Life of Moses
Leadership’s Training Grounds:
When Someone Else’s Problems are Greater than my Human Resources…
Discontentment’s Rebellion, God’s Discipline, the Mediator’s Cry and the Spirit’s Comfort!
11/30/3; ed. 11/29/15
Introduction…Ever notice how many people love to help when the help is short-term? Or when we do help someone in the short-term and it works, we tend to feel good about ourselves?
But when our short-term answers run out too quickly and what we thought helped or fixed that person didn’t, then the helping or loving is NOT as much fun? Are you kidding me? You are NOT fixed? I don’t have time to really help you! How much help do you really need?! I can’t keep helping! I have other things to do…other people to help! Get your act together! Just how messed up are you?!
Remember earlier, when His impatient bride fashioned a golden calf to be her new god, how a frustrated Yahweh God was ready to be done with his fickle bride, but the Mediator, Moses, interceded on her behalf and the Groom relented? Feeling the increasing pressure of intervening on behalf of or attempting to please the fickle, often-discontented and constantly-aroused mob, the Mediator has finally reached his human limit and asks for Divine Help!
Read Passage several times…
Num. 11:1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused.
Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
What hardships? Was it even possible NOT to complain in the hearing of the LORD? Was this complaining near the tabernacle? What were they complaining about?
Was the fire from the cloud that lead them during the night? And why were only some consumed…died…outside the camp? And why outside the camp? This seems like a warning…irritate, complain against, doubt, not trust the Divine, and I will show you my consuming power and glory? How should they have handled their hardships? Just endure, pray, or was there a better way to deal with the hardships? I would assume it would be to seek the LORD…
Fire Dust Storm…
2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.
So is the nation surrounded by fire? Are they afraid that they may be burnt up? It’s as if, the Bride is learning how her Groom operates—His personality…His values…and certainly His righteous anger?
3 So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.
4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!
Interesting…rabble…so we have rabble rousers? Those that stir up dissension? Those that know how to stir up a crowd or turn a crowd into a mob with power and destructive intent? Note how this works…just like lighting, a fire with a rich fuel source. In this case, the rabble rousers are the match, while the discontented crowd is the rich fuel source. Apparently, they are tiring of manna. I would assume that the problem is not the desire or want, but the way it is communicated or carried out…via the mob. God doesn’t seem to respond to mobs very well. Or perhaps he does? Mobs seem to be the height of Evil? A stirred up collection of people thoughtlessly asserting its unrighteous will upon something…be it on another person who is lynched before receiving a fair hearing or upon the Divine himself before he can legitimately process the desires of one’s heart?
5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost –also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.
What did they mean by “at no cost”? Are they tiring of manna? Why? Due to its tastes? Why were they only given manna to eat? Did God not think that they would get tired of eating the same thing for over a year? And yet the irony is, would you rather have these fruits and vegetable and be a slave, or be free and eat manna? And where were they supposed to get all these fruits and vegetables for several million people?
6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
7 The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin.
8 The people went around gathering it and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil.
As far as a daily food in the desert for several million people, it doesn’t sound that bad, especially in light of the fact that they did not have to hunt it or grow it. It was just there every day, just enough for our needs for that day?
9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.
10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled.
They weren’t weeping, but now they are? It’s like advertising or when someone else gets something. Before I knew anything different, I was fine, but when I know that there can be a difference, now I am discontent. A few start to grumble, so a bunch start to grumble when they see it is a popular or acceptable thing to do—like a bunch of kids all beginning to cry at the same time?
So, here we go—back-to-back grumblings or murmurings and discontentment.
11 He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?
Why does Moses blame God? He has been Israel or the Bride up to this time? Now, under pressure, Moses perhaps is caught in the middle?
12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?
You have been defending them Moses. This was your choice. Yahweh was done with them at Sinai, but you intervened…
13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, `Give us meat to eat!’
Welcome to leadership! When collective discontentment reaches a tipping point…
14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.
15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now –if I have found favor in your eyes –and do not let me face my own ruin.”
Apparently, the pressure is truly great? Moses doesn’t know how to quiet the mob? He can’t fix the problem?
16 The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.
Yahweh is about to dilute the rabble-rousers? Give me the leadership.
17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them.
I am about to multiply my Spirit’s involvement within the community, much as Jesus gave the Spirit to his disciples in order to build his church.
They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.
Apparently, Yahweh sees this NOT just the problem of food, but Moses being able to emotionally stand, being the go-between between God and his people. I just need help…Now he will get 70 Spirit-saturated helpers.
Who, Where and When optional…
• The nation begins to complain about their hardships as soon as they begin to travel again. 1a
• God hears it and show his displeasure by sending some fire down from the sky. 1b
• The people cry out to Moses; Moses prays; the fire dies down. 2
• The place is called Taberah. 3
•Another group begins to complain again. This time about the manna. They want meat. They then remember the fish and vegetables back in Egypt. 4-5
• They are tired of the manna, which resembled resin and was ground and made into something that tasted like it was made with olive oil. 6-9
• Moses could hear the wailing of the people; the LORD becomes greatly angry; Moses becomes troubled. 10
• Moses asks the LORD why he has brought all this pressure onto Moses? If this is how you are going to let me be treated he adds, then put me to death right now; but if not, then don’t let me lose face. 11-15
• God tells Moses to bring him seventy elders; He will put his Spirit upon them and they will help him carry the burden of his people so that he will not have to carry it alone. 16-17
Summary…The people begin to complain; first about their hardships, and then about their food source. The Lord hears both complaints. The first time he sends fire from the sky to the outskirts of camp. The second time he instructs Moses to gather 70 of the leaders to come before him so that the can place his Spirit upon them as he has done with Moses in order to help Moses with the burden of leading this troublesome people or Bride.
Bottom line…The nation begins to complain; Moses also complains at their complaining; God gives his Spirit to seventy others besides Moses…
Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)
• People are fickle. Despite having been delivered time and time again, their memories are short. People are basically selfish. And led by a rabble, they will readily jump on board and go with the crowd. This is a archetype passage on how to foment dissention. Few are ever really happy. Life is tough. Suddenly, when given not only the freedom, but encouraged to join with a mob in expressing that discontentment, suddenly the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end. What was perhaps not so bad becomes the end of the world. Why? Because most of us see life’s “lack” to begin with. But instead of being encouraged to be content with or gracious for what we have and thus be happy, Satan, Life, Evil, the selfish human nature screams…WHINE, COMPLAIN, SCREAM, SPEAK UP…If we all speak up together, things can change, and things can change, but just because a college president resigns means nothing. Were things that bad to begin with, and was this the change that needed to take place? Change for the sake of change means nothing! What we want is thoughtful, reasonable solutions to real problems as opposed to mob rule. But once the boulder begins to roll, it is difficult to stop in order to find out the truth and truly address the problem.
• Perhaps there was a better, more gracious way to ask for something different. God had provided in so many ways. Would he have denied his Bride on this occasion? Doubtful.
• Interesting that Moses panics at Israel’s complaining and complains himself to God. Perhaps the pressure was becoming too great for him. I can only imagine, but isn’t that the way most of us are…even the Do-Gooders…We intercede on someone else’s behalf, and then we find out the truth—they were much more of a headache than we could have ever imagined. Love is difficult work. It’s not just about a quick fix that we do in the moment, then slap ourselves on the back for being wonderful and thoughtful and then walk away. This is not a TV show where the superhero comes in and saves the world and then rides off into the sunset until the movie remake. No, love…sustainable love requires love for the long haul. Moses, in his own power, has already reached his limit. Even the great Moses is not enough…
• God sends his holy, consuming fire around the edges to warn his people that He is NOT pleased with His Bride’s approach to hardship.
• And yet, despite the consuming fire, she still doesn’t get it. She continues to complain. Why? People can always be discontent. Light that discontentment with rabble rousers and we have a consuming mob.
• God is willing to give generous Spiritual leadership support when help is asked for.
• God’s might is manifested in His Spirit, which we as God’s New Covenant children have through our faith in Christ’s atonement for our sin. We are God’s children. We have been baptized with his Spirit forever.
• Complaining is contagious. It spreads like a virus.
• The mob can be defeated and contained via authentic Spiritual leadership…
• People’s memories are clouded. They tend to forget the bad, slavery back in Egypt, and remember the good, including the fish and vegetables back in Egypt. Why? Because they have freedom. They don’t have fish and vegetables. We are never content without God.
Thanksgiving…I have so much to be thankful for. I am alive. I have a wife…a wonderful wife. I have some wonderful kids among whom are some of my closest, most loyal and godly friends. I have a roof over my head. I have two cars, several beds, a frig and freezer full of food; I have a job; God provides for my needs; I have freedom; I get to do what I do best…pastorally counsel, teach and encourage others who need encouraging; I have wonderful Spiritual family; I work in a fabulous facility on a beautiful piece of property…a glimpse of heaven…I am not sick. I can walk, run, smile and laugh, cry…think, reason, read, love, trust, create, listen and so so much more…
Today, I was able to fulfill an experiment that I wanted a shot at. I ascertained the need, built an emotional contract to address the ongoing problem, and when given a shot at executing the contract’s stipulations, it worked to perfection. If not second, perhaps minutes. Thanks, Lord. Thanks.
Struggle…Really resisting working on a critical edit to SLove. After grinding out the data on my marker board twice…the first time…I summarized the wrong chapter…I think I know conceptually the next step I need to take. It is still a rough edit, meaning, I just need to cut, copy and paste two sections onto a previous one. Behind the original Spiritual Love, I need to add ahab, the OT’s word for love, and the first portion of agape…Why love, or agape and philos, the Greek words for the Hebrew ahab, support my earlier contention that be it Old or New Testament, when referring to God’s love, regardless of the word that is being used, Hebrew, Greek or English, to translate love, love needs a modifier, and I am proposing that the word that best fits is the word, Spiritual with a capital S to mean of or by the Spirit of God…thus divine love as opposed to flawed human love.
Truth…As humans, discontent is the easier path; when lit by rabble rousers, discontent can flame into a roaring, destructive, all-consuming fire; God can and does send his fearful, fiery warnings or discipline in response to our discontented grumblings; Pressure makes cowards of us all; true love takes time…lots of time; God is merciful to his servants, particularly, in sending them helpful Spiritual leadership, when they cry out for his help to do His will.
Application…The right path truly is narrow…including writing the truth about God’s love. Error is broad; truth is narrow. Thus it is easy to be discontent; truth is hard work; love is hard work; love takes time. It should be hard, cause stress and require perseverance. While it might feel like chipping away at the rock to get to the valuable minerals, researching, editing and writing the truth about love, will yield love. Keep chipping away. No doubt too, God will give me Spiritual help…in the form of people, ideas, time, insight etc. Chip away…
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.