CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR!
Lord, my desires extend only within Your will for me.
Read NUMBERS 11:16–35
16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.
18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 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?”’”
21 But 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!’ 22 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?”
23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”
24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.
26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”
29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.
31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits[a] deep all around the camp, 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.[b] 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,[c] because there they buried the people who had craved other food.
35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.
a Numbers 11:31 That is, about 3 feet or about 90 centimeters
b Numbers 11:32 That is, possibly about 1 3/4 tons or about 1.6 metric tons
c Numbers 11:34 Kibroth Hattaavah means graves of craving.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Thank You, Lord, that You hear and answer prayer, but even more that Your answers are always wiser than my prayers.
That the Lord hears the cry of his people is one of the foundational promises of the Scriptures, often repeated. Graciously, he not only hears but answers. Sometimes, however, he answers in a way we least expect and with consequences that we deserve rather than desire—and that is precisely one of the lessons taught here.
The inability of Moses to bear the burden of leading the people alone is the substance of his complaint in verse 14—a truth that his father-in-law, Jethro, pointed out to him long ago. God graciously distributes his Spirit upon seventy of the senior men of the community who will share in the leadership of the people. The principle of plural eldership of God’s people, established here, continues throughout Scripture and is God’s pattern for the church today. Moses’ prayer in verse 29, that all of God’s people would operate by the Spirit, finds its fulfillment in the New Testament age! God also hears and answers the complaints of the people about the manna. They want meat, so he promises them meat: meat for 30 days—enough to make them wish they hadn’t asked. Moses’ doubts about God’s ability to provide meat for 600,000 men is answered by a verbal reminder of the power of the Lord’s arm (23) and then by physical proof in the provision of quail (31,32)—but the thing that they had longed for proves to be the means of the outpouring of God’s wrath. Plague and death are the consequences.
Longing for the wrong things is a timeless temptation to God’s people. James reminds us that it is often a result of uncontrolled lusts and being too deeply involved in the world. He counsels us to rest in God’s grace and to submit to God’s will instead.
Look up and quietly meditate upon the words of Philip P. Bliss’s great hymn “Man of Sorrows.”
Lord, grant us the wisdom to perceive when our desires are leading us astray, and remind us of this episode with the Children of Israel.