Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Numbers 11: Forget the Good Life to Gain the Great Life

KEY TEXT: Numbers 11:1-9 And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them. Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, "Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at." Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.
KEY THOT: The people of Israel started complaining about their misfortunes, particularly that they only had manna to eat every day. Instead gratitude, they were disgruntled about their current state. They started complaining and craving for the diets of Egypt: "Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at." But they forgot that they were slaves in Egypt--their carnal appetites only remember the "good life" of Egypt they left behind!
By looking back, they saw the "good life" of Egypt. But it is only when we look forward, that we can see the "great life" of Canaan. God calls us out of the "good life" in order to give us a "great life"!
Backward-looking believers are often complainers. They are always talking about the "good old days". Instead of pressing forward to gain the prize of following Christ, they lament about the price they had to pay to follow Christ: "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" ( Philippians 3:13-14). We need to be forward-looking if we want to gain the great prize and the great life in Christ!
God's response towards ingratitude is quite severe: "when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp" (Numbers 11:1). Paul's advice to the Timothy ought to be taken seriously by all Christians: "Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content" (1 Timothy 6:6-8). Lack of contentment causes us to become ungrateful and unhappy.
In fact, Paul makes it quite clear that it is the will of God for believers to be grateful always: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Grateful Christians rejoice in the Lord, pray in every situation, and is in the habit of thanking God for everything--big or small. Such Christians are pleasant to be with for they exude the fragrance of joy in the Lord.
It's often in situation of want (like the wilderness) that our real heart attitude is revealed. Trying situation exposes our heart conditions. When we can rejoice, pray and give thanks even in trying circumstances, it reveals the true state of our heart before God. In contrast, complaining reveals a heart that is hardened by unbelief and discontent.
Abba Father, what a privilege it is to live under Your care and protection. For You always provide us with all that we need in terms of food and clothing. We thank You for Your daily provision . Amen.

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