Numbers 11

Numbers 11 is a chapter that captures the reality of mankind.  “The people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes”.  We are a whiny bunch as humans.  Things are never good enough.  God has rescued these people from years of slavery and now they are complaining because things are not their way.  Does this sound at all familiar?  If not, you might want to look in the mirror.  It likely describes you.  Is God amused?  “When the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp”.  Not exactly.  He was irritated at their response.  He responded forcefully to let them know it was not ok.

So what do they do?  “Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down”.  They cried about their situation and asked the leader to fix it.  The complaint was that they had no meat to eat.  They weren’t starving to death.  God has provided manna faithfully to keep them alive.  But they were not satisfied with God’s provision.  They wanted more – they wanted it their way.  “Moses heard the people weeping….the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased”.  The people were consumed with self.  They wanted things their way and the tribe mentality has set in.  Whining spreads like wildfire.  Grumbling takes root and becomes the way everyone thinks.

Moses questions why this is his problem.  After all, there are “six hundred thousand on foot” – how is he supposed to find meat for all of them.  Moses misses the point here.  God’s disgust was not that He couldn’t give them meat.  It was the way they came and asked and then continued to be caught up in their desires.  Moses feels like God has put this on his shoulders.  “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me”?  He knows there is no possible way for him to meet their desires.  “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people?….I am not able to carry all this people alone”.  That is the point Moses.  God will meet the need but the issue is how it is brought to Him.

God sets up an expanded leadership structure based on Moses request.  “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel….bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you….I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone”.  Moses and Aaron had been the sole leaders of the people to this point.  Now God is spreading the burden and sharing the load.  70 men who will be touched and empowered with God’s spirit so they can help lead.  Joshua, who was Moses assistant, gets excited when he sees a couple of these guys demonstrate God’s power.  He asks Moses to stop them.  But Moses understands that for leadership to happen, he has to be willing to let go.  “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets”.  It is a significant part of the process of leadership – sharing that with others who can be part of the process.

God does answer the prayer for meat.  In fact He sent “quail from the sea….two cubits above the ground”.  There was literally a sea of quail around the camp.  So “the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail”.  Didn’t take long for folks to put their desires into action.  They gathered and stored and saved and were focused on self.  It was all about them.  God’s response was to send “a very great plague” which killed many of the gluttons and so they literally “buried the people who had the craving”.  Their selfish desires caused them to die at God’s hand.  Oh that we learn to listen and trust God rather than self.

2 responses to this post.

  1. […] Numbers 11 ( Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]


  2. Posted by Brad Kowerchuk on October 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    A year earlier, a similar complaint rose from the Israelites, as found in Exodus 16, and God provided quail for them then. Why did God not call them to account, the first time, but now is severely punishing them the second time? It is more than just that it was a repeat… what critical commitment had the Israelites made in between? See Exodus 31:18…


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