Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.
Despite all the good the Lord did, the people complained. This was not the first time (Exod 15:24; 16:2) and would sadly characterize Israel in the wilderness. Complaining characterizes unbelievers and shows a lack of faith (Psa 95:7b-11). Non-Israelites were a particular source of this unrest (vv. 4-6), inciting Israel to sin rather than contentedly trust in faith.
The continual pressure caused Moses to speak in anguish of the situation to the Lord. God graciously provided Moses administrative and leadership help through 70 Spirit-enabled elders of Israel. The essential spiritual nature of this task is evident from the Lord’s giving them the same spiritual ability as Moses had for leading the theocratic nation. (This enablement does not refer to salvation, but rather the ability to effectively lead the theocratic nation, thus it is referred to as the “theocratic anointing.”)
God did give them meat, and by doing so gave them the desires of their heart to their destruction (cf. Psa 85:11-12).
The nation’s complaining displeased the Lord, was heard by him, aroused his anger, and brought his judgment (v. 1). By their complaining they despised the Lord who dwelt among them (v. 20). By their greed and being controlled by their lust the Lord struck them with a plague (vv. 32-34).
Note the psalmist’s assessment of this event in Israel’s life in Psalm 78:26-33. Despite God’s great power and deliverance from Egypt, Israel did not believe him, so “their days he consumed in futility, and their years in fear.”
- Complaining accuses God of wrongdoing. It is based in and arises from sinful lusts. Thus God, who is holy and righteous, is justly angered and displeased.
- Beware the negative effects of the world and unbelievers. They never encourage faith and contentment, and always compel yielding to lusts.
- Just because you desire and want something doesn’t make it right. The Lord may sovereignly grant your desire, giving you more rope to hang yourself, as it were.
- Don’t speak against the Lord, speak to him. The people spoke against God and were buried in “graves of greed.” Moses spoke to the Lord and received help to serve.
- Be controlled by faith and thus be content, rather than complain and lust. Faith and contentment in God lead to life; yielding to and being controlled by lust leads to death. “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you” (John Owen; cf. Col 3:5–7).
- Everything God promises he will do. His arm has not been shortened (v. 23).
- Spirit-enabled leadership is essential for the Lord’s work. It is never man’s work, nor one man’s work.