Getting what we want is not always a good thing. Numbers 11:4-35
Getting what we want is not always a good thing
This morning we are going to take a quick look at Numbers 11:4-35. In this chapter the Israelites do the
most inexplicable thing: They complain against God for his daily provision of bread from Heaven, make a
demand for meat-- that the temporary cravings of their hearts be satisfied, and then make an offensive
declaration that they were better off in Egypt.
Such reminds me of the Keith Green song "So you wanna go back to Egypt". Check it out on Youtube. This
playful yet serious song comes from today's passage and addresses the whole issue of complaining and
grumbling about what God is doing in our lives.
READ TEXT- noting that the about 1.25 years had passed since God had delivered the Israelites out of
bondage in Egypt. Over the course of that year the Tabernacle had been built and the laws of God given for
life in the Promised Land. All the while God presenced himself in their midst- leading His people by pillar of
fire by night and a cloud by day.
LESSONS AND PRINCIPLES OF THE TEXT
1. Grumbling and complaining is not a good thing v.6
Every parent has said these words-- probably yelling them.
a. Complaining is often an expression of ingratitude
In the case of the Israelites it sure was. Manna from Heaven every day. Yet they wanted more. It wasn't
good enough. God's provision was not good enough for them. God's timing was not good enough for them.
God's presence was not good enough for them. God's protection was not good enough for them. God's
provision of Moses as their leader was not good enough for them.
Let's not wonder why God was angry with the people.
b. Complaining is infectious (note: Started with the rabble (v.4) spread to the Israelites at large, then
engulfed even Moses (v.11-15 who complains to God about his task asking that God kill him-- for the
burden of leading the people was too great)
Application: When in the presence of someone who is grumbling and complaining. Rather than join in, we
need to do what we can turn them away from their folly
Key verse: Philippians 2:14-15a "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become
blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation."
THE FLIP SIDE of complaining and grumbling: GRATITUDE
WE NEED GRATEFUL HEARTS. WE NEED TO DAILY CULTIVATE GRATITUDE TO GOD IN OUR LIVES
2. The rejection of the manna/ the bread of Heaven that God sent down every day foreshadowed
the rejection of Jesus in the Gospels and even today.
Exodus 16 tells us how God began to daily send the Israelites manna from Heaven to provide for their daily
In John 6:35 Jesus declares himself to the be the fulfillment what God was doing in the wilderness for the
Israelites calling himself "The bread that came down from Heaven" and saying. ""I am the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Application: Given that Jesus alone is the one alone who can satisfy and forgive us of our sins, it makes
sense not to reject him, but rather to put our faith in him as Savior and Lord.
3. Even the strongest of believers will experience times of discouragement and doubt v.21-23
Moses was an incredible man of faith and power of the Lord. On a regular basis Moses went into what was
called the Tent of Meeting (different than the Tabernacle) and spoke with God- emerging with his face
glowing from being in His presence; yet Moses was just a person like and you. Moses was subject to fear
and doubt and crises of faith, just like you and I are.
In response to the Israelites complaining God tells Moses to tell the people that the next day- though they
were out in the wilderness- that the Lord was going to give them meat-- an incredible amount of meat.
Instead of saying "Yes Lord" Moses expresses doubt that God was able to do what he just said.
Where did this doubt come from? From his discouragement and from his own attitude of complaint.
In response to Moses, God calls Moses and us out, saying "Is the LORD's arm too short?" meaning: You
think I'm weak? You think I don't have the power do as I say? Just watch!
The POINT: Even the strongest Christian and follower of the Lord will experience times of discouragement
and doubt. When this happens, we need to remind ourselves who God is. We need to remind ourselves
that nothing is impossible for God. We need to remind ourselves of the need to stay faithful and to wait
upon the Lord. We need to pray "Lord strengthen my faith".
When it comes to faith in Christ, we need to encourage each other. We also need to take steps to build
our faith: Active praise and worship. Meditation on the word. Service in the name of Christ.
When a crisis of faith comes: Stay true to the healthy practices that you have been building: Bible reading,
praise, worship, sharing your faith, serving and helping others. HAVE FAITH IN GOD
4. Some thoughts on the refrain "We were better off in Egypt" v.5-6, 18
One of the most interesting phrases of Numbers 11 is the refrain of the people "We we were better off in
The offense of such a refrain is evident. The rebelliousness of such is clear; particularly in light of God's
daily provision, presence, protection and his delivering of them from the house of bondage, death, and
Imagine saying "I liked being a slave- because I got free food" "I was better off when my life was in
constant danger and when my wife had to throw our baby boy in the river- because at the end of the day I
could make myself a fish sandwich" "I was better off when I was being whipped and abused-- because at
least every day I could eat some meat"
Imagine saying "I was better off when God wasn't a part of my life"
Another way of thinking of the refrain "We were better off in Egypt". Imagine saying "I was better off
before I was a Christian"
Imagine saying that. Imagine saying "My life was better before Jesus saved me and forgave me of my
sins." "My life was better before the Holy Spirit came and indwelt me" "My life was better when I was a
slave to sin and Hell my eternal destination". "My life was better when I could without guilt drink myself
into oblivion, sleep around, steal, swear, do drugs, and when I was at war with everyone around me."
Imagine saying "The temporary troubles and sacrifices of living for Christ outweigh the benefits of being in
and knowing God."
Sad fact: Some people indeed do say this. Some have abandoned the faith and gone back to the old way of
life-- showing by their actions that they were not true followers of Christ.
POINT: The Israelites-- as much as they idealized their past-- were not better off in Egypt. They were not
better off living as slaves and abused.
POINT: The lives we lived before becoming followers of Christ were not better: We were blind. We were in
sin and dying. We were on our way to Hell. We were under the judgment of God. We had no moral anchor.
We had no hope. We had no peace.
POINT: The benefits of being in Christ far outweigh the light and momentary troubles that we are and will
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 reminds us of such "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are
wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are
achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
The temptation and invitation to "Go back" will always be there. We need to resist and stay faithful to
5. GETTING WHAT WE WANT IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD THING
Sometimes we want something or someone when we shouldn't. Such cravings and obsessions can bring us
great harm-- and often do
Key word: Crave v. 4, 34
Not all cravings and desires are healthy!
-Cravings and desires often cloud our judgment.
-Being desperate for things (especially anything not in accord with what the Scripture says we should set
our desires on) is dangerous to our health
Kibroth Hattaavah- means graves of craving
Interesting: God directed a huge number of quail to the camp of Israel. FYI: Quail migrate over the Sinai
wilderness every year and the locals use nets to catch them. (confirmed)
Interesting: As an act of judgment for their rejection of Him and treason, God gave them what they want--
so much so that it was to their harm--- tainted meat.
Point: Be careful what you ask for. Be careful what you set your heart on.
What should we set our hearts on?
Colossians 3 answers this question, beginning "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your
hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is
youra life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
CLOSE BY SINGING: One pure and holy passion