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Numbers 11 and a Pentecostal Theology of Church Leadership

Bjorn Simon

Image: Bjorn Simon

In this day of specialization, it seems we have a difficult time combining thorough Bible study and relevant practical application. Too often, practitioners do not get their principles from studying the Bible, and scholars do not produce relevant principles and practical application. I would like this essay to begin a dialogue that will bring these two together.

I will use Numbers 11 to demonstrate how we can derive relevant principles for our lives and ministry from an Old Testament text. My goal is to experience God speaking to us through such texts. The key is one of the distinctive attitudes of Pentecostalism—the Bible should be read as precedent for what God wants to do in our lives today. If God did it before He can do it again. To hear His voice clearly from such texts and apply their precedents the way He intends, we must read them carefully in context and see the principles in what God was saying to the original audience. Then, we can take those principles and, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, apply them appropriately to our lives today. God wants us to learn how He related to Israel in their situations and how they responded (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

It seems we have a difficult time combining thorough Bible study with relevant practical application.

This is how I believe we should do biblical theology. My definition of “doing” biblical theology, then, is determining the message of the biblical writers in their terms, letting them express their theology in their own literary and cultural language, style and concepts. I believe biblical theology is the culmination of good exegesis or interpretation. It comes before systematic theology or doctrine, which is the application of the truths to our questions today. We must first strive to hear what the Bible writer was preaching to Israel in that day and then we can begin to hear, from the Bible text, what God is saying to us today. In this, I believe a Pentecostal approach also means we should be open in faith to whatever supernatural applications the Lord wants to make.


The Context of Numbers 11

In doing biblical theology, it is essential to describe carefully and analytically the context of a passage within the flow of the message of the whole book and, ultimately, within the message of the whole Bible. The broad principles of the message should be clearly articulated. I believe, then, we should understand the context of Numbers 11 as the journey of God’s people, Israel, from Sinai, where they were established as his covenant nation, through the wilderness to the Promised Land, where God would use them to bring the Savior into the world. They were on a mission in this world with eternal purpose. They were God’s newly established nation to provide a people through whom the Son of God, the Savior, could become incarnate. In Numbers 1-10, God instructed Israel through Moses on organization and holiness in preparation for the journey. With his holy presence among them and leading them, they would come to the place where they would be able to fulfill God’s purpose. The end of chapter 10 records they began with great faith and enthusiasm.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Summer 2009

About the Author: Roger D. Cotton, S.T.M., Th.D. (Concordia Seminary) and M.Div. (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), is Professor of Old Testament at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri since 1987. He is the author of a commentary on Leviticus in The Complete Biblical Library (World Library Press, 1995) and the chapter on the laws of the Pentateuch, “God Reveals Himself to His People,” in They Spoke from God: A Survey of the Old Testament (Logion Press, 2003). He was an associate pastor at West County Assembly of God in St. Louis from 1983-1987. He is a member of The Institute for Biblical Research and the Society of Biblical Literature.

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