Bamidbar (Numbers) 8:1-12:6
In this week’s parasha, we find the Children of Israel complaining of their situation in the wilderness. Numbers 11 opens with a description of the state of mind of the people of Israel, which was selfishness:
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lᴏʀᴅ; and when the Lᴏʀᴅ heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lᴏʀᴅ burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lᴏʀᴅ, and the fire died out. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lᴏʀᴅ burned among them. (Numbers 11:1–3)
When you consider the amazing signs and wonders the Lᴏʀᴅ did on Israel’s behalf, it’s really astounding that they were complaining! They were delivered from slavery in Egypt; all of their needs were provided for (including food that God supernaturally gave them), and God Himself led them as a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. Yet, that was not enough for them and they complained.
However, while I marvel at this, I dare not judge because all I need to do is to look at my own life, and understand how easy it is to forget the miracles the Lᴏʀᴅ has done for me! I was delivered from sin and brought into the Kingdom of Heaven as a child of the King, which is so much more than I deserve. The problem happens when I lose focus and forget the truth; that is when I start to complain.
Even after God poured out His grace by extinguishing the fire of judgment around the camp, we learn that the complaining did not stop. Within the camp there was a mob whose selfish craving for more negatively affected the rest of the people:
And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Numbers 11:4–6)
The Children of Israel quickly forgot how terrible their suffering was in Egypt, and remembered only what was seemingly “good” from that time. They were self-focused, ungrateful, and only craved more. Just like us at times, we are not thankful for what we have today, but instead just want more. But, as we learn from verses 18–20, we need to be careful and choose wisely what we ask for:
And say to the people, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lᴏʀᴅ, saying, ‘Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.’ Therefore the Lᴏʀᴅ will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lᴏʀᴅ who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:18–20)
God very well may provide what you’ve asked for, but at times just like in our story today, it can be a form of judgment rather than a blessing. The children of Israel thought they knew what was best, and they wanted to indulge. But once they got what they wanted, they couldn’t bear it!
Even Moses was focused on the flesh, rather than God, when he questioned God’s ability to provide meat:
But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet Thou hast said, ‘I will give them meat in order that they may eat for a whole month.’ Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?” And the Lᴏʀᴅ said to Moses, “Is the Lᴏʀᴅ’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.” (Numbers 11:21–23)
God can do all things…do you believe it? Are you satisfied with all that the Lᴏʀᴅ has provided in your life? Do your selfish desires determine the way you live your life? Do other people’s thoughts or opinions negatively influence the way you think or behave? And in what ways are you affecting others?
This is a lot to think about! Take time this week to reflect on and digest these simple but important questions. I want to leave you with a great quote by a talented musician whose heart for God is evident in all that he does, “Attitude is contagious, make yours worthwhile.” Toby Mac.
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