Sha’ul in his letter to Timothy says, “But understand this, that in the last days hard times will come— for people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, hardhearted, unforgiving, backbiting, without self-control, brutal, hating what is good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to an outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!”[1] I want us to keep this list in our minds as we read this week’s passage from Scripture. In particular the concepts of: hard times; ungrateful; without self-control.

[Read Numbers 11]

(Vs. 1-3) This story is the first recorded complaint since the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex. 15:22-27), and nothing in the previous 10 chapters of Numbers prepares us as the readers for this response of the Children of Israel. Only three days (Num. 10:33) into their march, and already they are complaining.[2] And what were they complaining about? Hardship. After being able to rest at Mt. Sinai for almost a year, they now had to walk … at the pace of a child … for 3 whole days. Boo, hoo, hoo. L Isn’t it easy to point the finger at “them”? While preparing this sermon I have had to repent several times as Adonai has exposed just how much I have been complaining about my own hardships. What does the Scripture tell us about worrying and grumbling? (Matt. 6:25, Phil. 2:14)

(Vs. 4-9) The grumblers began to have cravings. There is so much potency in this verse. Jacob, Yeshua’s brother, answers this same question. [Jacob 4:1-6] The strong illegitimate desires or lusts, come from the in-satisfaction, discontentment or un-thankfulness of where we currently are and the hardships we are currently experiencing. Jacob continues by stating that we do not receive the affirmative answer to our prayer requests because we want to spend it only on ourselves. This selfishness, Jacob equates with adultery against Adonai, or “love of the world”, which is idolatry.

(Vs. 10-15) We have two different complaints going on at the same time, the complaint of the people and the complaint of Moses. There is the demand for meat, and Moses’ cry for help. What are the differences? We will see that both requests are answered, but one brings a blessing and the other a curse. In the poem of lament (vs. 11-15) we see that Moses’ cry actually mirrors Adonai’s heart (see Micah 6 or Jeremiah 2). Moses finds himself overwhelmed with the ungratefulness of the people and takes his complaint directly to Adonai. The People are complaining about Adonai and Moses is complaining to Adonai. Remember Job? He complained openly and honestly to Adonai, but would not “curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) We must be carefully that we do not despise Adonai’s present mercies as we wait for the fulfilment of His ultimate promises.

(Vs. 16-20) Adonai answers both requests, but I think we need to be carefully what we ask for. We have a misunderstanding of what “answered” prayer really looks like. We forget that “No” is an answer just as much as “Yes”, and we forget that just because we get what we asked for, does not mean that we are in the favour of Adonai.

(Vs. 24-30) Moses’ request was answered by providing helpers in the form of 70 elders. Adonai took the Ruach that was on Moses and gave a portion of that anointing to the 70. All of them “prophesied” but only at the initial infilling. And of course, Adonai is not restricted by time or space, so the two who were not in attendance (for whatever reason) still received the anointing. And I love Moses’ response when the young Joshua came and warned him of “others” receiving the Ruach. “Are you jealous on my behalf? If only Adonai would make all the people prophets! If only Adonai would put the Spirit on all of them!” This is a similar response as Yeshua in (Mark 9:38-41), and should be the same response when other Believers are doing miracles, signs and wonders, and they are not part of “our denomination.” Yeshua said, “Don’t stop him! No one who does a miracle in My name will be able soon afterward to speak evil about Me.”

(Vs. 31-35) Then Adonai affirmatively answers the request of the complainers. Here is a question: “Do you really want your prayers to be answered?” Moses was surprised that Adonai was going to answer the request of the people, and he exclaims, “I’m surrounded by 600,000 men (not including women, children and elderly), how on earth are you going to do that?” Adonai just replies “Wait and see.” (Also see the response of Zechariah, John’s dad in Luke 1:18)

So what should our/ my response be? Jacob actually tells us exactly what our response should be. (James 4:7-12)

  • Submit to God.
  • Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
  • Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
  • Cleanse your hands, you sinners.
  • Purify your hearts, you double-minded!
  • Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom.
  • Humble yourselves in the sight of Adonai, and He shall lift you up.
  • Do not speak evil against one another.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from the Tree Of Life Version (TLV), 2014.

[2] Ronald Allen, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. Ed., Vol 2, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2008.       Pg. 186-197.