Disclaimer: I apologize for any typing errors. I was reading through Numbers and this just came to me and I felt led to blog, so here I am 🙂
What’s something that you absolutely desire? Something that if given to you, you’d almost feel as if you’d finally made it because this is something you’ve longed for for so long.
Some people read Numbers and might think about how whiny the Israelites were and how ungrateful they seemed. In fact, when I usually hear about this chapter, if I am not hearing about God’s faithfulness, it might be uttered that the Israelites were being really ungrateful. I mean, they were — right? God had been providing so much for them for 40 years and yet here they were complaining because they were tired of eating the manna that God so graciously provided and wanted to eat meat.
How selfish of them right?
Well, while I was reading Numbers 11, I was reminded of our own similarities between us and the people of Israel and God’s faithfulness towards His people.
So as you may know, they were journeying through the wilderness and closer to the promise land than they probably realized. Yet after years of eating manna, the Israelites were tired of eating it and wanted some meat. They’d been eating manna all this time and felt like they wanted a change because they missed having poultry in their diet. Although, I thought of how ungrateful that was, I couldn’t help but think how much I would’ve responded in the same way. I get sick of eating BBQ sometimes after three days, so imagine how they must’ve felt eating manna every day for 40 years! Is it right for them to complain? Probably not, but I can understand it.
The chapter starts off stating, “Now, when the people complained it displeased the Lord…the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving, so the children of Israel also wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up ; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.” – Numbers 11:1, 4-6
Can you imagine how God must’ve felt? Here they are saying how they remember all the delicious produce God provided for them, but this manna is all they have left and their whole being dried up. This manna? That’s like imagine you giving someone shelter, clothing, and food for 3 years because your friend has been unemployed and has been having trouble finding employment. You barely have enough for yourself to eat, so you get ramen noodles every day for those 3 years, which provides enough carbs for you to be sustained – despite the fact that you’ve been eating the same thing every day. They’re unemployed because the last place they were employed was a horribly abusive place. One day, you hear them complaining to a friend about how miserable they are at your place because all you’ve given them is these noodles. They’re saying that they remember all the things you’ve provided for them and that one meal you made that almost broke the bank, but still.
I don’t know about you, but I read that as being pretty condescending. It’s like saying, all I have is “this crap” that we’ve been eating. It’s clear they were sick of the manna.
Naturally, this displeased God because He’d been providing them with SO much. He’s been providing them with Himself by protecting them throughout the journey, guiding them, feeding them, and keeping them warm. He kept them well-shaded through the day with the cloud and warm at night with His fire. God provided for them like the loving Father He is, so I can’t even imagine how hurt God must’ve felt hearing His children complain as if that wasn’t enough. By complaining they were essentially saying, “God, this isn’t enough. Yeah, you’ve been journeying with us, but I need more!”
Yet God still provided for them that night. The word says, “And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it.” – Numbers 11:9
They complained and God STILL provided for them?! Anyone else would’ve been like, “you know what, since you’re going to complain, I will give you nothing.” But God STILL fed them, despite their ungratefulness. Talk about grace, man.
To show you the continued provision and love of God, He didn’t shun them even though they whined, He provided for them manna AND eventually provided so much quail for them that it would last them a month.
“Therefore the Lord 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 for a whole month until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despise the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” – Numbers 11:18-20
Can you believe that after all God has brought them through, they actually complained thinking that Egypt was better? Where God freed them because they were enslaved? No wonder God was hurt/displeased. That’s like with the example of the friend staying at your apartment for 3 years, they say they were better off homeless or dead – after all you’ve done to help sustain them.
Some might say the Lord is being harsh there, but is He really? Instead of cursing them or removing ALL of the food, He’s still providing them with what they asked for and is giving them an abundance of it. I don’t think the Lord literally meant it would come out of their nostrils – of course. I think by that He’s saying that He’s going to give them so much that they are going to grow to loathe the meat, the same way they at one point loathed the manna. He’s disciplining them at the same time by showing them that you should be grateful for what you have because just as easily as you got sick of this one thing, you’ll get sick of that thing that you think will sustain you. Truly, only God can sustain you. You can seek for solace, peace, and whatever else in these other things, but truly only God can sustain you. You’ll always be seeking pleasure and comfort from other things, if you’re not seeking Him and doing so leaves us empty and longing for something else. Eventually when they get sick of the meat, they’ll want manna again — the very thing they were sick of in the first place.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized how similar we are to them. Imagine that thing you really wanted, again. Say it’s Christmas and you’re really anticipating getting that thing whether it’s a positive pregnancy test, an engagement ring, a house, etc and you get a blanket. I’m sure you’d probably be thankful for the blanket, but there might be a pang because what you really wanted and thought you would get you didn’t right?
It’s totally selfish thinking and in reading this chapter it made me realize how selfish and ungrateful we ourselves can be. That we could want something so much that we’re completely missing out on the blessings of God. Yes, for you it may not be a car and the blessings God gives may not be a blanket per-say, but how often do we thank Him for giving us shelter and food — things many people don’t have? Yet we complain because we don’t have exactly what we asked for?
I am not perfect in this area myself, for sure. I struggle in this area – even now as I personally desire something. It’s clear that God was speaking to me through this chapter, but I also feel like He’s speaking to some of you. Maybe some of you are struggling with this right now.
I am also not saying that by desiring something, God hates you or is angry with you. I don’t think desiring something that is Godly is bad. I don’t think God hates us for wanting something, but I think we go into dangerous territory when we begin to want that one thing so much that it blinds us from all of these awesome things God has been doing around us. I think it’s dangerous when we want that thing so bad that we forget all of the things God has provided for us that He really isn’t obligated to. Not everyone has shelter. Not everyone has cable or internet. Not everyone has food to eat this morning. But we do.
Sometimes, we’re not meant to have that one thing, but what God has given us is already more than some other people have. The fact that I have internet access right now and my own apartment is more than what some other people have.
God definitely showed me something I never picked up on while reading this before. We’ve got to practice a spirit of gratitude more than a spirit of want because that thing will make us ungrateful for the wonderful things God has given us without really realizing it. We miss out on the awesome things He’s showing us in the current seasons of life we’re in because we’re too busy longing for the next “breakthrough” or whatever else.
But what God’s been showing me is what if that “breakthrough” doesn’t happen? What if God intends for you to stay in this place for another six years? Would you still worship Him?
What if it’s not meant for you have that ring or job or car? Would you still love Him?
What if it’s not meant for you to get meat over manna? Would you still trust Him as Your provider who loves you?
It shouldn’t be hard, but sometimes it is because we’re so conditioned to think that we deserve things and that we’re entitled to things because we’ve worked hard or this or that. It’s hard because if the latter is not the case for us, sometimes we really want that thing so bad that we feel discouraged for not getting it and it’s so easy to lose sight of the blessings around us when that happens. I think discouragement as an initial feeling is normal and I don’t think God hates us for that. But, I think we should try to practice a posture of thankfulness. I think that would please God.
“What is the deepest root of your joy? What God gives to you? Or what God is to you?”
— John Piper