Friday, May 24, 2024

2024.05.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Numbers 11

Read Numbers 11

Questions from the Scripture text: What did the people do in Numbers 11:1? What did the Lord think of this? How did He respond? With what effect? To whom did the people cry (Numbers 11:2)? What did Moses do? With what effect? What did Moses call the place (Numbers 11:3)? Why? Who did what in Numbers 11:4a? Who else wept (verse 4b)? Saying what? What do they “remember” (Numbers 11:5)? What do they compare, negatively, to these “memories” (Numbers 11:6)? What did the manna look like (Numbers 11:7)? How did the people use it (Numbers 11:8)? What did it taste like? How easily was it obtained (Numbers 11:9)? What did Moses hear in Numbers 11:10? Who was doing it? Where? Whose anger was aroused? Who else was displeased? To Whom does Moses take his displeasure (Numbers 11:11)? What two questions does he ask? What does he say that the Lord has done to him? With what two questions does Numbers 11:12 begin? How does he describe the task that God has assigned to him? What does he ask in Numbers 11:13? Why does he want to give them meat? What does he say that he is unable to do (Numbers 11:14)? What does he ask God to do (Numbers 11:15)? According to what from God? In order not to let him see what? Who speaks to whom in Numbers 11:16? What/whom does he say to gather? To where? To do what? What will the Lord do there (Numbers 11:17)? Why? Then to whom must Moses speak (Numbers 11:18)? What is he to tell them to do? What will they do the next day? What have they done in Whose hearing? How will the Lord respond? For how long (Numbers 11:19-20)? Until what happens to them? How does Moses respond in Numbers 11:21-22? But how does YHWH reply to Moses in Numbers 11:23? What does Moses do in Numbers 11:24? And what does YHWH do (Numbers 11:25)? To what effect? Who else prophesy (Numbers 11:26)? Despite what? Who responds in what way (Numbers 11:27)? Prompting whom else to say what to Moses (Numbers 11:28)? How does Moses answer (Numbers 11:29)? Then who do what in Numbers 11:30? What happens in Numbers 11:31? How “deep” (!) are the quail? What do the people do (Numbers 11:32)? But what happens in Numbers 11:33? What does Moses call the place in Numbers 11:34? Then to where does the cloud lead them (Numbers 11:35)?

What is Israel like, as God’s chosen people? Numbers 11 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Israel, God’s chosen people, are wrath-deserving sinners like Egypt and the rest of the world.

The first couple “days’” worth of travel ends up taking over a month! But in that day, we learn that while Moses wishes all the people had God’s Spirit as he did, the fact of their spiritual condition is that they are much more like Egypt and the world than Moses.

It burns, Numbers 11:1–3. Because the incident with the meat gets more “press,” we may overlook that it’s not the first wickedness that the Lord punishes, after Israel departs Sinai. The very first thing they do is complain (Numbers 11:1)! Have you ever overheard someone complain about you? The Lord hears all our complaining against Him. A thankless, grumbling spirit is exactly the opposite of glorifying Him as God and giving Him thanks (cf. Romans 1:21). So the fire of YHWH comes out and burns the outskirts of the camp, the place where the ceremonially unclean were. The people had forgotten that the ceremonially unclean reminded them that all sinners are defiled. So their first pit stop is called “it burns.”

Graves of cravingNumbers 11:4-35. The name of stop number two (Numbers 11:35) comes from when the mixed multitude “craved a craving” in Numbers 11:4. But it’s not just these others who have come with them, the children of Israel immediately join in, and with weeping. Not only is their memory of the menu unlikely in Numbers 11:5, but their memory of the price “free” is patently false. The opening scenes of Exodus saw them weeping over their bondage, which was the incalculable price of their food. The Spirit juxtapositions their complaining against the manna (Numbers 11:6) to a reminder of its heavenliness (Numbers 11:7), usefulness (Numbers 11:8), and free (actually!) provision (Numbers 11:9). 

We must watch against joining others in their grumbling. The mixed multitude was doing it, and “throughout their families” (Numbers 11:7 ), all Israel was doing it. But YHWH was “greatly provoked.” He is not sympathetic to our sin because of how “normal” it is, and it is deadly folly that we tend to be sympathetic to our own sin on that account. Rather, we should be like Moses—displeased with a sin, even if the whole world seems to approve of it. 

Knowing the Lord’s fury against the people, Moses cries out to God for help. He knows that he needs more grace (“favor”; Numbers 11:11Numbers 11:15), and that he is as helpless as a male (“guardian” in Numbers 11:12 is masculine) who must now “nurse”  child with meat (Numbers 11:13). This is, of course, metaphorical. He knows that the people’s great need is not meat. But he himself is unable to lead them in following the Lord. This is why the Lord’s great answer to Moses is not the quail (the quail is a judgment upon the nation, Numbers 11:20) but the 70 elders. They will have a portion of the Spirit for leadership (Numbers 11:17), but as we go through the book of Numbers, it will appear that the people need more than just leadership. The 70 who were at the tabernacle (Numbers 11:24) never prophesied again (Numbers 11:25), and Moses wished that they had all been (Numbers 11:29) like Eldad and Medad, who were elders and officers but had not been among the 70 (Numbers 11:26). It is not enough to have qualified men in positions; they must continue to operate by the Spirit.

Ultimately, the people had wished for the Egypt-treatment (and of Numbers 11:20), and they got it. The provision of quail became a very great plague (end of Numbers 11:33) just before it was exhausted (“chewed” in NKJ of verse 33; cf. Psalm 78:29–31).  He dropped the quail upon them, three feet deep (Numbers 11:31), and they spread it out and gorged themselves for a month (Numbers 11:32). But all that they accomplished was demonstrating that they were of the same wicked character as Egypt, deserving the same acts of judgment with which the Lord had struck Egypt. What even Moses dd not think possible (Numbers 11:21-22), YHWH easily did (Numbers 11:23). The Lord’s arm is never shortened; if we come to Him with unbelief that His arm is strong to save us, we will find instead that His arm is strong to chasten us! 

Two stops, two days’ worth of travel. And the names of the stops (“it burns” and “graves of craving”) should alarm us. May the Lord drive us to Himself for grace. Membership in His church does not, of itself, produce in us the holy difference from the world that it demands from us.

What are you tempted to grumble or complain about in your life? What is there that you are tempted to think would make your life better if you could just have more of it or better of it? How is such thinking similar to that of the mixed multitude and the children of Israel in this chapter? What do you need, if you are going to be more contented?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for how easily we complain and grumble. Apart from Your grace, we are like Israel—and therefore like the mixed multitude and like the Egyptians. We easily crave a craving. Grant to us from Your Spirit, so that we would be greatly displeased with our sin. Give us grace to be content with Your great goodness to us in Christ, we ask through His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH68A “God Shall Arise, and by His Might”

No comments:

Post a Comment