Although Numbers 11 is an apparent continuation of Chapter 10, there is an unmistakable shift in mood. While God begins moving His people toward the Promised Land, something unexpected occurs: their focus suddenly shifts into reverse as they allow themselves to entertain fond memories of Egypt.
It’s been just enough time to forget how bad it really was living in bondage and now all God’s people seem to remember is the good times. Besides, they’re not really sure the Promised Land is all it’s cut out to be and it’s a whole lot safer to go back to what they know than to face the fear of the unknown. What’s more, it’s easier to remain in bondage than to assume the responsibility of living in freedom.
Even though their hearts are telling them different, the Hebrews allow their flesh to remain unruled, lamenting over flavourful Egyptian cuisine compared to same-old manna day after day in the desert. Lamenting turns to weeping, weeping turns to complaining and before we know it, the disease of discontent spreads throughout the entire camp.
We open at Verse 1 with God’s complaint line ringing off the hook with demands for a return to Egypt. “And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord…And the Lord heard it.” The text goes on to say that the God’s anger was kindled—not the reading kind of kindle but the burning kind of kindle. This is one time you don’t want to be on fire for the Lord.
When Moses sees what is happening, he quickly intercedes on behalf of the people and the fire is stayed. But because of this incident, he aptly names the place Taberah, which means “burning.” This is one of those passages that people try to use to prove God is cruel and unloving. But if a surgeon moves quickly to cut out the cancer before it spreads to every area of your body, is it considered cruel or necessary in order to save your life?
As always, God’s eye is on the big picture. Because of His love for the world, and in particular, you and me, drastic measures at different times throughout history were necessary to preserve the whole. Like it or not, you and I don’t see the big picture most of the time and therefore cannot understand God or His ways when viewing isolated situations.
There have been times in my life when I wondered why I had to go through certain things and why life wasn’t easier, especially compared to other people. But I have learned to trust that God is working a bigger plan than I have knowledge of and I must trust Him to cause all things to work together for good. While that is never easy, it is necessary.
I could go on with the text, but I think it would be more profitable to leave it here. Is there something from your past you have been trying to reconcile? Are you continually looking back instead of focusing forward on the things He has for you? If so, perhaps some healing is needed. Perhaps some forgiveness and reconciliation with God or others is necessary.
Whatever is stopping you deserves your attention today. You may be angry at God for the losses of the past, unable to see that He is working a plan of restoration. That can be difficult to accept, especially when it involves the loss of people in your life. I know that pain. But I also know that God is a loving Father who will not allow you to suffer needlessly.
Trust Him and allow Him to work His plan of redemption in your life in His way and in His timing. Instead of complaining, bring your pain to God and let Him heal you. I promise He can and will make it better. If you need to talk about anything, please feel free to contact me. I’ll be praying for you.