‘”Is there a limit to My power?” the Lord answered. “You will soon see whether what I have said will happen or not”’ – Numbers 11:23 GNT.
The gospels record Jesus commending someone’s great faith only on two occasions – the Centurion and the Syro-Phoenician woman. Remarkably both were Gentiles and outside of any right to the promises of God; both came to Jesus on behalf of someone else and both were rewarded according to their faith.
Why do God’s people often display a lack of faith when in need or when the going is tough? Our text is God’s reply to Moses’ frustrations and doubts. What were the events that had led up to this statement?
The Problem with God’s People
- They were comparing present life in the desert to what they once had
They remembered Egypt’s meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic but all they had in the wilderness was manna!
- They were complaining
Manna was God’s miraculous daily provision. At times even the water was supernaturally supplied from a rock. Yet it was not enough, for later on they even said, ‘“Our soul loathes this worthless bread (Manna)”’ – Numbers 21:15.
- They were crying
Just like spoilt children. No faith anticipating the Promised Land, just fed up with the long wilderness journey. They even wanted to return to Egypt. They had left Egypt but Egypt had not left them. Looking back through rose-tinted spectacles, they had quickly forgotten the misery of slavery they once endured. Their constant complaining got to Moses. Despite being described as the meekest man, even he could not take any more of their complaining and rebelling and told God so!
The Bible warns Christians not to make the same mistakes. ‘Don’t murmur against God and his dealings with you as some of them did, for that is why God sent his Angel to destroy them. All these things happened to them as examples—as object lessons to us—to warn us against doing the same things; they were written down so that we could read about them and learn from them in these last days as the world nears its end’ – 1 Corinthians 10:10-11 TLB. Salvation means Christians live in this world but not to be part of its lifestyle and ideology. We have our eyes on someone and something better – Jesus and heaven!
‘Moses said, “There are 600,000 men alone besides all the women and children, and yet you promise them meat for a whole month! If we butcher all our flocks and herds it won’t be enough! We would have to catch every fish in the ocean to fulfil your promise!” – Numbers 11:21-22 TLB.
Moses was taken aback by God’s declaration to supply them with enough meat for a month. With millions living in the camp he asked, “How could it be done?” How many times do we ask God, “How?” instead of saying, “You said it so You will do it!” God’s response to Moses was, ‘“You will soon see if I am able to do what I say”’.
- God gave Moses the help that he needed
When he felt he could not carry the burden of God’s people alone, God told him to choose seventy gifted men. God anointed them with the same Holy Spirit as Moses so that together they would share the load of leadership.
- God gave the meat the people wanted
A supernatural wind caused millions of quail to end up fluttering all around the camp and the Children of Israel soon went about catching them. Meat was on the menu at last!
- God withheld His blessing and judgment came
As soon as they started eating, judgment came on the complainers and thousands died before they had the chance to enjoy a meal of quail.
There is a real, sobering lesson for Christians to learn from these events. Be careful what you ask for and how you ask for it. ‘But it wasn’t long before they forgot the whole thing, wouldn’t wait to be told what to do. They only cared about pleasing themselves in that desert, provoked God with their insistent demands. He gave them exactly what they asked for— but along with it they got an empty heart’ – Psalm 106:15 MSG. Do not be a complainer and pull others down but instead be a praiser and lift others up to believe God. At times it is easy to look back to before you were a Christian and think that life was better then, but what was the end of that life? Only separation from God! How much better it is to be a Christian however tough life is. God’s presence now and then forever, once we are in heaven. Now that is something I would never swap not even for all the money in the world!