Week 38: Numbers 11
Read Numbers 11:1-2
Complaining displeases the Lord. I have a costly Bible program and connected digital library that has many tools for power Bible study, including exhaustive word studies. It will show me several different uses of the word I would inquire about: The Greek in the New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament. It will dig into the derivatives and origins of the word, the different applications, and synonyms for the word in question. It will show a pie chart of that particular word with how the word is used throughout scripture differently with different meanings and nuances. Many times that pie circle is cut into many slices and slivers. When I looked up “complain”, there was one giant pie with one meaning, one application and one usage.
My thousand-dollar Bible application yielded two-cents of pure wisdom: Complain means “to complain”.
You can’t argue your way out of it. You can’t smoke and mirror it. You can’t justify it, ennoble it, side-step it or ignore it. Complaining is complaining and it displeases the Lord.
Verses one and two don’t tell us what the people were complaining about. It just says they complained and the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. He caused fire to burn among them and it consumed some on the outskirts of the camp.
Isn’t it true, that within a community, whether it is a work community, a family community, an organization community or most tragically, a church community, complainers are found on the edge of the group and seldom, if ever, within the main body? People on the outskirts don’t carry the responsibility of those in the core, nor will they join with them when given the call or opportunity. It is easier to complain from without than to do the hard work of building from within. Or as my mentor once said, “Any jackass-mule can kick a barn down, but it takes a wise man to build one.”
The bottom line is: complainers don’t fair well with men or with God. There is always “a fire to put out” with complainers. In the end, they are kindling for God’s righteous anger.
See Christ in the text: While it is true that complaint is found in bad situations, it is also true that faith is found in there too. Rather than complain, many chose a better use of their tongue: prayer. Jesus met with many who were in the worst of states: The crippled, the mute, the blind, and the palsied. Many found wonderful reversal when they prayed and looked to Him.
One man in a bad spot had no such faith: Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well.” His answer was more complaint and excuse than faith, “I have no one to help me into the water when it is stirred; while I am coming, another steps down before me.” John 5:1-8
People who don’t want to get well always have a complaint. These would rather cling to complaint than experience the benefit of a victory.
Consider the mercy of Christ to the man. Christ healed him anyway.
Let some of us who tend to complain find new mercy here. Instead of letting the things that aggravate us drive us up a wall, let them drive us to Christ who can help us.
Read Numbers 11:1-6
While we are not told the complaint of the Israelites in the first two verses, we are shown the nature of their next complaint. They miss the food from Egypt and they are tired of God’s food: Manna.
Something is at the core of their complaint, craving. Craving is an intense need to feed the flesh. Addiction is a new word in our generation for an old truth in the Bible: Slavery. Sin and lust always lead to it. A life that is led by the flesh is at odds with the life that is led by the spirit. Such a life always leads to slavery and ultimately death!
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:12–13, NKJV)
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV)
The Bible teaches us that this craving is like a beast instinct that seeks to feed sexual desire, pleasure, greed and every form of enticement.
“But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.” (2 Peter 2:12–14, NKJV)
It does not represent the man who was made in the noble image of God, rather it is the picture of man who has sunk to a beast level driven by gut and instinct who sabotages himself through his addictions.
Think of Esau trading his birthright in Christ for a bowl of stew.
Think of Judas trading Christ for quick pocket full of money.
And weren’t these men complainers? Esau complained of his hunger. He complained of his brother instead of his own stupidity. Judas complained about wasted perfume that could have been sold for the poor. Yet this complainer was only concerned about how much money was in the bag so he could help himself to it.
If complaining, rather than contentment in Christ is on your lips, know this: “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
The fact is: ten out of ten complaints from a complainer have no merit or basis. The complaints are only the natural outflow from a bitter heart.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, NKJV)
Read Numbers 11:7-9
A partial description is given to the manna. Exodus 16:31 told us it had a taste of honey. Moreover it was God’s miraculous provision for a people traveling through the wilderness of a barren world. Deuteronomy 8:3, Exodus 16:15 It is what God had for them, and nothing else at this time of testing.
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3, NKJV)
Our text today tells us that it is quite useful and quite versatile. Many preparations were made from it. It was sometimes ground, beaten, cooked in pans, baked, etc. Just like corn or wheat that can have many products of preparation, manna equally had multipurpose value.
See Christ Here: Christ is the Word in and for every situation.
The Word is most versatile. In thirty plus years of serving the Lord, I have never, never been left wondering what to do in any situation. The Word of the Lord fits for every thing. I never been at a fail to see its application. I have always found a command and promise to go with it in every scene.
Each day, except for the Sabbath, God’s people went out and collected what they found with the Manna. We need to eat what we find.
God has no plan B.
There are no second options for a good result to a bitter situation. Have you received good counsel from the Word? Don’t go looking for some other answer or strategy. Don't seek other advice that will confirm what you feel like doing. Eat what you find:
- Pray for your enemies.
- Stay meek when attacked.
- Don’t get into an unequal relationship with an unbeliever.
- Don’t make a compulsive life choice when you need to wait upon the Lord.
- Don’t compromise what is right for short solution.
Take this food down to your heart and you will have a sweet ending. We need to sing with the hymn: “Christ is enough for me.”
Manna is formed from the dew and tastes like pastry made with oil. While we see Christ on every page. We also find the Holy Spirit on every page too. Here is a picture of the the Holy Spirit's anointing in Psalms:
“It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing— Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133:2–3, NKJV)
The Word of Christ is (should be) accompanied by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Let the preachers and teachers take notice here. We need the anointing of the Holy Spirit upon the Word we share with others.
The dew moistens hearts. It cools passions and it waters the word.
These who yielded to intense cravings show us the temporary believer. They are happy as long as God answers their call and fulfills their whims. The fact that they hate manna is proof that they hate Christ. In John chapter six, we see Christ describing himself as the manna that came down out of heaven to give life.
“Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”” (John 6:31–33, NKJV)
“And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35, NKJV)
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38, NKJV)
Multitudes had magnetized to Him because they had seen the signs he was doing with the sick. That is pretty exciting stuff. When they had stayed with him for a long period of time, Christ fed five thousand stomachs with the miracle of the bread and fish. They loved Him all the more. But when he fed their souls instead of their flesh, he offended them.
“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”” (John 6:56–58)
“From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more." John 6:66
What is the deal with the defecting disciple?
He really was never a disciple at all. He was a false disciple and a temporary believer. He pretended to it for a time, but he had never really died to self, when challenged to choose Christ for his all. His unmortified flesh turned him back, like a pig washed, back to the mire. Jesus said, two chapters later,
“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.” (John 8:31, NLT) To use the word truly means there is one who may be falsely a disciple.
When the multitudes left and the mega-ministry became a mini-ministry in one day, Jesus turns to his twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”
But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:66–68)
And there is a the most beautiful answer in scripture. “To whom else shall we go?” This is the true disciple that says, “Jesus is enough for me.” He says, "No matter what happens to me or around me, you are all I have and all I need.” This deep and true Christian is echoed through scripture:
- Like the psalmist, “Though my mother and father forsake me, you will not forsake me.”
- Like Job: “If you should slay me, I will trust you.”
- Like Joshua: “I don't know what you guys are going to do, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
This is a beautiful moment for the disciples right here. “To whom else shall we go? No, we are here to stay with you!"
These others who are in the wilderness think only of their flesh and their cravings. Despising the manna, they despise Christ and soon leave Him.
Read Numbers 11:16-35
Read Numbers 11:16-35
“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-5
These complainers were crying for Egypt’s food and their old way of life. Blinded by sin, they glorified the life of slavery that they left behind. Sin had crippled their memories. If your life in God seems flavorless and bland and sin is savory and bold, know this: your soul is in danger.
Here we see a particular judgment of God upon those who crave sin instead of desiring Christ. He gives them what they want. Not only does he give them what they want, but He gives them an overdose of it!
“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?” ’ ”” (Numbers 11:19–20, NKJV)
Never say, "I want! I want! I want!" when God says "No. No. No."
He might relent and say "Yes" and you will be the loser for it.
One the most fearful scriptures you will find in the Bible is found in Romans chapter one:
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts...” (Romans 1:24, NKJV)
We shudder to think that God hands men over to their cravings in irreversible judgment. This is the way of the world. The Holy Spirit refers back to this moment of craving among the people of Israel:
“Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.” (1 Corinthians 10:6, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit says that such as these were among the "bodies of those who were scattered in the wilderness." Sad.
See Christ here: But let us see something else that God does in mercy: He gives an overdose of the thing craved and cures the man of his folly. Such a man, under discipline, becomes sick of it and learns to hate it.
“But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.” (Psalm 106:14–15)
How many of us, lean in soul, grew desperate for the healing and the fatness that only Christ can bring to a soul? What mercy. It was sin-overdose that brought the sinful woman to feet of Jesus in brokenness. It was sin-overdose that brought Zacheus out of the tree and to saving repentance. Such were some of us. Christ was the sweet remedy.