more verbs using the Affix form with a vav-reversive to make them future in tense: you will or you shall.
Moshe is told to gather the elders of Israel. Who were they? Sarna (pg. 18) comments that, "although the elders are frequently mentioned in the Exodus narrative, little information about them is offered." However, in the tribal-patriarchal system, "the council of elders was entrusted with considerable authority, judicial and political." So Moshe's first task is to address and win over the elders of the people;Rashi dryly asks, "How could it be that Moshe would assemble all the myriads of 600,000 people!" Moshe has to have a starting point in bringing HaShem's message of forthcoming redemption to the people and this is the proper way to proceed: Moshe tells the elders, the elders tell the representatives of each tribe and they tell the people.
The process of revelation begins with G-d Himself: "Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you" (Isaiah 42:9, NASB). G-d declares His plans in advance so that when they come to pass we will recognise that G-d told us about them beforehand and be confirmed in our faith in Him. But what does He do with this revelation - how is it disseminated to the people? The next link in the chain is the prophets: "Adonai, G-d, does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7, CJB). G-d communicates His revelation, His vision, to the prophets who then tell the kings, the leaders of the people. Jeremiah is told at various times, "Stand at the gate of the house of Adonai and proclaim this word" (Jeremiah 7:2, CJB), to all the people in Jerusalem, "Proclaim all these words in the cities of Y'hudah and in the streets of Yerushalayim" (11:6, CJB), to all the people, "to the royal house of Y'hudah say ..." (21:11, CJB), to the king, "then the prophet Yirmeyahu said to the prophet Hananyah in front of the cohanim and all the people standing in Adonai's house ..." (28:5, CJB), to the religious leaders and authorities. This reminds us of the chain of command envisioned by the rabbis when they wrote, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the elders; the elders to the prophets; and the prophets transmitted it to the men of the Great Assembly" (m. Pirkei Avot 1:1).
G-d has defined the proper venues and ways in which He will communicate with people, through prophecy, through teaching, by His word. After all, as Rav Sha'ul writes, "For G-d is not a G-d of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (1 Corinthians 14:33, NASB). How is this to be brought about, for G-d speaks through any or each of us? Rav Sha'ul again: "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" (14:26, NASB) so there is an expectation that everyone can contribute. In another letter he writes, "Sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to each other; sing to the L-rd and make music in your heart to Him" (Ephesians 5:19, CJB), emphasising that this is to be an expression of joy in which every believer is not only expected by urged to participate.
In just the same way that Moshe was told to "Go, assemble the elders of Israel", so G-d today wants us to share the insights, visions and exhortations that He gives us for His people. We are to share those through the proper channels: the leaders of our congregations, at public meetings or house-groups - whatever opportunities He provides. "Let two or three prophets speak, while the others weigh what is said" (1 Corinthians 14:29, CJB). Unlike Moshe who was called to leadership of the nation and so had the responsibility to insist that G-d's word was put into action, those us that are not in leadership can only bring G-d's word into our fellowships, and the responsibilities then transfers to the leadership to implement what G-d is saying to them through us and the other members of the group. Our job is to communicate what G-d has laid on our heart and to make sure that we do that effectively.
Further Study: Isaiah 48:3-7; Colossians 3:16-17
Application: Today there is a great need for G-d's word to be heard in our world and G-d is calling each of us to participate with Him in sharing His heart with those around us. That includes you! Why not speak to your pastor or minister and ask how you can work with him to bring G-d's word alive in your congregation?
© Jonathan Allen, 2007
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