Hi new friends!
This is my first post here at STC, and I’m so happy to be here!
I want to discuss Numbers 11 with you. It stood out to me in my Bible reading. In my Bible, this chapter is titled, “The People Complain.” I will go along and outline what happened, but I encourage you to go to your own Bible and read that chapter for yourself.
This event takes place as Moses is leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. But even then after they are freed, with their basic needs being met by God, they begin complaining…again. As if complaining itself isn’t bad enough, they dare to whine and cry that they wish they were back in Egypt…as slaves!
What’s at the root of all this? Their stomachs. Or their taste buds. My Bible says it was intense craving. God was miraculously providing manna for them to eat every day, again in response to their crying because they were hungry. Now it seems that isn’t enough for them. They long for the meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic that they got to eat in Egypt. The people were weeping and said, “…there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (v.6)
The Lord’s anger rose a couple times, and even poor Moses was getting fed up. As Moses was talking to the Lord, he said, “Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’” (v.13) Moses was burdened by them, so much so, that he even told God that He could kill him here and now!
So the Lord had Moses get 70 elders who would all help carry the burden of the complainers. God told Moses what He was going to do. God said He heard the whining, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it as well with us in Egypt.” (v.18) So here’s what was going to happen, “Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?’” (vs.18-20) I picture God being like, “You want meat, do you? Well, okay, then. I’ll give you MEAT!”
Now over to verse 31, this last section of the chapter is titled, “The Lord Sends Quail.” God sent a wind that brought quail up and around the camp. The Israelites stayed up all that day, that night, and the next day gathering quail for themselves. Then verses 33-34, “But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.” My Bible says that Kibroth Hattaavah literally means “Graves of Craving.”
This whole account is so wild and vivid in my imagination.
Most of the Old Testament deals with the Law, which for the most part deals with outward actions. But as the “Beattitudes” and Jesus’ ministry in the New Testament show us, as does this event in Numbers, God is even more concerned with what is in a person’s heart. They must have felt justified in their whining, or they were just running on emotion only thinking of themselves. I tend to think they might have been shocked or surprised when they got what they wanted and then, BAM, here comes a plague and death. I wonder if they connected their attitudes to the consequences that occurred.
Theirs was a heart attitude of disobedience and sin. Let’s see what specifics we can identify: gluttony, idolatry, self-centeredness, ungrateful, disrespectful, discounting God’s power and provision, and perhaps double-mindedness. Out of these hearts flowed complaint, whining, and crying.
Can you imagine how different things would have turned out if this craving and ugliness wasn’t in their hearts? They might have been able to stay alive and go into the Promised Land.
What if God’s grace was able to work in them?
Things were different in OT times, before Jesus died to atone for our sins and sent the Holy Spirit to live in believers. We have God’s grace today. Grace does not mean that we can sin without regard to God and His commands, living as we wish, and it’s okay. Grace means that God is working in a believer’s heart to transform and renew their hearts and minds.
If the Israelites would have had God’s grace, they might not have complained, even if they felt cravings in their hearts. Or they might not have forgotten what God had done and was already doing for them. Or they might not have set their own desires above God. Or they might have given thanks for the manna they did have.
Everyone has sin and urges that are wrong. God’s grace is working as we confess and repent of those things in our own hearts. He forgives us and clears our record. But then He will work to dwindle and remove those things. He changes our hearts and desires. At some point, there won’t even be any conscious decision on our parts; rather God’s grace will have tailored our hearts to the the right attitudes. I have experienced this many times as a follower of Jesus.
What an appropriate name for that place: “Graves of Craving.” May we all experience God’s transforming grace in our hearts as we put our selfish sins to death and live for God’s glory.