God Will Be Faithful

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving you, and you offer to the Lord from the herd or from the flock a food offering or a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or at your appointed feasts, to make a pleasing aroma to the Lord, then he who brings his offering shall offer to the Lord a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil; and you shall offer with the burnt offering, or for the sacrifice, a quarter of a hin of wine for the drink offering for each lamb. Or for a ram, you shall offer for a grain offering two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with a third of a hin of oil. And for the drink offering you shall offer a third of a hin of wine, a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And when you offer a bull as a burnt offering or sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or for peace offerings to the Lord, then one shall offer with the bull a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with half a hin of oil. 10 And you shall offer for the drink offering half a hin of wine, as a food offering, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

11 “Thus it shall be done for each bull or ram, or for each lamb or young goat. 12 As many as you offer, so shall you do with each one, as many as there are. 13 Every native Israelite shall do these things in this way, in offering a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 14 And if a stranger is sojourning with you, or anyone is living permanently among you, and he wishes to offer a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, he shall do as you do. 15 For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you, a statute forever throughout your generations. You and the sojourner shall be alike before the Lord. 16 One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.”

17 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 18 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land to which I bring you 19 and when you eat of the bread of the land, you shall present a contribution to the Lord. 20 Of the first of your dough you shall present a loaf as a contribution; like a contribution from the threshing floor, so shall you present it. 21 Some of the first of your dough you shall give to the Lord as a contribution throughout your generations. Numbers 15:1-21 ESV

Even though God had condemned an entire generation of Israelites to wander in the wilderness for 40 years as punishment for their rebellion, He would not abandon them. The Lord would continue to guide them, provide for and protect them, and even give them further instructions regarding their eventual occupation of the land of Canaan. While that generation would never experience the joy of crossing over the Jordan and experiencing God’s rest, their children would. And God used the four-decade-long detour through the wilderness as a training opportunity for the next generation of Israelites, providing them with detailed instructions for their eventual entrance into the land of promise.

Though the adult population had allowed the fear-laden advice of the ten spies to deter them from keeping God’s command to enter and conquer the land of Canaan, God refused to renege on His promise. He remained committed to the covenant He had made with Abraham and assured Moses that the offspring of the rebellious generation would inherit the land.

God had made it perfectly clear that the adults in the room had blown their chance.

“…not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice. They will never even see the land I swore to give their ancestors. None of those who have treated me with contempt will ever see it.” – Numbers 14:22-23 NLT

Yet, despite their blatant display of disobedience, He would not hold the children responsible for the sins of their parents. During the 40-year delay, things would continue just as they had since the Israelites departed Egypt. The tabernacle would remain in the center of the camp with the Shekinah glory of God located above the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. The sacrificial system would continue just as God had prescribed it on Mount Sinai. Sacrifices would be offered and sins atoned for. Life would go on as it had before. And each year, children would be born into the Israelite community and members of the older generation would die off. There would be a slow but steady changing of the guard as the infants grew into adolescents who eventually became adults.

And God provided Moses with the assurance that a new group of Israelites would eventually enter the land.

“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.

“When you finally settle in the land I am giving you, you will offer special gifts as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. – Numbers 15:2-3 NLT

The faces and names of the people would change, but the covenant would be fulfilled. And this message from God must have been a painful reminder to the older generation that their disobedience had been costly. They would never have the joy of crossing the Jordan River into the land of promise with their children and grandchildren. Their lives would end in death in the wilderness. They were close but yet so far. Canaan was within reach but completely off limits because of their refusal to obey God.

This chapter contains additional instructions regarding the sacrificial system and it focuses on the changes God would require once they entered the new land. It is interesting to note that this addendum includes additional sacrifices involving grain, oil, and wine. When the people arrive in the land, they will be required to supplement their meat offerings with “a grain offering of two quarts of choice flour mixed with one quart of olive oil” (Numbers 15:4 NLT). And for each lamb offered, they would add “one quart of wine as a liquid offering” (Numbers 15:5 NLT).

This appears to be a reference to the fruitfulness of the land of Canaan. When the spies had returned from their expedition within the borders of Canaan, they reported that it was “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27 NLT). It was rich and bountiful. In fact, they had brought back “a single cluster of grapes so large that it took two of them to carry it on a pole between them! They also brought back samples of the pomegranates and figs” (Numbers 13:23 NLT).

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses describes just how bountiful the land of promise will be.

“The LORD your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant.” – Deuteronomy 6:10-11 NLT

For people who were living in the wilderness, surviving off of manna and quail, this description must have been highly attractive. The prospect of enjoying the comforts of a real house over the cramped confines of a tent would have been difficult to imagine. Ever since leaving Egypt, they had eaten no fruit, raised no crops, baked no bread, or enjoyed any of the comforts of “home.” They were nomads wandering through a godforsaken wilderness.

But God assured them that upon entering the land of promise, all that would change. They would have plenty of grain, oil, and wine. So much so, that these bountiful resources would become a part of the sacrificial system. According to the book of Exodus, the Israelites had left Egypt with “great flocks and herds of livestock” (Exodus 12:38 NLT). So, animal sacrifices had always been plentiful, even in the wilderness. But they had no access to grain, oil, and wine. The only bread they had to eat was in the form of the manna which God miraculously provided. Since there were few olive trees or vineyards in the wilderness, oil and wine were in short supply. But things would be different in Canaan.

This entire passage is meant to emphasize God’s faithfulness and to assure the Israelites of His unfailing commitment to providing for all their needs. And their response to His faithfulness was to be one of gratitude, expressed through the offering of meat, grain, oil, and wine. These gifts were intended to honor God for His goodness and grace – “a pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Numbers 15:3) for all that He had done.

It’s important to remember that these instructions were given long before the people entered the land and long before they had access to the oil, grain, and wine. But God was assuring them that the day would come when the bounty of the land would become readily available. In fact, He was guaranteeing its availability.

“When you arrive in the land where I am taking you, and you eat the crops that grow there, you must set some aside as a sacred offering to the Lord. Present a cake from the first of the flour you grind, and set it aside as a sacred offering, as you do with the first grain from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come, you are to present a sacred offering to the Lord each year from the first of your ground flour.” – Numbers 15:18-21 NLT

To the rebellious generation who had decided that the conquest of Canaan was impossible, this word from God must have been difficult to hear. They must have been filled with regret when they considered all that they had sacrificed when they made their fateful decision to disobey God. Not only would they fail to enter the land, but they would never enjoy its fruit or experience the joy of standing alongside their children and grandchildren as they offered God gifts of gratitude for its bounty.

But God underscores His own faithfulness when He states that these offerings will take place “throughout the generations to come” (Numbers 15:21 NLT). The next generation will conquer and occupy the land. The land will provide for all their needs. And the people will be expected to offer up their thanks to God for His goodness and graciousness – for generations to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

 

God Meted Out Meat and Judgment

31 Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. 32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving. 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people journeyed to Hazeroth, and they remained at Hazeroth. Numbers 11:31-35 ESV

The Israelites got what they wanted and, unexpectedly, exactly what they deserved. They had grown sick of the manna that God miraculously provided for them and began to express their craving for the more varied diet they had enjoyed back in Egypt.

“Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” – Numbers 11:4-6 ESV

This craving or deep longing (אָוָה ‘āvâ) for Egyptian cuisine had begun among “the rabble that was among them” (Numbers 11:4 ESV). This appears to be a reference to the non-Jews who had joined the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. In the book of Exodus, Moses recorded that a “rabble of non-Israelites went with them” (Exodus 12:38 ESV). This mixed multitude likely consisted of Egyptians as well as individuals who haled from other ethnic backgrounds. After having endured the ten plagues that the God of the Israelites had brought against Egypt and then witnessed the devastating deaths of all the firstborn, these people had chosen to align themselves with Moses and his powerful deity.

Many of these people were probably slaves just like the Israelites or were from the lower classes of the Egyptians. They had seen the exodus as an opportunity to escape their impoverished conditions and improve their prospects for the future. But after a year of traveling through the wilderness alongside the Israelites, they had begun to question their decision and long for their former lives back in Egypt. It seems unlikely that their prior circumstances had been quite so enjoyable as they recalled. While the Nile would have provided them easy access to fish and the fertile soil of the Nile Valley produced an abundant supply of fruits and vegetables, the lower-class status of this “rabble” would have made most of delicacies unaffordable and inaccessible.

Yet, they couldn’t stop thinking about the “good life” of Egypt. Their cravings and desires got the best of them and their growing dissatisfaction with God’s provision slowly infected the rest of the community. Before long, the people of Israel were all expressing their desire to return to Egypt.

“Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” – Numbers 11:18 ESV

At the core of their complaint was a distrust of God. They were declaring their doubt in His ability to provide for their needs. In their minds, God was incapable of providing the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic they had enjoyed in Egypt. In a sense, they were suggesting that Egypt and by extension, Pharaoh, had done a better job of meeting their needs. They were demanding that God accomodate Himself to their wants and desires. He needed to get with the program and give them what they wanted: Meat with all the fixin’s.

And God agreed to give them exactly what they asked for. He informed Moses to tell the people, “the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you” (Numbers 11:18-20 ESV).

They had allowed their physical desires to get the best of them and, driven by their cravings for temporal delights, they had rejected the providential plan of God. The apostle Paul provides an apt description for this kind of materialistic-minded outlook.

Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. – Philippians 3:19 NLT

They had lost sight of the prize. Rather than patiently waiting on God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, they fixated on the apparent deprivations of the moment and refused to place their hope in the future blessings to come.

And the last five verses of chapter 11 describe how God gave them what they desired as well as what they deserved. A wind (רוּחַ rûaḥ) blew from the southeast that carried with it an abundance of quail. These migratory birds were miraculously blown off course and divinely directed to this very spot. And when they came to rest, the text states that they were as far as the eye could see, stretching as far as one day’s journey on either side of the camp.

So the people went out and caught quail all that day and throughout the night and all the next day, too. No one gathered less than fifty bushels! They spread the quail all around the camp to dry. – Numbers 11:32 NLT

It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Everyone was able to gather as much quail as they could possible crave or desire. There were no limits imposed by God. So, driven by their greed, the people spent all day and night hoarding as much quail as they could possibly catch. And Moses records that they let their appetites get the best of them.

But while they were gorging themselves on the meat—while it was still in their mouths—the anger of the Lord blazed against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. – Numbers 11:33 NLT

The people showed no sign of awe or respect for God. They displayed no gratitude for His gracious provision. Instead, they gorged themselves on the quail. Perhaps, in their greed, they even ate the meat raw, and in doing so, violated God’s prohibition against consuming blood (Leviticus 7:26). But whatever the case, their blatant display of ingratitude and unbridled, animal-like cravings brought down the judgment of God.

It was like a feeding frenzy. The rapacious actions of the people revealed the lustful hearts of the people. They ate as if they were starving. But God had been providing for their physical needs all along the way. There had always been enough manna to meet their dietary requirements. But their gorging down of the quail had less to do with hunger than gluttony. And that fact is revealed by the name given to the place where God poured out His anger on His rebellious and rapacious people.

So that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (which means “graves of gluttony”) because there they buried the people who had craved meat from Egypt. – Numbers 11:34 NLT

While not everyone died that day, the entire nation of Israel was guilty of forsaking God and worshiping their appetites. It’s likely that some gathered the quail and set it aside for future consumption. Rather than greedily gorging themselves, they gratefully collected what they needed, recognizing it as just another gift from God.

God knew the needs of His people. He was fully aware that food was a non-negotiable necessity for their survival. And He had provided more than enough to sustain them all along the way. But their demand for something better proved to be an affront to God’s sovereignty and providence. They were questioning His integrity and goodness. They were expressing doubt in His providential care. And they were displaying their inordinate desire for the things of this earth. Unwilling to wait for the inheritance God had in store for them, they demanded immediate gratification of their physical appetites. And God obliged them. But He also repaid them for their blatant display of ingratitude and disturbing demonstration of uncontrolled gluttony. He meted out meat and justice at the same time. He gave them what they desired and exactly what they deserved. They had enjoyed the momentary pleasure of gorging themselves on quail but, as a result, they also encountered the more permanent experience of God’s holy and righteous judgment.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

An Appetite for Disobedience

16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. 18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’” 21 But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” 23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord»s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it.

26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. Numbers 11:16-30 ESV

Moses was feeling a bit overwhelmed by his responsibilities as the leader of Israel. From the very first moment he had introduced himself to them as their God-appointed deliverer, he had run into opposition. Even when he had successfully led them out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, they proved to be far from compliant and quick to complain. He had been forced to deal with their rebellion at Sinai, when they had begun to worship the golden calves while he was on the mountaintop receiving the Ten Commandments from God.

They were incessantly complaining about everything, from the quality of the food to the scarcity of water. There were those who questioned Moses’ leadership skills and tried to displace him. There were others who tried to mount an insurrection and orchestrate an immediate return to Egypt. Hardly a day went by when Moses wasn’t having to deal with a disgruntled Israelite or face another round of searing criticism. And he had reached the limits of his patience. So, in a state of frustration and self-pity, he decided to turn in his resignation to God.

I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!” – Numbers 11:14-15 NLT

But God wasn’t going to let Moses off the hook quite so easily. He had more for His servant to do. And God was aware that the Israelites were stubborn people who could be disobedient, disrespectful, and ungrateful. Even on a good day, they were difficult to manage. But when things didn’t go the way they expected or desired, they could be virtually ungovernable and intolerable to deal with.

So, God instructed Moses to choose 70 men from among the elders and leaders of Israel. These hand-picked individuals would serve as Moses’ assistants and provide him with much-needed help in managing the day-to-day affairs of the nation. To ensure their capacity for godly leadership, God promised to anoint them with His Spirit. And to prove to the people that these men had been appointed by God, they would receive the gift of prophecy.

“Prophesying here does not refer to prediction or even to proclamation but to giving (in song or speech) praise and similar expressions without prior training (see the comparable experience of Saul in 1 Sam. 10:9-11)” – Eugene H. Merrill, “Numbers.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 215-58.

Their ability to prophesy would testify to their status as God’s chosen messengers. These men were already recognized as leaders among their people, but now they would be seen as God’s messengers and Moses’ co-administrators.

“They will bear the burden of the people along with you, so you will not have to carry it alone.” – Numbers 11:17 NLT

Having dealt with Moses’ complaint about feeling overworked and overwhelmed, God turned His attention to the peoples’ criticism of the cuisine. They had expressed great displeasure with God’s culinary skills, citing their distaste and disgust for the manna He had provided. They were sick of it and demanded a change in diet. They wanted meat.

“Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” – Numbers 11:4-6 NLT

So, God informed the Israelites that He was going to give in to their demand.

“Purify yourselves, for tomorrow you will have meat to eat. You were whining, and the Lord heard you when you cried, ‘Oh, for some meat! We were better off in Egypt!’ Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will have to eat it. And it won’t be for just a day or two, or for five or ten or even twenty. You will eat it for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it. – Numbers 11:18-20 NLT

The old adage, “Be careful what you wish for” applies here. In demanding that God give them meat to eat, the people were rejecting the provision of God. They had turned up their noses at the manna He had graciously and miraculously provided. Driven by their physical appetites and controlled by their senses, they had dared to question God’s goodness and began to dictate that their own will take priority over His. They knew what was best.

And God promised to fulfill their wish – in abundance. For a solid month, they would consume nothing but meat. Their chosen diet would soon become repugnant to them. They would come to the point where they longed for the manna of God but would only find more meat on the menu. And this novel 30-day diet plan was God’s way of punishing them for their rejection of Him. This was not about food choices but about their unwillingness to submit to God’s will for them. At the heart of their demand for meat was their rejection of God’s entire redemptive plan for them.

“For you have rejected the Lord, who is here among you, and you have whined to him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” – Numbers 11:20 NLT

God was attempting to move them forward – toward Canaan – but they were constantly looking backward – toward Egypt. They refused to trust God’s plan for them. They disliked His chosen path for their lives and wanted to return to the “good old days” of Egypt. But their memories were clouded and their faith had been contaminated by a fear of the unknown and the unpleasant. Their journey to the promised land had not turned out to be a walk in the park. It had been a year since they left Egypt and there were still wandering in the wilderness with no clear end in sight. But the blessings of God required obedience. If they wanted to enjoy His presence, power, and provision, they would have to trust Him. They would have to submit to His will. But for the next 30 days, they would have to submit to His discipline in the form of a meat-only diet.

But when Moses heard what God planned to do, he immediately questioned the logic and logistics of it all. He couldn’t fathom how God intended to provide enough meat to feed that many people. Even if they slaughtered all their livestock and emptied the rivers and streams of every fish, they wouldn’t have enough meat to feed all the people for a month. So, Moses informed God that His plan was impossible. But God reminded His doubting deliverer that He was fully capable of carrying out His plan.

“Has my arm lost its power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!” – Numbers 11:23 NLT

God didn’t tell Moses how He was going to accomplish His miracle of the meat. All Moses needed to worry about was selecting the 70 men and bringing them to the tabernacle for their anointing by the Spirit. Which Moses did. And God fulfilled His promise, pouring out His Spirit upon the men whom Moses had chosen and empowering them to prophesy. For some reason, two of the men never made it to the tabernacle. Yet, even though they had remained in the camp, the Spirit of God descended upon them, and they too experienced the gift of prophecy. And when Joshua heard about these two men, he demanded that Moses put a stop to what he believed to be an unauthorized display of divine power. Yet, Moses refused to do so, instead expressing his desire that every single Israelite would receive the same anointing of God.

“Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them all!” – Numbers 11:29 NLT

For whatever reason, Eldad and Medad had stayed behind in the camp. Yet they had been chosen by Moses and were therefore anointed by God. Their proximity to the tabernacle was not essential to their calling. Their distance from the rest of the 70 men had no impact on their eventual anointing by God. Sixty-eight men ended up prophesying at the tabernacle while two prophesied in the camp. But all 70 displayed the Spirit’s power and God’s approval of their role as His servants. And Moses wished that all the people of Israel could experience that same degree of divine endorsement.

While the people would not receive the anointing of the Spirit, they would have a different kind of blessing poured out upon them. God was going to fulfill His promise of meat on a grand scale. And Moses and the rest of the Israelites would learn that God’s arm had not lost is power – to provide and to punish.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Forgetfulness and Faithlessness

1 And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.

10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” Numbers 11:1-15 ESV

The people of Israel were on the move. After nearly a year encamped near Mount Sinai, they had watched as the cloud of God’s presence departed the tabernacle, indicating His desire for them to break camp and continue their journey to the land of Canaan. They had followed His instructions and methodically made their way to the wilderness of Paran where the cloud had come to rest.

But it wasn’t long before the obedient children of God became disgruntled and obstinate. Their willingness to follow God’s leading came to a quick end as soon as they encountered any kind of discomfort or dissatisfaction. And this was not the first time they had expressed their displeasure with God. A year earlier, when they were leaving Egypt after their 400 years of captivity, they found themselves in an unexpected and highly uncomfortable predicament. After Pharaoh had finally agreed to release them, they followed Moses into the wilderness and found themselves on the shore of the Red Sea.

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle. – Exodus 13:17-18 NLT

God had led them to that very spot. It had been His will that they arrive on the banks of the sea just as Pharaoh and his army were bearing down on them. It seems that Pharaoh had experienced a change of heart and decided to force the Israelites back into slavery. So, when the people found themselves with their backs to the sea and the army of Egypt bearing down on them, they responded to Moses in anger.

“Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” – Exodus 14:11-12 NLT

Yet, despite their complaining, God miraculously delivered them. He had Moses part the waters of the Red Sea and they crossed over on dry ground, and the cloud of God’s presence kept the Egyptians at bay until the very last Israelite had made it to the eastern shore of the sea. Then, as Pharaoh’s army attempted to pursue them, “the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived” (Exodus 14:28 NLT).

Their miraculous crossing and the destruction of the Egyptians made an impact on the Israelites.

When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses. – Exodus 14:31 NLT

Now, more than a year later, it appears that their faith had run out. Once again, they find themselves struggling with discontentment concerning God’s will for them. They were not happy with their circumstances and so they began to complain to Moses once again.

Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. – Numbers 11:1 NLT

Their year-long hiatus at Mount Sinai had made them lazy and unprepared for the difficulties of traveling through the wilderness. So, the journey from Sinai to Paran left them disgruntled and dissatisfied with God’s plan for them. They were unhappy and more than willing to voice their displeasure. But again, this was not the first time the Israelites had become disenchanted with God’s will for them.

Three days after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, they found themselves in the desert of Shur, a barren place where water was scarce. When they finally discovered an oasis, its water was contaminated and undrinkable. This disappointing outcome led the people to direct their anger at Moses.

Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. – Exodus 15:24 NLT

But God directed Moses to a particular piece of wood that, when thrown in the spring, “made the water good to drink” (Exodus 15:25 NLT). Having temporarily satiated the thirst of His dissatisfied people, God then led them to another oasis “where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees” (Exodus 15:27 NLT). He provided for all their needs. And He even “set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him” (Exodus 15:25 NLT).

“If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” – Exodus 15:26 NLT

All God required of His people was that they remain faithful and obedient. In return, He promised to provide for and protect them. They would never go without. That doesn’t mean they would never experience difficulties along the way. But by trusting God, they would get to see His providential hand providing for their every need.

Yet, a year later, they exhibited the same stubborn tendency to grouse and complain at the slightest inconvenience, and God heard everything they said. As a result, “his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1 ESV). It’s unclear whether anyone actually died in this conflagration or whether it was only meant to get their attention. Whatever this “fire” was, it had its intended effect, producing fear in the hearts of the Israelites.

…the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire stopped. – Numbers 11:2 NLT

But while the fire died down, their complaining did not. It wasn’t long before another round of grievances made their way to the ears of God. It seems that the foreigners who had chosen to accompany the Israelites when they left Egypt had grown disenchanted with the manna that God had provided for them. One month after the Israelites departed Egypt, the people had expressed their displeasure to Moses and Aaron over the lack of food.

“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” – Exodus 16:3 NLT

But God heard their complaints and responded in grace and mercy. Rather than sending fire as a punishment for their ungratefulness, He determined to shower them with manna.

“I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” – Exodus 16:12 NLT

God fed them. He miraculously met their physical needs with spiritual food. No one knew exactly what manna was. But it provided them with the strength and stamina to continue their journey to the land of Canaan. And God would provide it every day for over 40 years.

So the people of Israel ate manna for forty years until they arrived at the land where they would settle. They ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. – Exodus 16:35 NLT

Yet, just a year after having left Egypt, the people were complaining about the monotonous menu of manna.

“Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” – Numbers 11:4-6 NLT

They returned God’s grace and mercy with ungratefulness and dissatisfaction. They didn’t like God’s culinary skills. They wanted a more varied and appetizing selection of menu options. In their faulty imaginations, they recalled enjoying a much more diverse and appealing range of food choices back in Egypt. They conveniently forgot the part about slavery and making bricks without straw. They left out the persecution and pain they had experienced during their 400 years of captivity. Driven by their physical appetites, they conjured up memories of their halcyon days in Egypt – which were nothing more than figments of their imaginations.

And, once again, their complaints reached the ears of Moses and God.

Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the Lord became extremely angry. – Numbers 11:10 NLT

But this time, it’s Moses who displays his anger with the people and expressed his frustration with God.

“Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!” – Numbers 11:11-15 NLT

Moses was not a happy camper. For more than a year he had been attempting to lead a people who were inflexible and incorrigible. Nothing seemed to make them happy, and he was at his wit’s end. He had had enough of their constant complaining and expressed his frustration to God. The burden of caring for these people had taken its toll and he boldly conveyed his frustration to God. In fact, Moses seems to blame God for the whole state of affairs. He shakes his fist in the face of God and, essentially, accuses Him of abandonment. According to Moses, God had placed all the burden of leading the nation of Israel on his back, and he was overwhelmed by it all. He was tapped out and ready to throw in the towel.

Moses was suffering the same condition as the people he claimed to be leading. He had taken his eyes off of God. He no longer recognized the sovereign hand of God over his life and had lost sight of God’s provision for all his needs. As a result, he had wrongly assumed responsibility for the well-being of God’s people. Moses had ceased to be a conduit of God’s blessing and had begun to believe he was expected to be the source of blessing. But when God had given the people the manna to eat, He had told them it would be a sign of His power and provision.

Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” – Exodus 16:12 NLT

Yet, Moses and the people had lost sight of that fact. The people had made a god out of food, and Moses had mistakenly placed himself in the place of God. But God was about to correct those mistakes.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Give Us That Bread!

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” – John 6:22-34 ESV

After having blown the minds of His disciples by walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm, Jesus returned with His astonished followers to Capernaum. What happened next is only recorded by John. Matthew and Mark both describe Jesus as traveling to a place called Gennesaret where He performed additional miracles. But only John provides the details concerning Jesus’ discourse on the bread of life. As has been stated before, John is less interested in providing an accurate moment-by-moment timeline than he is in linking together those key events in the life of Jesus that demonstrate His deity.

As we will see, John’s inclusion of this particular event provides a unifying link for all that John as described in the last five chapters. In chapter two, John recounted the story of Jesus turning ordinary water into extraordinary wine. He went on to describe Jesus cleansing the temple and referring to His own body as the temple that will be destroyed and raised up three days later. In chapter three, John provided a first-hand account of Jesus’ late-night conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. The theme was the need for belief in the one “who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13, but who would also “be lifted up be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15 ESV).

In that same chapter, John provided the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. He too described Jesus as “He who comes from heaven” and “is above all” (John 3:31 ESV). John the Baptist assured his disciples that Jesus was the one whom God and who “utters the words of God” (John 3:34 ESV).

In chapter four, John told the story of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob. In that story, Jesus offered to give His unlikely conversation partner the gift of “living water,” assuring her that “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14 ESV). He went on to describe this water as the source of eternal life.

“The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life…” – John 4:14 ESV

John went on to record the exchange between Jesus and His disciples when they returned to the well with food and were surprised to see their teacher talking to a Samaritan woman. When the offered Jesus food, He responded, “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (John 4:32 ESV). And Jesus went on to clarify what He had said. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34 ESV).

In chapter five, Jesus continued to assert that He was working in conjunction with and under the full authority of His Heavenly Father.

My Father is working until now, and I am working.” – John 5:17 ESV

Everything Jesus did was a demonstration of His divine mandate as the Son of God. But He wasn’t just a man sent by God, He was God in human flesh, and He shared the same power and authority over life and death as His Heavenly Father.

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” – John 5:21 ESV

And Jesus boldly proclaimed to the religious leaders, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24 ESV).

Of course, chapter six contains the story of Jesus feeding the multitude with nothing more than five loaves and two fish. And it had all begun with an innocent but revealing question from Philip: “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5 ESV). Like the other disciples, Philip saw a physical need that was beyond their capacity to meet. But Jesus saw an opportunity to demonstrate His power over the physical realm so that they might believe in His authority to offer spiritual sustenance to all those in need.

Which brings us to today’s passage. Jesus had returned to Capernaum, but before long, He found Himself surrounded by a crowd of people who have traveled all the way from Bethsaida just to find Him. These were the very same people who had benefited from His miracle the day before by having eaten their fill of the loaves and fishes He had multiplied in their sight. Now, they had come seeking to find the one who had met their needs so dramatically and completely.

But Jesus saw through their motives and accused them of having purely selfish and physical motives.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. – John 6:26 ESV

They saw Jesus as little more than an unlimited source of food. They had traveled all the way from Bethsaida to Capernaum in hopes of finding Jesus and receiving a second free meal. But Jesus revealed that they had expended a lot of effort in search of the wrong thing.

“Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” – John 6:27 ESV

They were driven by temporal desires that were purely physical in nature. They were hoping to get a free meal but failed to understand that Jesus had come to provide freedom from sin. When Jesus had offered the Samaritan woman a source of water that would allow her to never thirst again, she had responded, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:15 ESV). Like the crowd from Bethsaida, she had missed the point. Her mind was fixed on the physical world.

When Jesus told His eager audience, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life,” they misunderstood His meaning. He was speaking in spiritual terms, but their growling stomachs made it impossible for them focus. They wanted to know what they needed to do to get their hands on bread that never would never get stale or grow moldy.

“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” – John 6:28 ESV

All they wanted to know was what they needed to do to get their needs met. What was God going to require of them? What rules or regulations would they have to keep in order to get what they wanted from Him? And Jesus took advantage of their eager desire to do something by outlining the only “work” God required of them.

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” – John 6:29 ESV

And this is where John provides a less-than-flattering glimpse into their hearts. Jesus has told them that they must believe in Him. So, they demand that He provide Him with a sign worthy of their belief. And, just in case Jesus might not have something in mind, they give Him a suggestion.

“Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” – John 6:3-31 NLT

They had already seen Jesus perform a sign worthy of their belief. In fact, after Jesus had fed them the day before, they had exclaimed, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (John 6:14 ESV). But now, they were demanding more of the same. And they weren’t interested in a miracle to encourage their belief. They were looking for a miracle to fill their stomachs. Moses had provided the Israelites an endless supply of manna, so couldn’t Jesus do the same? 

These people had seen Jesus feed more than 10,000 people with nothing more than a few loaves of bread and a couple of fishes. So, it should be no problem for Him to conjure up a daily supply of endless bread to meet their physical needs. And, should He be willing to do so, that will guarantee their belief in Him.

But Jesus pointed out the flaw in their thinking. First of all, Moses had not been the one to provide the Israelites with manna. It had been God. And now, God was offering them a completely different kind of bread that would result in eternal life.

“I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. – John 6:32 NLT

The manna, while divinely provided, was temporary in nature. It was meant to meet the needs of that day. They were forbidden to hoard it or to store it. If they did, it would rot (Exodus 16:19-20). And each day, when their hunger returned, they were required to gather more to meet their need. But Jesus reveals that He came to offer them something far more satisfying than earthly bread to meet physical needs.

“The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” – John 6:33 NLT

These very same people had eaten their fill the day before. They had been fed by the hand of the Son of God, but the food they received was temporary in nature. It could only satisfy for the moment. When they woke the next morning, their hunger had returned. Their previously filled stomachs were once again empty. And they had gone in search of more. And when Jesus offered them true bread from heaven, they had quickly begged, “Sir…give us that bread every day” (John 6:34 NLT).

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Humbled, Hungry, and Helped

1 “The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” – Deuteronomy 8:1-10 ESV

We don’t always understand the ways of God and, according to God’s own self-assessment, we should not be surprised by that.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

The ways of God are beyond man’s capacity to comprehend. Which leave us with two basic choices: We can resist His will, writing it off as unrealistic and therefore, unnecessary to obey. Or, we can consider the source and place our trust in Jehovah Elohim – “The Lord your God” – the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator-God whose wisdom is beyond understanding and whose integrity is without question.

As Moses continued to prepare the people of Israel for their entrance into the land of Canaan, he kept reminding them of all that God had done for them. It was natural for them to be apprehensive about the future because it was filled with the prospect of battles against formidable enemies. And while God had assured them that He would go before them and provide them with victories over those enemies, it did not completely remove all fear and doubt from their minds. Most likely, their minds were filled with all kinds of questions and they found themselves playing the “What-If Game.”

“What if we go into battle and God changes His mind?”

“What if all the nations band together and overwhelm us?”

“What if fail to win the first battle and God turns His back on us?”

“What if our new leader proves to be a lousy one?”

Moses knew what was going through their minds, so he kept reminding the people about the trustworthiness of God. He encouraged them to look back and remember all that God had done for them. He had a proven track record of faithfulness.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years…” – Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT

But along with reminding the Israelites of what God had done for them, Moses pointed out the why and the how behind His actions. There had been a method to God’s seeming madness. And Moses doesn’t want them to overlook the wisdom inherent in God’s ways.

“…the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.” – Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT

Everything that had happened to them in the wilderness had been for a reason. There had been a divinely ordained purpose behind it all. God had been testing them. And this test had not been for God’s benefit. He already knew their hearts and did not need to see the results of their test to come to a conclusion about their spiritual condition. No, the testing had been for their sake.

And one of the primary methods God used to reveal their need was to humble them. The Hebrew word is `anah and it means to afflict or oppress. The humbling they experienced was the result of the affliction and oppression. God used circumstances to bring them to a point of need and dependence. He used life necessities like food, water, and clothing to bring them to a point of total reliance upon Him.

It is important to remember that God had been leading them every step of the way, ever since they had left Egypt. In fact, the book of Exodus reveals that, immediately after their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, “they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water” (Exodus 15:23 ESV). The text tells us that there was water, but that it was bitter and unfit for human consumption. So, “the people grumbled against Moses” (Exodus 15:24 ESV). They failed the test. Rather than recall the incredible power of God displayed in His parting of the Red Sea, they saw their circumstance as untenable and their God as incapable of doing anything about it. But, in spite of the lack of faith, God made the bitter water sweet. 

Two-and-a-half months later, God had led them to the wilderness of Sin. The memories of the miraculous plagues ordained by God and performed by Moses had begun to fade. The weariness of wandering through the wilderness had begun to take its toll. And seemingly, out of nowhere, the people launch into another fit of disgruntled disenchantment with their circumstances.

“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” – Exodus 16:3 NLT

Don’t miss the ingratitude that permeates their complaint. Their unhappiness with their current lot in life was causing them to look back with fond memories on their former lives as slaves in Egypt. Rather than expressing their thanks for God’s deliverance, they accused Him of genocide. Driven by their hunger for food, they charged God with trying to starve them to death in the wilderness. Once again, they had failed the test. And Moses made it clear that they had failed.

“In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaints, which are against him, not against us. What have we done that you should complain about us?” Then Moses added, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the Lord, not against us.” – Exodus 16:7-8 NLT

They had tried to hide their anger with God by directing their complaints against Moses, but their efforts had failed. And they had failed God’s test. He had known they would be hungry. He was the one who had led them to the wilderness of Sin. But He was allowing them to experience need in order to teach them that He was to be their source. There was no reason for them to complain. All they had to do was ask. Their God was all-sufficient and He proved it by providing them with quail and manna.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’” – Exodus 16:11-12 NLT

God humbled them by allowing them to experience hunger. But He also fed them. Their hunger was God-ordained and intended to point them to their Provider. Their lack was meant to point them to the all-sufficient source of all good things: God Almighty.

But in spite of God’s incredible patience and gracious provision, the day came when the people of Israel became dissatisfied with the manna.

“Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” – Numbers 11:5-6 NLT

Driven by their stomachs, the people of Israel unwittingly revealed the condition of their hearts. They failed the test. They were more concerned with the gift than the Giver. They were more consumed by the thought of food than they were by the holiness of the One who made the food possible. And that’s why Moses made every effort to remind the Israelites who stood on the edge of the land of promise that the difficulties of life were intended to test their reliance upon God. They were meant to teach them that their God was greater than whatever circumstances they might face.

“…he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 8:3 NLT

God had allowed them to experience hunger, but He had also fed them. He had caused them to walk countless miles that left the Israelites weary and worn and yet, their sandals and clothing showed no signs of wear. God provided. He could be trusted. Because He was faithful.

“For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.” – Deuteronomy 8:4-5 NLT

What an astounding statement that is and yet, how easy it is to overlook it and underappreciate its significance. God had their best interest in mind every step of the way. And now, as they prepared to enter the land of Canaan, Moses wanted them to understand that nothing had changed. Their God was the same. He was greater than their greatest difficulty. He was still leading and guiding them. And He would still be providing for them. But they were going to have to rely upon Him. Which is why Moses pleaded with them to “obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and fearing him” (Deuteronomy 8:6 NLT).

God had great things in store for them. The land was rich and bountiful, with more than enough resources to meet all their needs. But more important than the capacity of the land to provide for their physical necessities, was their need to keep their eyes focused on the God who would make it all possible.

“When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. – Deuteronomy 8:10 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

 

What We Really Need Is God.

Thus said the Lord to me: “Go and stand in the People’s Gate, by which the kings of Judah enter and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, and say: ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. Thus says the Lord: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers. Yet they did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction.

“‘But if you listen to me, declares the Lord, and bring in no burden by the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but keep the Sabbath day holy and do no work on it, then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings and princes who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their officials, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And this city shall be inhabited forever. And people shall come from the cities of Judah and the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the Lord. But if you do not listen to me, to keep the Sabbath day holy, and not to bear a burden and enter by the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched.’” – Jeremiah 17:19-27 ESV

When God created Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden, He gave him one prohibition. There were trees of all kinds from which he could eat and enjoy their fruit. But there was one tree he was to avoid at all costs.

But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden —  except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 NLT

And we know what happened. He and Eve, tempted by Satan, ate of the one tree that God had declared off limits, and the rest, as they say, is history. And here, in this little vignette recorded in the book of Jeremiah, we have yet another case of God issuing a command: Keep the Sabbath holy, and the people refusing to obey. One day. that’s all God had asked of them.

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.” – Exodus 20:8-11 NLT

They had six other days to work and play. All God asked was that they dedicate one day to Him. It was to be a holy day, set apart for remembering God and resting in His provision. Ceasing from labor on that one day was to be a sign of their commitment to Him and their dependence upon Him. He would meet all their needs.

Adam and Eve didn’t think all the trees in the garden would be enough, so they disobeyed God and ate of the one tree He had prohibited. They didn’t trust God. And when the people of Judah refused to obey God’s command to rest on the Sabbath, they too were exhibiting a lack of trust in God. We see this illustrated all the way back in the story of the Exodus. When God had delivered the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt and led them into the wilderness, the people began to complain about the lack of food.

Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.

“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” – Exodus 16:1-3 NLT

One month. That’s all the time it had been. And they were already complaining and whining. In spite of all God had done to deliver them from Egypt, they didn’t trust Him. So, God told Moses what He was going to do.

“Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.” – Exodus 16:4-5 NLT

God told them,“‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” (Exodus 16:12 NLT). The people were instructed to gather a specific amount per person in their tent; no more, not less. And when they did, all had enough. No one went without. And they were told:

“Do not keep any of it until morning.” But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. – Exodus 16:19-20 NLT

Day after day, God provided them with quail in the evening and manna in the mornings. But there was one stipulation: On the sixth day, they were to gather twice as much as usual. And when the people questioned Moses about this, he responded:

“This is what the Lord commanded: Tomorrow will be a day of complete rest, a holy Sabbath day set apart for the Lord. So bake or boil as much as you want today, and set aside what is left for tomorrow.” – Exodus 16:23 NLT

It’s important to note that God had not yet given them His commandments. There was no Sabbath day to keep at this point. And yet, God was telling them to observe a Sabbath day set apart to Him. On that one day, there would be no quail or manna. They would have to trust God. And Moses told the people:

“Eat this food today, for today is a Sabbath day dedicated to the Lord. There will be no food on the ground today. You may gather the food for six days, but the seventh day is the Sabbath. There will be no food on the ground that day.” – Exodus 16:26 NLT

But you can probably guess what happened next.

Some of the people went out anyway on the seventh day, but they found no food. – Exodus 16:27 NLT

They had gathered enough for two days. God had provided for all their needs. But they didn’t trust Him. So, they went out anyway, looking for more quail and manna. And God asked Moses a question to which He already knew the answer.

“How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions? They must realize that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to you.” – Exodus 16:28-29 NLT

The Sabbath was God’s gift to them. No work. No gathering. Just rest. And a day designed to remind them of God’s provision for them. He was to be their focus, not the quail and manna. They were to concentrate on the Giver, not the gift. They were to put their hope in the invisible God, not the visible food that fell out of heaven.

But back to Jeremiah. God told him to stand at the gate of Jerusalem and declare to every single person, rich and poor, young and old, king and peasant:

“Listen to my warning! Stop carrying on your trade at Jerusalem’s gates on the Sabbath day. Do not do your work on the Sabbath, but make it a holy day. I gave this command to your ancestors, but they did not listen or obey. They stubbornly refused to pay attention or accept my discipline.” – Jeremiah 17:21-23 NLT

One day was all God had asked of them. Set aside a single 24-hour period in which no work would be done. During that time they were to rest in God, trusting Him for all their needs. But like their ancestors, they refused to obey. They were doing business on the Sabbath, treating it just like any other day. They were buying and selling, trading and bartering. They were treating the Sabbath, God’s gift to them, with disrespect. They were putting their trust in material things instead of the God of the universe. And God reminds them what will happen as a result of their failure to obey Him.

“…if you do not listen to me and refuse to keep the Sabbath holy, and if on the Sabbath day you bring loads of merchandise through the gates of Jerusalem just as on other days, then I will set fire to these gates. The fire will spread to the palaces, and no one will be able to put out the roaring flames.” – Jeremiah 17:27 NLT

So, what’s the point of all this? Why did God have Jeremiah focus his attention and message around the fourth of the Ten Commandments? What was it about the Sabbath that God felt it was necessary to emphasize. Go back to the garden. God put one tree off limits: The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And yet, this became the one tree that Adam and Eve coveted more than all the others. Why? Because Satan told them that God was holding out on them. When God had told them that death would be the outcome of eating the fruit of that one true, Satan countered:

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” – Genesis3:4-5 NLT

They would be like God. Self-autonomy and self-rule. That was the real temptation. Rather than obeying God, they could run their own lives. Instead of having to trust God, they would have the knowledge to manage the affairs of life on their own. And what about the Sabbath? That one day was to be reserved for resting in God. It was to be a weekly reminder of their dependence upon Him. But self-preservation is a powerful force in the life of every human being. We want to be our own god. We want to run our own lives. God’s emphasis on the Sabbath and their refusal to observe it was an indictment of their failure to trust Him. Rather than seeing the Sabbath as a gift from God, they saw it as nothing more than a prohibition. Adam and Eve had thousands of trees to enjoy, but they couldn’t take their eyes off the one God had denied them. And yet, His denial of that one tree had actually been a gift to them. He would be their source of all knowledge. He would care for them and provide them with all the wisdom they would need for life. But somehow, we end up thinking that what God has prohibited is the one thing we have to have. When what we really need is Him.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Blessed To Bless.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” – 2 Corinthians 8:9-15 ESV

Paul makes it clear that his call for the Corinthians to give to the needs of the Judean Christians was not a command. “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (2 Corinthians 8:8 ESV). He knew that if he commanded that they give, their doing so would be out of a sense of legalism, not love. Their giving would be grudgingly, not willingly. It would be accompanied by regret, not rejoicing. It was Paul’s sincere desire that their giving be based on their understanding of and appreciation for all that Jesus Christ had done for them.

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT

Jesus sacrificed all that He had in order to pay for the sins of mankind. He gave His own life in order to redeem lost men and women, trapped in the debt they owed due to sin, and condemned to eternal separation from God. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul elaborates on the remarkable grace of Jesus and how it should motivate the believer’s life.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
     he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
     that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
     and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:3-11 NLT

The same attitude that Christ had. That is what Paul is calling the Corinthians to have. Humble. Selfless. Sacrificial. Obedient. Loving. And willing to finish what He started, to complete what He had been called to do – out of obedience to His heavenly Father and love for those He came to save.

Paul calls on the Corinthians to follow Christ’s lead and to finish what they began. A year earlier they had begun the process of giving toward the needs of the saints in Judea, but had evidently failed to finish the job. So Paul gives them a little friendly advice or counsel.

Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you have. – 2 Corinthians 8:10-11 NLT

Paul was not asking them to “give until it hurts” or to give what they did not have. This was not about the redistribution of wealth or some form of socialistic economic equality. It was simply the love of Christ lived out in everyday life, as the body of Christ ministered to itself, one group sharing what it had with those who had nothing. The blessed being a blessing. As Paul had told the Philippian believers, the mutual care and concern of Christians for one another was to be nothing more than an extension of their relationship with Christ.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. – Philippians 2:1-2 NLT

While reciprocity or payback should not motivate our giving, Paul points out that the day may come when the tables are turned. We may find ourselves on the receiving end of someone else’s generous and loving aid. When there are needs to be met, we are to give out of what we have – no more, no less. We are to give selflessly, even sacrificially, because we share a common bond in Christ. And in giving, we should be encouraged to know that, should we ever find ourselves in need, our brothers and sisters in Christ will be there for us as well. We are a family. We share the love of God. We have a common bond in Christ.

The principle at play here is the sovereign blessing of God on His people. Paul uses the Old Testament story of the Exodus as an illustration. When the people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness, God had met their needs, including providing them with food to eat. In the evening, God provided them with quail. In the mornings, they found manna. And each day, the people would go out and gather the manna, provided to them by God. They were commanded by Moses:

Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. – Exodus 16:16-18 ESV

God had provided and no one had need. And there was no need for anyone to hoard. In fact, if they attempted to keep more than they needed for their own personal needs, it rotted. God did not want them depending on the manna for their needs. He wanted them to trust in Him. He gave them what they needed and no one had any need. No one went hungry. That same principle applied to the people of Corinth. God was meeting their needs. They had all they required to exist. There was no need to hoard or selfishly withhold the blessings of God for a rainy day. Whatever the Corinthians enjoyed by way of abundance had been made possible by God. And their excess was not intended for their own security, but for the needs of others. Just as our spiritual gifts are intended for the body and not for our own benefit, so our financial blessings are intended for the good of all. God blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others.

 

Me-Centered Praying.

Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, “Give us meat to eat!” I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery! – Numbers 11:11-15 NLT

To be honest, things had not been going very well for Moses. Just recently, the people had been complaining about how difficult things were for them. As a result, God had sent a raging fire to consume them. This had gotten their attention and had led them to cry out to Moses. His pray on their behalf had stayed the hand of God. Then, not long after this incident, the people began to complain about the manna that God had provided for them to eat. They were sick of it and began to reminisce about how well things had been back in Egypt. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” (Numbers 11:5-6 NLT). Of course, Moses took the brunt of their complaints because he was their leader. But this complaining was heard by God and He became angry yet again. And this time, Moses shared his anger. He took it personally. Just look at all the personal pronouns he uses in his prayer: Me, myself, I – over and over again. The entire prayer is about himself. He was fed up and worn out. It had been over two years since they had left Egypt and, from Moses’ perspective, it had been filled with days just like this one. He told God he would rather die than put up with another day of this nonsense.

I appreciate Moses’ honesty. This is a man who knew from first-hand experience just how angry God could become when faced with disobedience. Yet he felt somehow safe sharing his anger and frustration with God. From the day God had called him at the burning bush, Moses had grown accustomed to dialoguing with God. He had spent days on the mountain getting the law directly from the mouth of God. He had had countless conversations with God over the years. But at this particular moment, Moses let his frustration be known. He was tired, physically and emotionally. Leading a group of well over 1 million people through the wilderness was anything but easy. That they were doing it reluctantly and unwillingly much of the time made it even more difficult. But the danger of praying during these moments of extreme fatigue is that we can lose sight of the bigger picture. We can suddenly find ourselves making the plan of God all about us. Not once in his prayer does Moses pray for the people of God. He does not intercede on their behalf, even though he knew full well what God would do when He heard their complaints. No, rather than intercede, Moses turns inward. He becomes focused on self. And he begins to question God’s integrity and intentions. He asks, “Why are you treating me so harshly?” He wants to know what he did to deserve this burden? He sarcastically comments, “Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world?” He lets God know that this task is too much for him. He can’t do it. In fact, he tells God that if this is the way He is going to treat him, God might as well just go ahead and kill him now.

This prayer is driven by disappointment and discouragement, but borders dangerously on disrespect. Moses is walking a fine line between being real and rebellious with God. It is one thing to share your fear and frustration with God. It is another to question His motives or doubt His integrity. But it’s interesting to note that God did not reprimand Moses. He didn’t punish him for his insolent behavior. Instead, God gave Moses some instructions. “Gather before me seventy men who are recognized as elders and leaders of Israel. Bring them to the Tabernacle to stand there with you. I will come down and talk to you there. I will take some of the Spirit that is upon you, and I will put the Spirit upon them also. They will bear the burden of the people along with you, so you will not have to carry it alone” (Numbers 11:16-17 NLT). It seems that God saw Moses’ heart and knew that his diatribe had been motivated by exhaustion and extreme fatigue. What Moses needed was help, not punishment. But God’s solution was not based on Moses’ needs alone. His concern was for the well-being of the entire tribe of Israel. He was providing a means by which the people could be led without the leadership being worn out in the process. God was going to take care of Moses, but not at the sacrifice of the well being of the people. God had a greater agenda. He had a bigger plan in mind. So it is important that we recognize that me-centered prayers are not necessarily wrong, but we must remember that God’s answer will be much more global in nature. His Kingdom does not revolve around us. His plans include far more than our personal happiness or comfort. Usually, when the words me or I show up in our prayers, it is a sign that God has taken a back seat in our lives. We have made life all about ourselves rather than about Him. But mercifully and lovingly, God will bring our thoughts back into perspective.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

No Place For Cockiness.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to e more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NLT

There was a group of believers at Corinth who viewed themselves as having a superior knowledge. They had become a bit prideful and cocky over the subject of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. This was a common practice among the pagans in Corinth, but some of those who had converted to Christianity were continuing the practice even as believers. Their justification was that they knew that the idols to whom this meat had been sacrificed were not really gods at all – because there were no other gods besides Yahweh. They also seemed to believe that they were protected from any harm because they had a special relationship with God. From this section of Paul’s letter, it would appear that they also believed that believed their participation in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper provided some kind of supernatural immunity to them. So Paul gave them a brief history lesson, using the people of Israel as an illustration of what can happen when you let your guard down and assume you are immune from or impervious to temptation or sin. Paul recounted the story of the Israelite’s days wandering in the wilderness after God had freed them from captivity in Egypt. He wrote about the pillars or fire and smoke that guided the Israelites night and day. He wrote about their miraculous crossing of the sea on dry ground. He recounted God’s provision of manna and the water from the rock. He spoke of God’s appointment of Moses as their leader and the requirement of the Israelites to follow him faithfully. In all of this, Paul was trying to compare the situation of the Corinthian Christians with that of the Israelites. Both had been freed by God. They had been provided leadership by God. Since baptism is an outward express of faith, the act of the Israelites walking through the sea, following the cloud and accepting Moses’ leadership, were in essence a waterless form of baptism – an expression of their faith. The manna they ate and the water they drank from the rock were symbols of God’s supernatural provision – much like the Lord’s Supper. The bread and water were provided by God. The rock from which the water flowed was representative of Christ Himself. Just as the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper represent the body and blood of Christ and His provision for our spiritual needs, the manna and water represented the supernatural provision by God of the Israelite’s physical needs.

And yet, in spite of their status as God’s chosen people and God’s miraculous provision of food and water, the people ended up in idolatry. That was Paul’s whole point with this little history lesson. He was warning the believers in Corinth not to get cocky and too sure of themselves just because of their unique relationship with God made available through Christ. Paul reminded them that “these things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did” (1 Corinthians 10:6-7 NLT). The Israelites were guilty of idolatry, immorality, unbelief, grumbling, complaining, and unfaithfulness. All in spite of the fact that they were the chosen people of God. They had been delivered by God. They had been led by God. They had been fed by God. But in the end. God was not pleased with some of them. They had rebelled against Him and they never made it to the Promised Land, having died in the wilderness instead. Again, Paul warned the Corinthians that “these things happened to them as examples for us” (1 Corinthians 10:11 NLT). Then Paul writes those memorable words: “If you think are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT). Like the Israelites, believers will face temptations along the way. Despite their position as God’s chosen people, they will find themselves facing all kinds of opportunities to rebel against God and practice both idolatry and immorality – either literally or spiritually. And when we become cocky and sure of ourselves, that is when we are the most vulnerable. Remember the Israelites. They had miracles, manna, clouds of fire and smoke, water from a rock, sandals that never wore out, and countless other signs of God’s presence and power – and yet, they sinned. They turned away from God. It could happen to anyone. But God is faithful, even when we are not. He will not allow the temptations in our lives to be more than we can handle. He always provides a way of escape – an exit strategy. But we have to be aware of our vulnerability and susceptibility at all times. It is when we think we are “strong” that we are in the greatest danger. Self-confidence can be a dangerous thing for a believer. We must place our confidence in God, not ourselves. The Corinthian believers were running the risk of placing too much confidence in their position as God’s chosen people. Like the Israelites of old, they were setting themselves up for a dangerous fall. No one is immune to idolatry or spiritual unfaithfulness. They are a constant threat to all believers – at all times. But we must always turn to God for help. We must recognize our own weakness and His sufficiency. He will show us a way out so that we can endure. Because He is faithful.

Father, never let me become cocky or complacent. Keep me fully aware at all times of my propensity and capacity to become unfaithful. I don’t want to become so self-assured that I let my guard down and end up failing and falling. I don’t want to take my position as Your child for granted or allow my eternal security to let me live carelessly in this lifetime. Failure and unfaithfulness is always a real possibility. But You are faithful. You provide a way of escape at all times. Thank You for that assurance. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org