Numbers 11. I had grand intentions of covering Chapter 12, but next week. N umbers 11, we’ve so far come to some smooth sailing for israel, and now we hit some turbulent seas ahead of us in the response to what God is doing. As we look to the reading of God’s Word, if you’d please join me in prayer. Father of all mercy, in Your Word endless glory shine forth. Lord, Your Word guides our steps. It gives discernment to those who seek You. And so we would ask that You would grant we would find new beauties in an ever increasing light in them this day. You are indeed our divine instructor and gracious Lord. We ask that You would be forever near to us. That You would teach us to love Your sacred Word to view our Savior here for it’s in His name that we do pray. Amen. We’re looking at Chapter 11 for six verses. And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misf. And 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.
Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So the name of the place was called Taberah because the fire of the Lord burned among them. Now the rebel that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wepted again and said, Oh, that we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing. The cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at. The word of the Lord. Please be seated. I’ve mentioned this before from Christian pastor and author Frederick Buckner. He asked this question, if God really exists, why in heaven’s name does God not prove his existence instead of leaving us here in our terrible uncertainty? And then he wondered, what would happen if God did something that demonstrated his existence in some dramatic and irrefutable way? You look up at the night sky and suddenly all the stars have been rearranged and they say something like, I really exist, or just God is. And what would happen next?
Initially, the response would be amazing. Tear, wonder, disbelief, astonishment. Churches would be full, but for how long? And if this message blaze in the night sky for years, then what? That question would be, so what difference does it make? Bunker goes on to say that we all want this proof, but this proof that would silence all doubts once and for all would not last long, nor would they answer the fearful depths of our own need. Most would be impressed for a while, but after a few years, people would look up at the sky and they would yawn and just go about living life like they always do. Objective proof only carries us so far, and it would not be long before people would start complaining about it. In fact, it probably happened fairly quickly. People go, Well, if you’re up there, why don’t you… Something, why don’t you do this? Why do you allow these things? That would be the response for most people or many. Now, the Israelites are a people who’ve had more than I really exist written across the night sky. God has been present with them. A cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, daily provision of manna, the plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of the law of Mount Sinai.
And 13 months have gone by and it’s so what? A grumbling and a complaining has settled in on them like a spiritual fog that keeps them from seeing the kind provision of the Lord, their God. The message that God has written in the sky or that he put in the desert past would do no good if it’s not also written on our hearts. And since our hearts are so easily overcome by complaining and unbelief, we must hold fast to Jesus cultivating Thanksgiving and gratitude in our lives. And as we look at our text, numbers 11, it comes to us as somewhat of a surprise. The first 10 chapters, several times we read, thus did the people of Israel. They did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses. They’ve been stellar so far. They’re locked and loaded. They’re about to enter into the promised land from Mount Sinai in Chapter 10 to the sending out of the spies in Chapter 13. It’s only about a week’s trip. What should have been filled with excitement and anticipation was instead the occasion for complaining and grumbling against God. These murmurings amounted to Israel saying, Lord, you’re not doing a very good job.
That’s what they’re telling God. In chapter 10, this divine cloud lifts and moves forward. It’d be amazing thing after sitting so long. They’re finally on their way after this year long pause. They’re marching off for the first time, well ordered. They’re stepping into this great plan that God has for them, going towards the promised land. And three days into the trip, things start to change. Now, it may be helpful when you read in the Bible, when you see that word wilderness, that’s not the same as desert. Wildernes s is a place of vegetation and growth. You can have animals graze there and be provided for around Mount Sinai. Apparently, they were able to do that for quite some time, except maybe in the hotter parts of the dry months. So the wilderness is not a desert. But now they are in an area that is less hospitable and more desert like. There has been a shift. And the first thing that happens, verse 1, the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortune. Food and water for sure are part of that. But it’s a general grumbling of an ungrateful people. In Exodus 16, right after the parting of the Red Sea, also three days in to their journey, the people complained there too.
There are lots of parallels between Exodus and numbers that you see, almost verbatim. And this is what we read in Exodus 16. Three days in after the Red Sea, the whole congregation, the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the people of Israel said of them, Would that we have died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we set by meat, pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger. In Exodus, that was when the Lord first provided manna and quail to eat. Now, they have God’s daily provision of manna. They have a cold, cool cloud overhead, keeping the heat of the sun off of them. And they start to complain again. This time, the Lord’s response is very different. We read here in numbers, And when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burnt some outlying parts of the camp. The Lord gives them a rebuke and a strong warning. And the people cried out as they’ve done in the past, they cried out to Moses.
Moses did what Moses does. He prayed to the Lord. And the fire died down. And the name of the place was Kultavra, which in Hebrew means burning because the fire of the Lord burnt against them. But that’s not the end. Very quickly, verse 4, Now the rebel was among them, had a strong craving. The rebel refers to this mixed multitude that also came out of Egypt. They were probably slaves as well from other nations, and they came out with the Israelites, too. And not only them, it said, And the people of Israel also wept and said, Oh, that we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost us nothing. And they go on to the vegetables that they were so wanting and desiring. And now our strength is dried out. There’s nothing but this manna to look at. We want to go back to Egypt because God, you’re not doing a very good job. If there was a yoke in the desert, they would be giving God a one star because it couldn’t go any lower. That’s what they’re doing. We want to go back, a longing to go back into slavery.
Look at that for a moment. The book of Exodus describes what they came out of. Said a new king rose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. Therefore, they set task massacters over Israel to afflict them with heavy burdens. They ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves. And then we read, The King of Egypt commanded the midwives to kill any male children. And then later, it said, The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and they cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God and God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant. Ungrateful and complaining hearts will cause us to actually revision our past circumstance to see things very differently. How can people do that? We do all the time because we allow our hearts to actually change the perspective that we had before to something different. It was better then. Really? Really was better? Do tell about the hard days of forced labor and slavery when these Egyptians were also drowning your children. That was better? See how a way where the heart it takes you to places where it’s just ludicrous. It wasn’t better. And not only that, God was providing for them.
Man, I came every day. Man, the word in Hebrew just means what is it? They woke up one morning like, what is it? Manna. And that was God’s provision. And we learned a little bit about it in Exodus 16. It says it was like Corriander seed white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. And here in numbers eight, said the people ground it in the hand mills, they boiled it in pots, they made cakes of it. The taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. It was tasty and nutritious food, but they grew tired of it. I’m sure you have also seen those contests where people put their hand on the new truck or the new car and the last one standing gets the car. And you’re like, what would possess you to put your hand on this car for two or three days? It’s a new car. That’s amazing. Sure, that’s nothing for a new car. Israel just had to hold out for 13 months. They’ve already gone through a year and God has been providing for them. Thirteen months and they will have homes, farmlands, vineyards to take possession of.
They’re walking in to a lot of winnings already guaranteed. And from Mount Sinai to the promised land, it’s only about a two week journey total. The complaining from the fringe group infected Israel as a whole. And collectively they’re saying, Lord, you’re not doing a very good job. We don’t like it. Now we see Moses respond, this great man of God who earlier interceded for Israel after the whole golden calf fiasco face plant before God. He’s like, God, forgive them. Don’t blot them out. He pleaded with God on their behalf. Now Moses has a different response. Verse 10, Moses heard the weeping throughout their clans. Everyone at the door of his tent, what a miserable lot that would have been. Think about that. All these tents everywhere and people are weeping and moaning. We want to go back to Egypt. And the anger of the Lord blazed hot and Moses was displeased. And listen to what Moses said to the Lord. I want you to keep an ear for the number of times that Moses refers to himself. Starting in verse 11, Moses said to the Lord, 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 these people on me?
Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them that you should say to me, carry them in your boosom as a nurse carries a nursing child to the land that you swore to give to their fathers. Where am I to get meat to give all these people? For they weep before me and they say, Give us meat that we may eat. I am not able to carry all these people alone. The burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once. If I find faith in your sight that I may not see my wretchness. A little over 20 times. I appreciate Pastor Rayburn’s comments on this. He said, Grumbling is always an indication that a person has become preoccupied with himself or herself. Grumbling is an indication that I’ve become preoccupied with myself. Moses is tired. He’s burnt out. He’s emotionally exhausted to the point he’s saying, God, just kill me now. In response to this, the Lord has 70 elders come forward to share in the burden of leadership, and he puts His Spirit on them and they prophesy in a one time event to indicate that this is God’s work.
And not only that, the Lord also provides quail for them to eat. For those who know these things, apparently there’s a migratory traveling of quail across the Arabian Peninsula. And the Lord uses a natural occurrence in a supernatural way to provide for an abundance of quail for Israel to eat. It’s just like what they experienced one year prior, Exodus 16. God did it then as well. So this is the second year they were able to have this wonderful miraculous provision of God. We also read that the Spirit of God on these elders rested upon them. And we read, The wind of the Lord brought the quail. Ruach, the Hebrew word for this is also spirit and wind. It’s tying this together. It’s showing us that God is the one responsible for both. He’s helping Moses with these extra leaders. He’s bringing food. It’s all an act of God. But the Lord also said that he would give them enough until it comes out of their nostrils, becomes loathsome to you because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him saying, Why did we come out of Egypt? In verse 33, the Lord sends a plague that actually kills some of them as a punishment for their rebellion against him.
The place is given a name which means graves of craving. There are many parallels, as I said, with Exodus and numbers. Very similar events happened on the way to Mount Sinai and on the way from Mount Sinai. But the Lord’s responses are very different. His provision for their grumbling did not come with punishment in Exodus, but it does in numbers. One of the questions we immediately asked was, Well, what’s the difference? Why? The greater the revelation, the more the accountability. A year of seeing the Lord up close in such a dynamic way with the giving of the law, the making of the covenant, his constant provision. God’s requiring more of them because they have seen more. They’re expected to grow up. These grumblings and complaints are actually statements of unbelief. They are a denial of God’s gracious provision and care. They are a denial of God’s promises, willfully choosing to live by sight and not by faith. This is not an Old Testament problem. This is a people problem. We suffer it, too. In John 6, we read the disciples grumbled against Jesus. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 10, he’s warning the Corinthians. He’s saying, Don’t be grumblers like these people were in Israel who were destroyed.
Philippians 2, do all things without grumbling and complaining. James 5, do not grumble against one another. 1 Peter 4, show hospitality without grumbling. Our grumbling and our complaining is essentially telling the Lord, you’re not doing a very good job with my life circumstances. And it’s choosing to walk in unbelief. It’s saying, if I can’t see how any good can come from this, then clearly there isn’t any. And God, it’s your fault for messing up. That’s what they’re saying. Well, what’s needed is a heart transformation. What will transform our grumbling hearts? So we’re backing up in numbers 24, Moses, he gathered these 70 together and it says, The Lord came down in a cloud and spoke to him. His Spirit came upon these 70 men and they prophesied. Just this one time. But God was putting a seal of approval on them. And two men remained outside the camp, verse 26, and said the Spirit rested on them. And they had not gone out from their tent, though they were supposed to. But the Spirit came on them and they prophesied in the camp. We don’t know why. We don’t know why they remained behind. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.
But it happened and it demonstrated God’s miraculous provision, not just in the tent of meeting, but also in the camp. And a young man ran, verse 27, to Moses. He said, Eldad and Med ad are prophesying in the camp. And Joshua, the son of nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, his response was, My Lord Moses, stop them. Moses said, Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord put His Spirit on all of them? Joshua’s concern for his mentor, Moses. He stood faithfully by Moses the whole time. And I’m sure he’s upset with the people’s poor treatment of such a good and godly, humble man. And it bothers him. But Moses, he shows his own heart, his own metal in his response. He’s not jealous. He longs for God’s people to have the Spirit of God rest on them. That’s his desire. He is anticipating what the Prophet Joel would declare in Joel 2, And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Peter takes up this quote in Pentecost saying, this is exactly what happened. The Spirit of God is being poured out after Christ’s resurrection.
The new promise of the new covenant, Jeremiah 31. There he said, The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with Israel, not like the covenant I made with their fathers, the people were reading about, when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, I will put my law within them. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Israel complained, Moses complained, but the Lord did not give up on his people. It’s anticipating one who is greater than Moses is going to need to come, one who would keep silent during false accusations, one who would bear the sins of an unbelieving and grumbling people whose spirit would be poured out upon them to transform them from the inside out. That’s what this is anticipating. We have the same hearts. Which of us who haven’t seen some wonderful provision of God, the next time a problem comes around, we complain and forget, we trip and fall. To be sure, hard is hard. You don’t have to like hard circumstances.
Is an issue of putting on a plastic smile and pretending bad things aren’t happening. This is not at all what we’re talking about. Hard is hard. But God is not left. He is caring for us in the midst of those things. He’s doing a really good job. We can take these complaints. Biblicaly, we’re given the model in the Psalms to come and take the difficulties and pour out our hearts in worship, not grumbling. Lord, how long, how long, oh Lord? And it leads through a heart of worship and the resolution of laying this difficult thing at God’s feet to be able to take up the joy that He provides, the hope that He provides, not a grumbling and a complaining spirit that will cause us to revision everything that has happened to us in a worst light and make bad things somehow seem better and make good things seem worse. But being able to lay these before the Lord and say, God, I don’t understand, but you haven’t changed. You are good and I will follow you. He is the one who leads us then in paths of righteousness. He is the one who provides rain in the desert, food in the wilderness.
Unchanging. And we see this revealed in the person and work of Jesus. And that is the great gift that He has given to us. And so, brothers, sisters, we cultivate then a heart of gratitude of thanksgiving. So that when those difficult times do come, there are well worn paths of the heart that take us to the places we ought to go because of a good and kind God who has been the one who has worn that path through us. The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Pray with me. Father, indeed, we want to say thank you. Thank you for the wonderful and excelling job that you have done through our Savior Jesus. Lord, that in the fullness of time, you have brought forth the Son of God to live in your lay down his life for us, that we would have life in you. Father, we thank you for that. We bless you for the goodness we have received, the lavishness of your mercy and grace. Father, we would ask indeed that you would forgive us for those times when we have grumbled and complained against you. Father, we call it sin because it is.
We ask that you would not only forgive us, but Lord, that you would continue to transform our wayward hearts. That you, Father, would continue to lead us by your righteousness. That the wonder and the joy of Christ would ever be before us with hearts of joy and gratitude. This we would pray and ask to Christ our risen rede. Amen.
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