It’s interesting to read the account of the Israelites’ unhappiness with the lack of meat to eat as they wandered in the Desert of Sinai, following their deliverance from Egypt.
One of the things we can learn from this account is that a few complainers can stir up hundreds of thousands of people: “The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!'” (Numbers 11:4, NIV).
We can see that bickering and complaining with God’s chosen leaders — and especially with God himself — never turns out well for anyone: “Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled” (Numbers 11:10, NIV).
But most of all, we can learn that the way we approach God matters. It’s one thing to complain and say this to God, “We’re not on the same page with you at all. We want to go back to our old way of life, because we hate the way of life you’ve given us.”
And it’s a completely different thing to pray and say this to God, “We are on the same page with you. We want the life you have for us. Lead us in the direction you want us to go… and if it’s not too much trouble — you being a gracious and merciful God — could we go over some of the details here?”
Think of Abraham’s prayer when God threatened the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham understood God’s reasons for doing so, and so he says, in effect, “Hey God, you are angry. I feel you. However, you are also gracious and merciful. I’m on the same page with you… but could we go over some details?
Then Abraham said, “What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?” (Genesis 18:24, NIV).
What if the Israelites, instead of complaining, had instead prayed? And what if they had said something like: “We are so grateful for our freedom. We’re excited about following you into the Promised Land. We’re on the same page with you and we love you. We know you are a merciful and gracious God, and that’s why we want to ask you about a few details. We miss the meat we had in Egypt. Any chance you, powerful as you are, could provide us with a little meat? According to your will, of course!”
I think things might have turned out completely differently if they had. A few verses in Numbers 11 stand out to me. Maybe they do to you too:
“Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’” (Numbers 11:18-20, NIV).
And for us? Well, it’s a great lesson in approaching God. Lead with prayer, instead of complaining or rejecting God’s path for you. It might go something like this: “God I may not be on the same page with you right now. But I want to be. Help me to be. I trust you. I love you. You are powerful and gracious. Could I prevail on your mercy and discuss a few details with you?”
Our Bible reading for Saturday, March 21, is Numbers 11:4 – 13:25, Luke 3:23 – 4:13 and Proverbs 7:21-27.
Lord, help me to be on the same page with you. Thank you for your gracious willingness to go over the details with me.
Header image based on "Roasted Quails" by Naotake Murayama, CC By 2.0