Thursday, September 12, 2013

Simply Trusting

I've spent the last couple of mornings mulling over Numbers 11. It is, in part, a re-telling of the manna and quail story told in Exodus 6, how the Lord provided bread and meat for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. But in Numbers we also get some tough lessons about attitudes.

We see it right off. Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused (v 1). So aroused, in fact, that He sent fire to the outskirts of the camp, which lasted until the people cried out to Moses, who prayed to the Lord.

Verse 4 records that the rabble with them began to crave other food... When they thought about the free meat they'd had in Egypt and the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic they used to enjoy, they began to pine for the good old days. They complained that all they ever got now was manna and they'd lost their appetite! All the people wailed at the entrance of their tents, and it made the Lord exceedingly anger. It distressed Moses as well.

So God took action. He set in motion a plan to give the people their meat, not just enough for  one or two days, even ten or twenty days, but for a whole month -- until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it -- because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying,  "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" (18-20).

God sees hearts. He knew that the people's demand for meat, beyond displaying an ungrateful spirit, actually revealed their stubborn hearts. They had craved something other than the Lord and in so doing they had rejected Him.

At the same time, God was keenly aware of Moses' heart. He dealt with Moses on two particular issues.

First, Moses complained to the Lord about the people he had to carry. "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?... I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me" (11-14). Moses took this so far as to tell the Lord to kill him so that he wouldn't have to face his own ruin!

Moses presented his case to God with self-pity, blame, and drama, not so different from the way the Israelites had acted! But Moses was not rejecting God. He was being honest with him. He was overwhelmed with what he thought God was asking of him -- to carry them in his arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors (12). God wanted Moses to lead the people, but as for carrying them, that's God's job! (see Isaiah 40:11).

Moses was exhausted, and God sent him help. He empowered 70 leaders of Israel with the Spirit so that they could share the burden with Moses. When the load is too heavy, our emotions are running rampant, and exhaustion has us overtaken us, God want us to experience his rest. He knows when our self-pity, blame, and drama flow from our being overwhelmed, and he will make a way for us.

The second challenge was this: did he really trust God?  Moses said, "Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!' Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?" The Lord answered Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you" (21-23).

Moses had come to the end of his resources, and, as far as he could imagine, there was no earthly way to feed these people. But God is not dependent on earthly ways! Resources are not a problem for him! Once again, God outdid himself; he sent a wind that drove in quail from the sea, quail as far as a person could walk in any direction, just three feet from the ground, easy pickin's for the hungry mob.

I have often thought that I do not want to get to the end of my life and look back and say, "I wish I had trusted God more. He always kept his promises. He always cared for me. He was always faithful. Why did I doubt?"

Can we settle it once and for all -- God is faithful and he can be trusted. God is faithful and I will trust him. Will we commit ourselves to this undeniable truth and hold fast to it all our days? Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). Grab hold, my friend, and don't let go. The promise-keeper is faithful; all we have to do is trust him.

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