READ: Numbers 11
THINK: Sometimes it’s easy to drop in on the Old Testament, read about the Israelites doing something dumb, and then let this thought pop into your head: “How could they be so stupid? Seriously! God saved them from slavery in Egypt. They literally witnessed one of the coolest miracles in the history of the world when God parted the Red Sea so that they could walk across and be saved from the Egyptian army. And now, in the midst of the desert God is providing this miraculous food and water for them. I mean, how in the world could they possibly be doubting him and complaining right now? Those people are idiots!”
It’s not that the sentiment is wrong. They were idiots. But the problem is how quickly we remove ourselves from the equation, how easily we believe that we would never ever in a million years complain or grumble against God if we switched places with those Israelites. I think that for many of us the truth, as uncomfortable as it is to admit, is that we would have been among the loudest voices in the “rabble.”
The truth is, in Numbers 11 we’re checking in on the Israelites approximately 2 years and 2200 consecutive meals of manna into their journey through the desert. You all read the description of manna in this passage. Does it sound like something you would want to eat for 2200 consecutive meals? Is there a food in the world that you want to eat for even 22 consecutive meals…let alone 2200? No? Me either.
Sometimes in the difficult seasons of our lives – our “deserts” – we feel like life is wasting away. We feel like nothing can grow in the desert. But we can learn a lot from this passage. We can learn that bitterness grows in the desert. Because of our self-centeredness, our pride, and our sense of entitlement it is very easy to get bitter when things don’t go our way.In the deserts of our lives it’s really easy to move from brining genuine concerns to God trusting he’ll do what’s best into complaining against God. It is a short quick move in our hearts to a place where we are angry with God. So angry that we get to the point that we begin to believe we’d be better off without him. And it can happen subconsciously.
As we journey through the deserts of life, bitterness will fester in our hearts if we let it. Left unchecked, that bitterness will grow to the point where we commit cosmic treason. And usually the reasoning is pretty stupid if we stop to think about it – it’s just that we’ve allowed bitterness to grow to the point that it trumps our reasoning.
Look at Israel: “God, we were better of without you. We were better off being oppressed, marginalized, & beaten regularly because we got to eat liver & onions…sometimes.” Really? But we do the same thing: “God, it’s so hard to be honest in this business when everyone else is dishonest. I’m hemorrhaging financially, we might not be able to keep the house. I was better off before I became a Christian when I could just lie all the time.” Or, “God, it’s so hard to be single when all I want is to get married and have a family. I’m frustrated, and I feel like I’m missing out. I was better off without you when I could just go out and have my fun without worrying about marriage.” Or, “God, it’s so hard to do schoolwork without cheating…” The list goes on. It is easy for bitterness and complaint to slip in and grow when we are in the deserts of life.
Make no mistake, if you go through a difficult situation and you let compliant creep into your life it will shape you. If you let your sense of entitlement and your self-centeredness crowd out and overshadow your God then bitterness will take root. And it will choke your faith. The consequences for the Israelites were serious. Their lack of trust in God and their complete lack of gratitude for all that he had done for them caused them to commit cosmic treason by believing they’d be better without him. And a number of them died. The end of Numbers 11 says they named the place Kibroth Hattaavah. In Hebrew that literally means “graves of craving.” The stakes are no less high today. Don’t let your cravings become the grave of your soul during the deserts seasons of your life.
PRAY: Spend some time today being thankful for all the small things in your life that God provides daily that are so easy to take for granted.