Themes in Numbers (02): Greed - Meat Instead of Manna
In the Wilderness: Themes from Numbers (02)
Meat Instead of Manna
Numbers 11:4–6, 18-20 - Contemptible people among them had a strong craving for other food. The Israelites cried again and said, “Who will feed us meat? 5 We remember the free fish we ate in Egypt, along with the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. 6 But now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at but this manna! . . . 18 “Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. 19 ‘You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”
The book of Numbers is the journey of Israel from Sinai to edge of the Promised Land (Canaan). It shows the failings of a generation of people from which we must learn by example (1Cor. 10). Israel had been led by God’s presence in the glory-cloud. Yet they would not fully trust and obey the Lord. Chapter 11 is the episode of their craving for meat instead of being content with manna. They longed for the land of Egypt rather than the land of Israel, forgetting their slavery and fussing in their freedom. They “craved a craving” (literally, v4), the same phrase used of Eve’s desire for the forbidden tree. Because of their evil desires, the LORD unleashed His wrath against them in an buffet-induced plague. They named this place “the graves of the ones who craved” (Kibroth Hattaavah). Their sin was not hunger, nor eating the quail. They rejected the Lord who redeemed them and was sustaining them in bountiful provision (v20). “Their god is their stomach” (Phil. 3:9). This was proven by their ingratitude for redemption and provision. God turned their greed against them as they exchanged temporal pleasures for eternal woes.
Lessons for Lent
Be careful what you desire. The Lord sometimes gives us what we want. Be sure that what you truly want will satisfy you when you finally get it.
Be careful what you exchange. The Lord may grant temporal treats for eternal sorrows. Faith spends passing pleasures on eternal glories.
Be careful how you satisfy your cravings. The Lord may judge us in and through our indulgences. What we fail to master will master us.
Be careful how you remember. The Lord may be offended when you forget His saving grace. The Lord’s great pleasure is our gratitude for His grace.
Let us journey through Lent by trusting Him, desiring eternal goodness, practicing contentment and expressing gratitude for His salvation and provision.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more