Life of Moses
The Painful Provision
Introduction… Have you ever felt the presence of God? Have you ever had a God-moment in which God answered a prayer, or a sudden inspiration has come to you when only a moment or second before, you had never had that thought? How do you know it was God? How did things work out for you? Do you understand the importance of the Spirit’s role to not only the church in general, but to individual believers—how the Spirit, unlike the Son, is with and available to every person on the planet who puts their confidence, hope and trust in God the Son’s atonement for the forgiveness of all their sins, and thus allowing them to be reconciled with the holy, perfect, just and righteous Creator of the Universe?
In addition, it’s not always easy being a good Spiritual leader. Moses is finding this out the hard way. At times, especially early on, Moses was probably a bit too optimistic about people’s support. Now Moses is discovering that people…humans… can be very fickle, have short memories, say cruel things, as well as, cave into mob rule around them.
Observe how both God and Moses handle a not all too unexpected and growing complaint among the restless, fledgling Israelite nation.
Note: Two studies ago, we made a major transition. We skipped the later portion of Exodus, the book of Leviticus and the beginning of Numbers.
Exodus (a way out) and Leviticus (relating the priests and Levites responsibilities) contain major portions concerning the building and establishment of Yahweh’s bridal suite (initially a tent or tabernacle and later a temple), that Yahweh intends to Spiritually meet with and dwell with his nation-bride, Israel, as well as, the prescribed ritual, laws, rules, sacrifices and offerings in how his bride was to approach her Spiritual Groom.
The book of Numbers gets it title from a census which begins the book. Ultimately, Numbers takes us from Sinai to the Promise Land. But there are some dramatic plot twists that lie ahead.
It has been almost one year (see Ex 19:1; Numbers 10:11) since the nation first arrived at Sinai, and almost 15 months since they first exited Egypt via the Passover plague (Ex 12:1). Now with their law in hand and one major blunder under their belt—the building and worshiping of a golden calf while Moses was up in the mountains receiving God’s law–they have begun the second leg of their journey to their ancestor’s Promised Land.
Read Passage several times…
18 “Tell the people: `Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.
What does “consecrate” mean? How does one do it? Why does God want them to “consecrate” themselves just to eat meat?
19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days,
20 but for a whole month –until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it –because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” ‘”
Doesn’t sound like God is very happy. This will be a lesson in complaining, perspective and ingratitude. Not appreciative of what you have? I will give you too much of what you want! Then let’s see your perspective about the miraculous manna that you are being provided.
21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, `I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’
22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”
In other words, how in the world, are you going to do this, LORD? Manna made from the heaven’s dew is one thing, but meat?!
23 The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”
24 So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent.
Why this action with these newly designated leaders?
25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.
Why only one time? To validate them? What did it sound like? Was it about the future? Or did they just speak in just an inspired manner?
26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.
Rebellion? A lack of respect or were they sick perhaps? Why did the Lord do this? Why did he have mercy in this situation? Because it had been decreed in heaven, and a divine decree is a decree, regardless?
27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”
Visions of the prophet Joel’s prophesy that was at least partially fulfilled in Acts 2 by the apostles when the Spirit was poured out upon the church’s birth? And perhaps visions of a future time when the Messiah reigns in the kingdom of God? God’s people by God’s Spirit and power speaking God’s truth…heaven on earth? Peace, safety and contentment?
30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
Because the tent was outside the camp?
31 Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction.
That’s a lot of quail.
32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp.
33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.
34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.
There was grace, but there was also discipline and pain? I will answer your contemptuous grumblings, while at the same time, reminding you that there is indeed a painful costs to holding Yahweh and his grace in such dishonoring contempt.
35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.
• Two studies ago…Lead explicitly by the fiery cloud (the presence of the LORD), the children of Israel leave Sinai, the place where they tied their national marriage knot to their spiritual groom, Yahweh God, experienced their greatest moral failure in constructing another god, the golden calf, were severely disciplined and finally received their law/contract which they will live by in the land they are traveling to (Num 9-10).
Previous study…The people begin to complain; first about their hardships, the about their food. The Lord hears both complaints. The first time he sends fire from the sky around the outskirts of camp. The second time he instructs Moses to gather 70 of the leaders from the nation to come before him so that the can place his Spirit upon them as he has done with Moses in order to help him with the burden of leading his people (Num. 11).
Bottom line…The nation begins to complain; Moses complains at their complaining…and God becomes angry.
• The LORD tells the people to prepare themselves for the next day when they will receive enough quail meat to last a month until they are sick of it.
• Moses asks the LORD how?
• 70 of the 72 elders chosen to help Moses, lead the people out to the Tent where the Spirit of the God descends upon them and they prophesy. Two did not go out to the tent, but are still filled by God’s Spirit and still prophesy.
• After Moses and the elders return to the camp, a strong wind brings in a mammoth amount of quail, three feet high and twenty miles in any direction.
• The people gather for the next two days and spread them out around the camp.
• But as they were eating, the LORD struck the nation with a plague.
Summary…God disciplines the nation for having complained against his provision and wishing they were back in Egypt by not only giving them more than what they want in quail, but by chastising their contempt with a plague as well.
Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)
• God can do anything. His arm is not too short to do the impossible.
• Seemingly, despite having seen God’s miraculous provision time and time again, even Moses questions how God will accomplish this providential act. The luxury of meat? Enough for three million for a month? How?
• Moses was not jealous; he wishes that all would have the Spirit and prophesy. God’s Spirit turns out to be God in the New Testament, and this pouring out of his Spirit to this leadership no doubt foreshadows the early church’s birth via the pouring out of God’s Spirit upon Christ’s apostles in early Acts. With God’s Spirit, all things are possible; without God’s Spirit, we have nothing, we are nothing, but sinful, self-centered, depraved flesh. With God’s Spirit, in a sense, much angels do heaven’s bidding, we, as flawed human flesh, also see, do and move as God’s heavenly messengers see, do, speak and inspire. The Spirit is everything.
• God is absolutely justified in his divine indignation when his self-centered and thoughtless children fail to fully or even partially comprehend and marvel at his unique, miraculous and divine provision. While God provides, he still disciplines…kind of like our children or those that work for us…mercy and discipline.
• Often times, one way to disarm criticism is to allow people to have their way. In time, they will find out the truth. Truth is a powerful teacher. Truth makes one appreciate what they have to begin with.
Application…I I still deal with IBS from time to time, including this week. And yet, it does not seem as severe or as long lasting as it could be. No doubt, a part of that is because I know which foods to avoid more, and I can take some medication. Still, I make mistakes in my food choices, as I did this week, or perhaps even life’s perceived pressures build up.
Thanksgiving…No doubt, God mercifully saved me from my own foolish, but well-intended naiveté. I was willing to serve as a chairman of an unsecured bankruptcy creditors’ committee in Oklahoma in a chapter 11 bankruptcy of a Christian retirement community. $24 million dollars of unsecured creditors’ monies are not there. Thank God, someone else competent enough wanted the position and had moved from Ohio to Oklahoma to deal with the matter. His was a slam dunk nomination, and instead, I accepted the vice-chairman responsibility. That was a 16 hour Monday, including 8 hours of driving, which I suppose took a lot out of me. I still seem to be low on fuel. But I did have some good meetings and counseling appointments. I got plenty enough done, it was just my fuel seemed really low. And Sunday, along with this unintended, but this divinely-inspired series on handling anxiety, concern, fear and worry… one day, and only one day, at a time via the biblical tools of converting unmet rights and expectations into privileges, reminding oneself that I am secure and significant in Christ and that I need not worry, but I have only to offer my requests to God with thanksgiving, something that very much dovetails with the Spiritual truth and lesson of this story, has turned out to be a Godsend and is very much resonating within our church family. I had not realized how much people are worrying or feeling anxious.
Struggle…I was exposed in my own way this week with respect to the prospects of worry or anxiety. In a very short period, our microwave went out AGAIN, after only three years; our van is acting up AGAIN and traumatized both my wife and daughter; my mother-in-law fell AGAIN and my truck wouldn’t start.
The van is a problem because I had procrastinated in selling it and getting a 4WD back in the Fall. I fear all the work of buying and perhaps making a mistake on such an expensive choice. I am irritated about the microwave not working after only three years, as well as, trying to figure out how water got into the fan to begin with, before I get another one. My mother-in-law, while getting banged up and bruised, turned out to be okay. No broken bones. And after opening up the hood and touching the battery cable, the truck started so that I wasn’t late for my lunch date.
What I did discover is that like many, I dislike uncertainty and not knowing exactly the right course to proceed upon. Like most others, I want to be on the other end of the problem…the solution end, without having to go through the process of addressing those problems.
Truth…1) God can do anything, and I mean anything…create nothing out of something—thus the need for prayer. We are to ask…ask wisely, humbly, mercifully, thankfully, but ask and ask according to how we feel or understand the Spirit…the same Spirit that God poured out here as well as at Pentecost upon the apostles…is leading or inspiring us; 2) people and groups of people can be easily lead a different, and often times, discontented direction, by a few complaining discontents. 3) This complaining or discontentment can easily lose perspective because it appeals to our lack of paradise…our lack of heaven…or heaven now. 4) But, just ask Cain, discontentment can have its tremendous consequences.
Application…Can I be thankful for each of these assaults against contentment or joy? Can I face them with God’s grace. When the truck would not start, because the van would not start, I am up the creek without a paddle. I was not going to make my lunch date. So I just did one more thing…I prayed and popped the hood, and after that one more thing, try jiggling the battery cable, which it did NOT jiggle, and see what happens. Well something did happen. I was that desperate, but the truck started. Who knows how and why? I have no idea. After lunch I went to check on mom and fixed her up a couple of icepacks for her face and elbow, and by the time Rhonda and Amanda got there a couple hours later, she was in her living room, sitting up and doing much better. Haven’t made a decision on the microwave, and the van would not do for the mechanics what it was doing for us. So 2 out of 4 is not bad. But the two remaining will have some tricky and perhaps time-consuming nuances that I will, with the Spirit’s help, some prayer and homework, hopefully navigate through. The solutions are out there, even if not the most perfect solutions…i.e. buying two more lemons…it is just taking the time to prayerfully and calmly navigate through them.
What would have happened if the Israelites had respectfully prayed for just one meal of meat as opposed to giving into grumbling, considering the miracles that had brought them to where they were at this point in the first place?
Joseph M. Cross
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.