Sun. a.m. AGCC 9/10/99
TEXT: Num. 11:1-35
INTRO: Humans are interesting creatures, we tend to become focused on the negative more than the positive - just look at our newspapers, TV news, any information services of any kind, documentaries, etc.
ILLUS:The loudest boos always come from those in the free seats. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
We are also easily influenced by the crowd and those who appear to be the leaders of that crowd. Hang out with a group of people who tend to criticize things around them and see what happens with your own spirit and heart, on the other hand this same principle is what makes going to Church so powerful, you're in a group, the focus of the group and the leadership is to worship and praise God … and so it affects you positively!
Discontent is a very real part of our fallen nature, the essence of the first sin was discontent with not being able to take from one tree, one whose fruit looked good, and discontent over a God who would keep them from knowledge and evil so they could be like God!
Mankind's heart leans toward discontent!
ILLUS:Half the world is unhappy because it can't have the things that are making the other half unhappy. - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 2866.
PROP. SENT:The Bible teaches us that the human heart easily becomes discontented, and that left unchecked it becomes a pathway for multiple sins. The cure - Prov 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
I. DISSATISFACTION & DISTORTIONS 11:1-17
A. Negative Focus 11:1-9
1. After camping nearly a year at Mount Sinai where they received God's written Word Israel was only 3 days traveling when they started complaining!!
a. They had been comfortably settled for almost a year.
b. Life was pretty good around Mount Sinai
c. They had done well where they were.
2. After only 3 days away from their comfortable routine however they begin complaining about the hardships!
a. Their focus is no longer the promise land, but the problem land!
b. Their focus had shifted negatively, and so nothing could be seen any longer in a positive light, not even the fact that they were no longer slaves!
3. It did not matter what God had provided for them. The heavenly bread (MANNA) was no longer viewed as a gift from God, it was now a loathsome boring routine, they wanted some "real flesh" (MEAT) to satisfy their desires!
a. It only took a few complainers to inflame the entire nation to become dissatisfied!
b. This is often still true!
c. We can become so accustomed to the gifts of God that we no longer appreciate them, we find ourselves wanting something "more"!
4. It is tragic when a soul can't see the positive because they are so focused on the negative!
ILLUS:Then there's the story of the conscientious wife who tried very hard to please her ultracritical husband, but failed regularly. He always seemed the most cantankerous at breakfast. If the eggs were scrambled, he wanted them poached; if they were poached, he wanted them scrambled. One morning, with what she thought was a stroke of genius, the wife poached one egg and scrambled the other and placed the plate before him. Anxiously she awaited what surely this time would be his unqualified approval. He peered down at the plate and snorted, "Can't you do anything right, woman? You've scrambled the wrong one!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 134.
5. Though the description of Manna is so positive in the text, the people have no heart for heavenly bread any more, they want "earthly flesh" to satisfy them.
a. Notice the crazy transition of Israel's thinking once they are dissatisfied with God's provisions - they begin to think their past life in Egypt was idyllic! (see 11:4-5)
(1. They "remember" the fish, meat, cucumbers, leeks, onions, garlic they used to have in their "wonderful" life in Egypt!
(2. WHAT!? - when did mistreated slaves in Egypt ever have that stuff!? When we become dissatisfied with God the old life of slavery begins to look better and better!
(3. They forgot how badly the Egyptians had mistreated them, it was the severe mistreatment that had made them cry out to God in the first place, and God delivered them by His mighty hand - now they romanticize the past because they are dissatisfied with God and His routine provisions for them though they are supernatural in origin!
b. It was the "rabble" (11:4a) among them that started all this dissatisfaction stuff - who were they?
(1. They were "non-Israelis" who left Egypt to go with Israel.
(2. Probably rich Egyptians that went along to get away from the devastated Egypt since many Egyptians were afraid God was going to destroy them all and Israel hadn't plundered all of Egypt's wealth on the way out.
(3. Their motives for coming along on the journey may not have had much to do with a desire for the promise land as much as it may have been to avoid a greater devastation back in Egypt!
6. How quickly dissatisfaction can spread!
B. Needed Focus! 11:10-17
1. The "rabble" must have organized a special "wailing" time - note that each family stood in the entrance of their tent at the same time and all wailed out loud together!
a. They must have known Moses would be moving through the camp on his way to the "TENT OF MEETING" - the presence of God, and so they want him to hear their complaint!
b. While Moses goes to God's tent, they stay in their own tents and mourn!
2. Even Moses begins to complain!! 11:11-15
a. Now even Moses is struggling with keeping his focus positively!
b. God had earlier sent them a warning about complaining by having fire begin at the outskirts of the camp and it quit only because Moses had prayed for them - this was meant as an early warning to Israel about the nature of a complaining spirit.
c. It obviously had not altered Israel's attitude too much, only temporarily.
3. Though Moses had been used by God to do great things, even he was now focused on the negative and needed a new focus.
a. It is all too easy when we are so used to being negative to see the positive even when it is right there in front of us!
ILLUS:A boss commented to his secretary about one of his men: "Harry has such a bad memory, it's a wonder he remembers to breathe. I asked him to pick up a newspaper on his way back from lunch, but I'm not ever sure he'll remember his way back to the office." Just then Harry burst in the door, brimming with enthusiasm. He exclaimed, "Guess what, boss! At lunch I ran into old man Jones who hasn't given us an order in seven years. Before he left I talked him into a million-dollar contract!" The boss sighed and looked at his secretary, "What did I tell you? He forgot the newspaper." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 135.
b. Before Israel could get their focus back Moses needed to get his back!
4. God comes up with a plan to help stop the spreading dissatisfaction - to pour out His Spirit on 70 others to be the spiritual support Moses needed!
a. Moses did NOT need these for administrative purposes, his father Jethro had already helped him set up an administrative program (see Ex. 18:13ff - (this had been done before Mount Sinai nearly a year earlier)
b. It was clear that these 70 Spirit filled elders were intended to primarily be a spiritual support to Moses and not an administrative one.
c. Moses needed a new focus, one that can only come from a Spirit filled perspective!
5. If we struggle with discontentment we need to surround ourselves with Spirit filled people who have their eye on God!
a. Unfortunately, negative people tend to find other negative people because it helps them feel "right" about their negativism.
b. BUT, it drives their focus in the wrong direction, away from faith and toward the flesh!
II. DISCIPLINARY DYNAMICS 11:18-35
A. Necessary Foundation 11:18-30
1. Moses communicates with Israel that God is going to grant their demand for meat, but privately he cries out to God as to how this is all going to happen.
a. Moses became very aware that he cannot meet the needs of God's people, that their needs are well beyond his abilities.
b. God however will provide the spiritual foundation for Moses to handle the whole ministry … so God fills 70 other elders in Israel with His Spirit to be a spiritual support to Moses.
2. Moses' frustration is an old one in ministry, how do you minister to those who refuse ministry, whose focus is "fleshly" rather than spiritual?
ILLUS:Christians are like autos--when they begin to knock, there is something wrong inside. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
3. Moses' need was spiritual, and God provided greater spiritual resources through other spirit filled men.
a. Moses himself was struggling with the demands Israel made, they wanted their physical needs met by their standards and Moses was trying to show them the way of faith … the necessary foundation for the whole journey.
b. Unfortunately, they chose a "fleshly" desire over the spiritual one, they chose earthly meat over heavenly manna.
c. This lack of a spiritual foundation in their lives would prove to be their undoing in the desert, they would all die except two named Joshua and Caleb, men who chose heavenly manna over earthly meat!
4. When our demands in prayer show a clear desire that is greater for earthly flesh than it is for heavenly manna we are in trouble!
B. Needless Fatalities 11:31-35
1. Israel's constant bent to complain and disdain the provisions God had made available to them had a huge cost to them, their lives in the desert!
a. They never reached the promise land, they rejected God's ways for their own human desires and it repeatedly led them away from the spiritual place God intended for them.
b. God never planned for Israel to die in the desert, to miss out on the promise land, but their displeasure with God's ways and their cravings for the ways of the world destroyed them in the end and left them without the promise land.
c. They chose "quails" of the Earth over the "dove" of the Spirit!
2. Each time they listened to the negative people it cost them dearly, God builds us up, the world tears us down!
ILLUS:I was saddened recently, as you were, to read in a feature story in the newspaper that our casualties in Vietnam were 58,000 dead, but there have been 75,000 Vietnam-veterans' suicides since the war--more than our casualty list. Who is the enemy? Is it us--our attitude? I don't know, but there is some enemy out there, stalking our beloved Vietnam veterans. -- Bruce Larson, "When Your Enemy Prospers," Preaching Today, Tape No. 78.
3. Certainly Israel gained very little for all her cravings - Israel chose to crave the flesh, and they lost the Spirit, it was a bad bargain!
4. When they had heavenly bread they grew tired of it, how we need to guard our hearts that we don't grow tired of God's Word (our heavenly bread) and begin to crave "fleshly" experiences to thrill us - it will be a bad trade too!
5. There is a real danger in our journey, to become discontent with God's provisions and begin to turn away from spiritual resources and trust in physical ones.
a. This will always result in needless losses however.
b. Just how satisfied are you with what God has provided?
c. Do you prefer earthly meat over heavenly bread?
d. Is you desire more for the heavenly dove than the earthly quails?
CONCLUSION: Not dealing with a bitter or complaining spirit means an ever increasing movement away from faith to an ever increasing desire for the things of this world. Israel's complaining hearts desired more "flesh" and less and less "Spirit". The end result was loss and no fulfillment. Real contentment is spiritual in nature, and is available to anyone because it is not based on material wealth. How content is your heart?