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Sunday: Restlessness in a Wilderness — 20 Comments

  1. At times the Children of Israel were a mob of whingers! (MY grammar checker indicates that the word may not be understood - so perhaps I had better explain its Australian meaning: a whinger is a person who complains repeatedly) They complained about the food, the lack of onions, the loss of the good life in Egypt, the leadership of Moses, the fact that they might need to fight to possess the promised land and so on. No wonder Moses got fed up with them at times. Even his own family got in on the act with Aaron and Miriam both having a go at him. Leadership is a very lonely job at times.

    And apparently the whinging virus is still with us. How many times do we hear the criticism, "The church should be doing this ... or that ...!" And when you get to my age, we start pining for the "good old days" when we knew where we were going and what we belivied, and understood the meaning of sacrifice.

    It is easy to be critical. Most of us have 20-20 vision when it comes to seeing faults in others or in institutions, but doing something about it takes time, persistence, courage, and example. If only we could channel the energy we put into whinging restlessness to productive Gospel living, we could be used by the Holy Spirit to make a difference in our community.

  2. The root cause of not appreciating the great deliverance from slavery and thanking God for His deliverance, but rather a shift to a craving for meat was a rather Satanic spirit displayed. Could we be doing the same thing today? For us to appreciate Christ's sacrificial death our attention is rather on worldly things? So pathetic and tragic. We need the eye salve now.

    So sad. Israel should rather thank God for deliverance from slavery.
    Shouldn't we also thank God for the sacrificial death of Christ on our behalf and stop chasing the world? Shouldn't we ask for help to overcome sin?

  3. Num 11:1-35
    How close to the Promised Land were they? Only 11 days until the land of milk and honey! How close are we to the Second Coming? How does that affect our attitude?
    Who started the complaining which was actually rebellion? It was the mixed multitude/rabble who infected the Israelites. Are we being influenced to doubt the LORD's guidance by those who journey with us but are not truly committed?
    Why had the LORD not provided meat with the manna since they left Egypt? Did He know what diet was best for them? Do we have guidance as to the best diet for us?
    Earlier Moses had appointed civil leaders now the LORD instructed him to appoint 70 spiritual leaders - were the 3 priests not enough? When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied - like Peter and the 120 gathered together on the day of Pentecost after Jesus' ascension. When we receive the Holy Spirit do we also share the Good News without ceasing?
    The LORD executed immediate judgment with fire and plague on the instigators of rebellion? Did the rest learn the lesson? Why does the LORD sometimes allow some people to reap the consequences of their choices immediately while others will only receive them after the 1000 years?

    • Great question, Shirley:

      Why does the LORD sometimes allow some people to reap the consequences of their choices immediately while others will only receive them after the 1000 years?

      Since Jesus came to heal the sin problem of humanity, perhaps some doctor-patient analogies may help.
      Some diseases, like aggressive cancers, call for immediate surgery, or the whole body will be affected. (For this analogy, we'll consider God's people on this planet as the patient.)
      Sometimes a cancer may be deadly, but surgery is too risky because the cancer is so intertwined with something like the brain stem. Surgery could result in the immediate death of the patient. (Are some sins so subtly dangerous that immediate judgment would confuse the genuine believers?)
      Other diseases kill the patient gradually. Patients will die sooner than if they had lived a healthy lifestyle, but surgery is not the answer. In fact, a better lifestyle may reverse much of the damage.

      And then there's the reality of the conflict between Christ and Satan. The accuser's mode of government must be seen for what it is, and that means that most of the time sin must be allowed to do its evil work. That's why we have so much suffering in this world, even martyrdom of God's most faithful witnesses. It helps to keep in mind that the first death is but a sleep and not the final punishment.

      Can you think of some examples that fit the analogies I suggest?

      Can you think of other analogies or other answers to Shirley's question?

  4. This account is like looking in a mirror. How often do I complain about the place I am in in life and blame it on God. If you had..... If you hadn't...... That's a maneuver that Satan spawned and used again and again. This account also demonstrates God's, love, mercy, compassion. Sometimes God simply responds you asked for "it" here you go. When it gets rough "remember" I tried to warn you but you wouldn't listen. Peter comes to mind about denying Jesus. For me this is where DAILY thanking God for specific blessings help keep me focused on the goodness of God.

  5. In our family, my focus of responsibility was making sure that everyone was able to engage in what they needed to do and comfortable doing it. From this perspective, I have been trying to put myself into the shoes of one of the mothers leaving her home, her house, her neighborhood and, yes, her whole life of responsibilities and pleasure [whatever that meant to her], behind and to understand their ‘Restlessness in a Wilderness’. To me, these cirumstances are very unsettling.

    I am certain theirs was a simple life, mainly focused on the basic needs – food, shelter and participating in some of the annual observances of festivals related to the gods of the Egyptians. Whatever their societal arrangements, in spite of their heavy labor and servitude, they were enjoying life and able to grow the number of their tribes. When the experiences of living in the Wilderness became too challenging, they looked back, yearning for the comfort of their old ways. I can sympathize with that.

    From a spiritual and practical perspective, I see the children of Israel’s ‘Restlessness in the Wilderness’ as the struggle between survival based on one’s established understanding of life versus entrusting the security of one's life into the hands of someone else who is unknown, unproven.
    The challenge set before them was to give Moses and his God the authority to determine their life and death. This caused their 'Restlesness in the Wilderness'; coming to the decission of letting go of their reliance on their old familiar gods and way of life learned during their time in Egypt and their total, complete reliance on a God they did not yet know!

    Again, I am amazed about the very personal an direct interaction between God, Moses and the people He instructed and disciplined to become His people. His punishment was quick, focused and severe; His blessings dependend on their willingness to comply with His instructions.
    I see this exchange between God the Father and His 'children-to-be' based on rudimentary principles of a loving discipline which He saw the need for under the circumstances at that time.
    God acting as their Father recognized the people's need for a longer time than anticipated in order to be able to trust Him and follow His leading into the Promised Land - and He extended to them Grace, Mercy and longsuffering.
    We have a gracious, loving, heavenly Father who extends His watchcare over His children as He leads them into the Promissed Land.

    • Not sure it is accurate to say unknown & unproven.
      Did they not see the plagues in Egypt, escape with their firstborn children and animals while all around them Egyptians were wailing their losses, see the sea part and then swallow Pharoah’s army, eat manna 7 days a week that they gathered only 6 days a week?
      They knew He was trustworthy, but they were having a pity party and it’s so easy to blame someone other than self for dissatisfaction.

      • Gale – Yes, they did ‘see’ the acts of God, but they did not ‘know’ Him personally. Seeing manifest acts of God does not help to know this God personally.
        Moses himself took quite a bit of convincing to believe that he was to perform this gigantic work of leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. He asked God to let the people know in whose name he was doing this - Ex.3:13-14KJV.
        In this light, I consider this new and personal God of Moses – the I AM - as yet ‘unknown and unproven’ in the eyes of Moses and the people.
        During their time in Egypt, the people had become accustomed to believe in powers of lesser gods and establishing a relationship with them; worshipping the golden calf is an example of that. God had to establish Himself in their lives first – Numbers 14:1-11KJV, v.11: “And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?

        Their lives now depended entirely on this new God, and He was stern with them. They had yet to meet this God personally in their heart through faith. Building this personal relationship with their God has been a struggle for the children of Israel throughout their time as the 'nation of the people of God'.
        To know and trust God personally is even still a challenge for believers in our day and time.

        • Bridgette, you said

          In this light, I consider this new and personal God of Moses – the I AM - as yet ‘unknown and unproven’ in the eyes of Moses and the people.

          The LORD, God, was not new in any sense, He has always existed, and He does not belong to Moses. Moses and the children of Israel belonged to Him. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob/Israel all had personal relationships with Him. In no way did the LORD have to prove Himself to the children of Israel - He is the Almighty Creator God, He doesn't have to prove who He is to anyone.
          God was not new to Moses - from the burning bush He said to Moses - I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the affliction of My people in Egypt.
          Yes, the children of Israel had to be reminded of their privileged position as the chosen people of the only true God and to remember how He had looked after their forefathers before them.

          • Yes, Shirley, as you say – “the LORD, God, was not new in any sense, He has always existed, and He does not belong to Moses.“
            Please consider the context in which I used my comments. It is their personal relationship, not just the general knowing of the God of their forefathers which I referred to.

            Ex.3:13-14KJV relates to this context of ‘new’. God did not interact with Moses or the children of Israel directly until after that day when He introduced Himself personally to Moses as the ‘I AM’ – Ex.3:6-14KJV. God found it important to introduce Himself personally to Moses first – v.6: “I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” Moses and the children of Israel knew of their God, but they did not know God personally. I am sure there are exeptions.

            As I said, the difference between knowing of a god who performs miracles or great feats and knowing this God as your personal heavenly Father, giver of Life and death, are based on two entirely different relationships. Pharaoh had Egypt’s gods perform their wonders in competition with the God of Moses, and they had a personal relationship with them.

            The context is a 'personal relationship’ with God; God introduced Himself to Moses on a personal basis, calling on him to have faith in Him, convincing him that, with His help, he would become an effective leader able to fulfill the task set before him. Remember, Moses was a meek man!

            It was important that God establish this personal relationship with Moses first; God needed Moses to trust Him, have faith that He would stand by His Word to cause the deliverance of the people from the bondage in Egypt into the freedom of a people with their own country.

            Only after Moses was comfortable in this relationship with his God did he feel assured enough to undertake the awesome task to guide this people to learn to believe and trust in the benevolence of their ‘new’ God, and so entrust their lives to Him.

            • Brigitte, you raise a very interesting point - how does one develop a personal relationship with the LORD? How does the LORD communication with the majority of people? How does one communicate with the LORD? After all this was the issue Miriam and Aaron raised, they claimed that the LORD also spoke through them to the people. And the LORD spoke to them from the cloud and said:
              If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, will reveal Myself to him in a vision; I will speak to him in a dream. But this is not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house.I speak with him face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD.
              So the LORD spoke directly to Moses and indirectly to His prophets and they conveyed the LORD's messages to the people.
              Does that mean the rest of people didn't have a personal relationship with the LORD?
              In our day and age is it possible to have a personal relationship with the LORD without Him speaking directly out loud to us like He did with Moses? Of course it is, He communicates with us through His Word and the impressions on our minds by the Holy Spirit and through His messengers who lead our community of faith.
              I believe that just in the same way Moses developed a relationship with the LORD starting at his God fearing mother's knee for 12 years and it continued during his time in Pharaoh's palace. I believe he spent the 40 years in Midian as a shepherd communicating with the LORD, learning to be humble and develop patience and to trust the LORD, only then was he ready to lead God's people.

            • Shirley – the topic of the study focused on the ‘Restlessness in the Wilderness’ and what might have caused it. I still hold that for the people learning to trust their 'new' God was an up-hill battle. They did not know our God as we can know Him today through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith.
              For them and at that time, they learned about God through obedience to the leading authority of Moses who represented God in the camp of the Israelites for 40 years; and God showed Himself to be an awsome, mighty, powerful, disciplinary, but also loving God!
              Moses's task was to help them develop faith and trust, just as he himself had developed trust previously. It was like a tuck-of-war with them, though; only after 40 years did the new generations accept that God was faithful to keep His Promise/Covenant to their forefathers.

              Certainly, as God lead them through the Wilderness, each developed their own personal relationship with Him; not everyone increased their faith. Caleb’s faith was strong from the beginning, he wanted to go into the Promised Land right away, but the other 11 who were his companions and experienced the same circumstances as he experienced, spoke out against it.

              What made the difference? It was not God speaking to Caleb directly and not to the others; it was that Caleb had established faith in the God of the Promise and the others still struggled because of their fear and resistance to change. Unbelieve kept them from knowing God and trusting him; they had little faith.

              Yes, ultimately, our relationship with God boils down to faith. Caleb put his stake down with Moses and God. Believing comes first, then committing one’s faith to God who asks us to trust Him, getting to know Him by building a personal relationship with the heavenly Father.
              Yes, God knew Moses, though I am fairly sure that Moses's faith-relationship with God continued to grow throughout their time together.

      • I agree Gale, and their "pity party" was the result of unbelief, which is the rejection of evidence for exercising faith. Sin causes this unbelief by leading the sinner to resist the conviction of the evidence and influence of the Holy Spirit. This is a conscious and deliberate choice that every soul faces daily/hourly. The opportunity to know the Lord is shunned by most who feel it too costly and/or inconvenient to surrender their will to the "good, acceptable, and perfect will of God(Rom 12:2). This is why "pride goeth before destruction", and only the meek will inherit the earth.

    • Hi Briggitte, you said

      "I am certain theirs was a simple life, mainly focused on the basic needs – food, shelter and participating in some of the annual observances of festivals related to the gods of the Egyptians. Whatever their societal arrangements, in spite of their heavy labor and servitude, they were enjoying life and able to grow the number of their tribes. When the experiences of living in the Wilderness became too challenging, they looked back, yearning for the comfort of their old ways. I can sympathize with that."

      I certainly cannot see the children of Israel “enjoying life” as mere slaves. I see them “existing” waiting on the promise of freedom to be fulfilled. They were constantly crying to God for freedom. Ex 3:7 - The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
      I think we are missing a critical point in the whole picture i.e. – the Devil’s work in trying to destroy the avenue through which Jesus should come. He had a major role to play in creating doubts and dissension in the minds of these newly freed children of God. He managed to incite fear and distrust in God by using people in authority to influence the masses. God’s action was to make sure that Jesus would come, as promised, through the seed of Abraham to whom He had made the covenant.
      The restlessness and rebellion were all a part of the Great Controversy which continues today.

  6. After eating manna for a whole year, it seems to have become "same old, same old," and tasteless to the Israelites. They wanted a taste of some meat, something they had been used to Egypt, along with onions, garlic, etc. That is normal human behavior. As a vegan, I can live on rice, beans and greens, well seasoned, of course, all year. But the rest of my family has difficulties with that. My point is that it was not abnormal for them to get tired of eating the same thing day in day out. I see 3 problems with the Israelites: One, they failed to view their situation in terms of what God was doing in their midst. They saw the trees but failed miserably to see the forest, the bigger picture. They were unable, perhaps even unwilling, to connect the dots between their misery in Egypt, miraculous rescue, and continued providence in the wilderness. Two, their human desire for instant gratification was severely tested in this apparent delay in going straight into Canaan. This desire was so strong that they were willing to all the freedom they now had and go back to slavery in Egypt, unless these were empty threats aimed at getting Moses and God going on the land of promise. Three, their lack of faith and confidence in God and failure to constantly thank and praise God for what he had done for them led them into these dark places of desperation, where they, without God, imagined and feared the worst outcomes and their basal carnal insticts were aroused. We are not that different or better than they today. 1) When we go through trials, we often magnify the problems and forget that God is bigger. 2) 2nd coming is delayed, so we resort to the sinful lifestyles we knew so well, even if in our hearts we know it is not for our good. We threaten to quit church when things don't go our way. 3) Without strong prayer and devotional life, our carnal insticts gain a footing in our hearts and addictions of all sorts reign supreme.

  7. Learning is a process but to isralites it was something different the devil took advantage of food to destroy their relationship with God.. Which is happening even today in our lives, we totally demand Earthly things than Spiritual!

    We totally forgot the fact that we were tortured and mislead by the devil

    How many time do we seek God forgiveness.. for our own wrong deeds?

  8. Only by unbelief and covetousness can those being lead by God complain about His wonderful providence and care. There was no trust in God concerning His providing their food, and this unbelief led to their preference for perverted appetite and desire to indulge in what God had not given them for their food. This was really no different than Eve's folly.

    In response to the complaints, God appoints men to help Moses, and gives the people what their corrupt hearts desire. Sometimes this is the only way we can realize our folly, and see just how corrupt we are. It is sad to see today that a growing number of God's professed people are setting themselves in opposition to the health message which Christ himself has sent them through His appointed messenger, which is repeating the folly of Israel.

    The sinful past always looks favorable to the unconverted, who have no faith in God. Anyone can fall into this condition if daily conversion does not take place.

  9. It is easy to react to the craving for the foods that the Israelites did with the " what an ungrateful bunch of homo sapiens" mentality, but allow me to pose this question: All of us at some point in our lives desire to change meals; a monotonous meal sucks (allow me to use this to try and express what I perceive to be their sentiments at the time of the desert rebellion)! Was there any way the Israelites could demand the foods they craved for that God would understand and grant their wish without it being looked at as "restlessness"? or God had his own plan: eat manna, be content with it and remain quiet!??

    • Remember, the manna would have been only for a short while if the people had exercised faith in all that God did for them, beginning in Egypt. They had no excuse for their unbelief.

      God's appointed diet was for their best good, which would have helped them overcome a perverted appetite had they trusted God, who was preparing them to be a powerful witness to the world in the land they would possess. But we see different results don't we? Israel never fulfilled their great privilege, and are now scattered among the nations as God foretold in the blessings and cursings. This is for OUR admonition.

      Also, here is an interesting fact: there have been those who ate nothing but potatoes for months. Interestingly, they maintained good health and never got tired of potatoes!

      Are we content with that which God would provide for us, or do we desire to indulge in our past experience of being enslaved?


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