"...you have rejected the Lord." Numbers 11:20
Before beginning to inspect this simple phrase, please read Numbers 11.
The first sign of trouble in any camp is complaining. It's difficult to intercept and disperse the effects of complaining, as oftentimes it comes as the first cousin to gossip. It's like splitting open a feather pillow on a windy day and then trying to gather all the feathers which were blown away. When the people of Israel began to complain, the writer described what God was doing: "...and the Lord heard everything...".
Oftentimes, we may think that God's ear is only bent towards the prayers of His children. Here, however, we see how God's ears hear EVERYTHING. Just as nothing is hidden from God's eyes (see Proverbs 15:3), so every word we speak does not get past our Lord's scrutiny (see Matthew 12:36). This complaining by His own people whom He had chosen and delivered from slavery did not set well with the Lord. In fact, God sent a raging fire that caused the lives of some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. The people cried out to Moses for help and Moses interceded for the people of God - only then did the fire stop. (Jesus can calm a storm; God can quench a fire - or make it burn without consuming the fuel source!) That place was named, Taberah - what we would call Hell or "the place of burning". (v.3)
There were some foreigners who had joined the enormous Israeli caravan who began to crave the good things of Egypt: meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. They infected the Israelites with the same craving, causing them to sin against God. God had been providing manna for their desert journey... they complained of the manna. Upon hearing this complaint, God declared today's five understandable words and worked two unusual miracles:
First, the Lord instructed Moses to call a meeting of seventy recognized leaders of Israel in front of the tent housing the Tabernacle. God told Moses that He would descend and converse with Moses there in front of them all, and would then take some of the Spirit which filled Moses and share it among those gathered before the Tent of Meeting. He then directed Moses to have the leaders prepare themselves through a ritual to purify themselves, after which they would be provided meat that would take a month to consume. In fact, God declared that those who complained of the manna and whined for meat would gag on the meat God would send and become sick. Moses responded to God in an understandable way. He basically said, "Get real. We've got six hundred thousand foot soldiers, and You are saying there will be enough meat for a month? If we butchered all our flocks and herds and caught all the fish in the sea we wouldn't have enough." (v.'s 16-22) Now, this statement came from the man who had seen the plagues and the parting of the sea. He still had not gotten it, had he?
God challenged Moses' response by asking Him one question, "Has my arm lost its power?", and said Moses would see with his own eyes whether God's word would come true or not. (v. 23) After Moses gathered the seventy leaders together, the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and they all prophesied (they all testified of God's greatness and power). In fact, two leaders who had stayed behind in camp also began prophesying at the same time! (v.'s 26-27)
The second miracle occurred when God sent a strong wind that brought quail from the sea, that fell all around the camp for miles in every direction. The people were able to gather as much as they could. In fact, no one gathered less than fifty bushels! (v.'s 31-32) As the people were field dressing the foul, gorging themselves on the meat, and hanging much of it out to dry (cure), they became sick with a severe plague, and many died. They named the graveyard where they buried all those who had whined for meat, "graves of gluttony". (v. 34)
How does a story like that relate to us today? It seems we often dream of the good ole' days: a time when things were better: the food tasted better; the stresses were less; we were comfortable in our routines. Then God rustled the nest of our lives and we took a new job, or were relocated or reassigned to a new work... things changed. We resist change. In fact, we just plain don't deal very well with change. I'm not talking about coinage either. The Israelites had forgotten the harsh conditions in which they lived and had rewritten the history so drastically that one would think the nation lived in luxury instead of slavery. (Re-writing history is always a dangerous practice.)
Whining and complaining does not solve anything, yet the human condition often embraces this response to change when there is a lack of personal resources or because of the con-sequences of poor decisions, etc. God desires to show us His sufficient grace for each and every moment. God wants to turn our whining into winning by strengthening us with resolve to be overcomers. (read Romans 8:31-39) (For more verses on being an overcomer, go to this web address: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Overcomers)
As a nation, we have rejected the Lord... we are just now seeing the beginning of God's hand of discipline on our nation: less productivity, higher crime, greater debt, and the collapse of the traditional home. We have become a nation of whiners, complaining about what we should be entitled to possess without the responsibility of working to achieve, provide, and protect. In my book, Freedom's Foundation, I describe the blessings and curses that are consequential to either embracing or rejecting God's way. (read the vignette number forty) Join me in repenting for our nation, encouraging Christ followers to turn from sin and pray - seeking God's face, that He would forgive our sin and heal our land. (read 2 Chronicles 7:14)