Exodus 16:2-15, 35
Numbers 11:1-6, 31-34
John 6:32-35, 41-45
There are people all over this planet who have a real sensitivity to God's original intent, and who are working hard to encourage others to help improve the world around us.
One of these people is an E-mail friend of mine, Scott Hembree, a missionary who lives in Temuco, Chile, who inspired this message through one of his letters.
In Exodus 16:35 we are told,
35. The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. (NIV)
Why did God choose to feed the people only with manna?
Why did He get angry when they asked to eat flesh?
If we go back a little further in this Chapter, we get a partial answer to our questions. Listen to what we are told in verses 2-3.
2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
3 The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."
Instead of remembering the miracles that God had performed before them, and praying to Him for food they desired, they put the blame on Moses and Aaron, and grumbled.
Instead of being thankful that they had been delivered from the bondage they were in, in Egypt, they sought the flesh that they had been cooking in their pots and eating.
In essence they were saying that they wanted to go back to Egypt, the symbolic land of sin.
And we must remember that they were heading for another sinful land, Canaan, where the Lord was going to drive out the sinful people before them.
The Lord wanted His people to be different, yet they were seeking to be the same.
The people cried out for flesh to eat, but note how the Lord responds (verses 4-8)
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
Note very carefully that the Lord, first, only offers the bread from heaven as a means of testing the people.
Will they be thankful for what He is giving them, or will they be greedy and continue to grumble?
5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days."
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, "In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt,
7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?"
8 Moses also said, "You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD."
But because they were grumbling, the Lord also gave them the flesh they wanted.
We know that this wasn't the Lord's desire, for He again stopped giving it to them, as we will note later.
The people were not satisfied with the heavenly gift, they also wanted an earthly gift.
The people sought their pleasure in death rather then in life.
Let's remember what Jesus said about Himself when He was questioned about manna (John 6:32-35).
32 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
34 "Sir," they said, "from now on give us this bread."
35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (NIV)
The bread that comes down from heaven gives life.
The Lord wanted to give them life, but because they still sought after death, He let them taste of it again, but only along with the bread of life, that they would hopefully realize the difference.
Let's return to Exodus 16:9-15, and listen to what took place.
9 Then Moses told Aaron, "Say to the entire Israelite community, 'Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'"
10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.
11 The LORD said to Moses,
12 "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.'"
We need to listen carefully to how the Lord is speaking to the people.
He says, "At twilight you will eat meat", but he doesn't say that they will be satisfied as He does with the heavenly bread.
We can never be satisfied with death, we can only be satisfied with that which has life and comes from heaven.
"In the morning you will be filled with bread", thus being filled, they will be satisfied, they will have all that was necessary for life.
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.
And we are told no more about the eating of flesh at this time.
14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.
15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, "It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. (NIV)
The translation of "What is it?" is manna.
And when the leading Jews heard Jesus explain who he was, they reacted in a similar manner to those in the wilderness of Sinai. Note what we are told in John 6:41-45.
41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven."
42 They said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I came down from heaven'?
Listen to the loving way in which Jesus responds.
43 "Stop grumbling among yourselves," Jesus answered.
44 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (NIV)
God appears to have been trying to draw the people in the wilderness in just the same manner as Jesus describes, but most were not listening.
And a very similar thing happened years later. Note what we are told in Numbers 11:1-6.
1 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.
3 So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.
4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat!
5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost-- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.
6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!" (NIV)
The rabble among people still were not thankful for what the Lord had given them. And unless a stand is made against the rabble in a community, they have a tendency to discourage many of the other people to the point that they, too, start to complain.
This is what happened here.
No one stood up to the rabble.
So what does God do?
He gives the people what they are asking for, not because He wants to, but because they need to be taught a lesson, even two in a row.
Let's look at verses 31-34.
31 Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction.
32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers [which is somewhere between 65 and 140 bushels]. Then they spread them out all around the camp.
33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.
34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food. (NIV)
The people were exceptionally greedy.
They desired death rather than life, and they got the desire of their hearts.
Now let's move up to the present time.
Just this week, Reuters news service reported that the British Medical Association announced that all meat in Britain is to be considered contaminated and a potential source of food poisoning.
The BMA also stated that over just this past year over 1,000,000 Britain's were struck with food poisoning, and that 200 of them died.
And this is not just a British problem, it's prevalent all over the world including several major outbreaks in this country.
Is God trying to give us the same message He was giving the Israelites some 3,500 years ago?
Does God want to purify us for the coming promised land, as He was seeking to purify the Israelites before they entered their promised land?
It's just as Jesus said, "'They will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me."
Each and every one of us has to decide for ourselves what the Holy Spirit is saying to us, and then decide whether or not to really listen.
God wants His people to separate themselves from the ways of the world; He wants us to be different; He wants us to purify ourselves as Jesus is pure.
We need to be pure in both body and soul.
As Jesus reminds us in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:8),
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (NIV)
And I pray that we all will see God.
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