Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4-6, NKJV)
O dear. Sounds like some serious desert freaking, doesn’t it?
Have you ever found yourself fussing with God and then been surprised by His response?
Here in Numbers 11, we find Moses straining under the weight of his leadership even as the Israelites chafe under the wilderness reality of God-dependent desert life. Fed up with manna, they begin to complain to Moses that Egypt served excellent food and Moses better do something about this monotonous manna diet; life in the desert was as dry as their soul and the mob was growing bored with manna morning, noon and night.
When Paul and I were farming and offering a weekly veggie bin program to local families, we too, navigated the strain of expectations by customers who wanted their well-blended variety of veggies that they paid for, regardless of weather, pests, crop failures or delivery difficulties. Like Moses, our hands were tied. We were unable to manage conditions like weather, pestilence and drought. God brought forth the harvest from our land and we were thankful for everything we could produce. Moses could no more procure meat or garlic or onions for the people than he could make manna, and the outraged rabble that was shouting revolt on the desert plains had backed Moses into a most difficult place.
Moses, sensing their dis-ease, asked God for an exit strategy, basically saying, “Kill me, God; kill me now, before those Israelites do.”
The Lord offered Moses a different alternative and suggested a team approach, with God, the elders and Moses facing the problem head on:
Go get seventy elders and bring them to our Tent. I will come down and put My Spirit upon them, and they will share this burden with you. Then tell the people to get ready, because I am bringing meat for a month – meat until you are sick of it, for you have despised Me with your moans that your place of slavery, Egypt, was better than this place of blessing, here in the desert, with Me ( Numbers 11:16-19, paraphrased)
You would think that Moses would have jumped for joy at the prospect of backup! Instead, afflicted by the same dis-ease as those around him, he asked, “How are you going to do this, God? Do we slaughter all the flocks, or are you going to bring all the fish in the sea to our door?” (Not a great moment for their relationship.)
God quietly asked, “Has My Arm been amputated that I am suddenly powerless in your eyes, Moses?”
Meekly, Moses obeyed and gathered the elders, the leaders of Israel and brought them to the Tabernacle to meet with God Almighty.
Now a strange thing happened with roll call that day. Though their names were on the list, Eldad (meaning God has loved[i]) and Medad (meaning affectionate, loving[ii] ) were left behind, declared redundant perhaps. Perhaps they were absent due to a bad attitude bellyache.
But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. (11: 26)
The one whom God loved and the one affectionately loved, though left behind, were filled with the Spirit of God anyways. In Hebrew, there is a play on words in the passage, for it actually states “the Spirit of God rested upon, imbued those of whom they were written about, and then inscribed Himself upon them, so that they could now speak His words in the camp”, not just in the Tent. Talk about an encounter with the living God. The whole camp was watching and news spread fast.
Joshua, the faithful, was not impressed. When a man ran to the tabernacle and reported that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp, he told his boss to shut it down. Moses corrected Joshua’s perspective immediately:
Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel (11:29-30).
O that the Lord would put His Spirit upon all, Moses had dreamed. Welcome to New Testament life in God, Moses.
Through Christ, the Lord has put His Spirit upon each of us who have called upon His Name. We are the Eldads and Medads, the affectionately loved ones for whom God loved enough to give His Son and not just for us, but for all the world. Through Christ, none perish in sin and death, as sin is paid for, unlike those Israelites, who the minute they sunk their teeth into the meat they had demanded, caught the plague and died, as their flesh overwhelmed their faith, and their hearts grew cold and vain before the living God.
And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of Jehovah was kindled against the people, and Jehovah struck the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Graves of Lust, because there they buried the people that lusted. And the people pulled up stakes from the Graves of Lust to Hazeroth, and stayed at Hazeroth (11:34-35,MKJV)
What “quail” are we begging for, ready to pull away from God, if He doesn’t meet our demands? What meat are we craving, that lust that blinds love and despises God in vain disdain of our circumstances?
What daily bread are we chafing against because it doesn’t resemble what we had expected?
Most important, why was the Spirit given as God’s answer to His people? Is the Spirit truly God’s answer to life’s problems?
O God, forgive us for our moans of despair when things don’t go our way! Open our hearts once more to your continued words of Love. We confess that Your Arm is not shortened in any area of the Universe. Your gaze is upon us even now, and we worship You, Father God, for You love us perfectly. Forgive us for the times when we have given into intense cravings of the flesh instead of remaining content under the covering of Your love. Holy Spirit of God, come and rest upon us, that we may speak Your Words of life in the camp around us and have grace to walk through difficult days. Lord Jesus, thank You for life in God purchased by Your death on that bloody cross! O Spirit of God, empower us to follow the Lord Jesus, anywhere You lead. O Father, fill us with the joy of being Your children as we journey through Desert and Promised lands in life. We adore You, O God Almighty. Thank you for Resurrection. Thank You for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thank You for Your great love for us all. Amen.
- When you get stressed out by circumstances, what do you do? Do you moan, complain, pray, weep? What about worship? What helps or hinders your walk with God?
- Have you received the infilling of the Holy Spirit? Do you prophesy? How did this happen for you? How has it changed your life? Do you long for more encounters with God?
- Can you see mercy and judgement operating in this story? How do you relate this story to your own life? Do you see God’s mercy more or His judgement? Where does grace come into your story?
- Cravings animate all kinds of sin. Where could contentment play a role in this story? Would Paul’s definition of contentment in Philippians be your experience or are you developing your own definition of contentment?
- Christ died for all. How does this message of the Spirit resting upon those dissatisfied men, Eldad and Medad give you hope? How about hope for those you love?
Next Week’s Reading: Numbers 20-29
- [i] Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Abingdon Press, 1890.
- [ii] Strong, James. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Abingdon Press, 1890.