#2 (THE "DIFFICULTIES ON THE JOURNEY" SERIES)
"DIFFICULTIES ABOUT THE ‘BREAD’!"
TEXT: Numbers 11:4-35
INTRO: It is a real revelation of the soul that the most discontented people are those who have the most! As a general rule, those with the most time on their hands are least likely to be available to help; those who are the busiest are the ones who get involved to help others. There is more dissatisfaction in wealthy nations than there is in 3rd world countries. Those most bored are those with the most options in life!
It seems to be a condition of the human soul that we cannot find happiness in what we have as long as we can see something we don't have!
There seems to be more joy and peace in struggling Churches in poor countries than there is in rich affluent societies. In societies where the individual is emphasized the people want their OWN needs met rather than having God's will met. There is a tendency to look for something new and different all the time and not be happy with what God has already provided.
One famous preacher in American history recorded it this way:
ILLUS: ONE DAY HENRY WARD BEECHER WAS INTERESTED IN BUYING A HORSE. SEEING A NICE LOOKING ONE HE ASKED THE OWNER ABOUT IT. THE OWNER STATED, “THIS HORSE IS SOUND, HE IS ABLE TO GO ANY GAIT; WALK, TROT, PACE, OR GALLOP. HE WILL WORK ANY PLACE YOU PUT HIM, AND HE WILL NEITHER BITE NOR KICK. HE WILL STAND WITHOUT HITCHING, IS GENTLE, BUT FULL OF SPIRIT. HE GOES WITH ONLY A NUDGE, IN ANY DIRECTION YOU INDICATE OR LEAD, AND HE STOPS WHENEVER YOU WANT.” TO THIS THE PREACHER RESPONDED, “AH, IF ONLY THAT HORSE WERE A MEMBER OF MY CHURCH!” -- Source Unknown
There is a grave danger to our soul when we can't be satisfied with what God has given us and we feel we must have something better than the basic blessings He has made available to us and His Church!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the most dangerous condition of the heart is the one that becomes dissatisfied with Cod's basic provisions, especially the Word of God. Cravings for "flesh" when we already have the "Bread of life” is dangerous!
I. DISSATISFACTION & DESIRE! 11:4-15
A. Mixed Blood! 11:4-6
1. "The Rabble" ... this is the only time this term was used in the Old Testament, it literally meant those who were of mixed blood, not fully Jewish!
a. These were the Egyptians who had come along on the trip because of the blessings of God and the power of God they had witnessed earlier!
b. However, now living in the desert for a while had been tough, and they didn't like the effort it took to live for God, they wanted more blessings and less struggle!
c. They had followed Israel because of the miracles, the good things God had sent them, but now they were bored with the same miracles everyday, like the constant “bread from heaven” called “Manna.”
2. They were use to excitement in Egypt, and having whatever they wanted when they wanted it, of being waited on by others ... this desert stuff was not what they were accustomed to!
a. This servanthood stuff and trusting God in a desert didn't sit well with them.
b. And the “bread of heaven” each day was getting a little boring too ... they wanted something more, a little "flesh" to spice things up!
ILLUS: IN MATT. 24 JESUS TALKS ABOUT THE LAST DAYS AND STATES THAT SATAN IS GOING TO DO SOME FANCY MIRACLES TO GET PEOPLES’ ATTENTION AWAY FROM THE BIBLE, THAT IF IT WERE POSSIBLE TO EVEN TRY AND DECEIVE THE VERY ELECT OF GOD! RECENTLY I HAD A PASTOR SAY TO ME THAT THEY COULDN'T WAIT TO GET OUT OF SUNDAY SCHOOL AND STUDYING THE BIBLE SO THEY COULD REALLY GET AN EXPERIENCE, EVEN IF IT INCLUDED SOME “FLESH.” HE WOULD RATHER HAVE FLESH IF IT BROUGHT SOME EXCITEMENT INTO HIS CONGREGATION! IRONICALLY HE GOT HIS FLESH, AND LOST SOME PEOPLE! THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE THAT IS AS FULFILLING AS GOD’S “MANNA” THE BREAD OF HEAVEN!
3. There is indication that this was a regular problem of their heart, notice here in verse 4 the phrase: “and again the Israelites started wailing!”
a. This was not the first time they had learned to complain about God's provision for them!
b. It is sad to think that just a few complainers could stir up so much dissatisfaction!
c. These “mixed blood” folks were dissatisfied, they had one foot in Egypt still, and one in Israel! They were dissatisfied enough with Egypt to leave it, but dissatisfied enough with God to make His people miserable too!
4. Dissatisfaction is a spreading disease!
a. First thing that happens with a dissatisfied spirit is that the memory becomes faulty!
b. They suddenly remember how wonderful they think Egypt had been, with all the meat, vegetables, and spices they always wanted; WHAT! They didn't have this stuff, they had been slaves, their memories were now very distorted!
5. Their complaining is simple, “we have lost our appetites, we never see anything but this manna!”
a. God's heavenly bread was no longer satisfying to them, they craved some flesh!
b. Christians will always get themselves in trouble when they develop an attitude that the Word of God is boring and they want something more and exciting!
B. Manna's Blessing 11:7-9
1. Manna had been God's provision of bread for them during their travels in the desert!
a. There is no greater source of spiritual help and nutrition for Christians as we travel to the “promise land” than the Bible, which is the real bread of life!
b. This bread no doubt contained everything they needed to stay strong for the journey, but it now had become something they loathed!
2. This can happen with Christians and the bible, they get tired of bible study, they tire of sermons and hearing the same truths preached over and over again; they want something more exciting to happen, perhaps even a little flesh to spice up their lives!
3. God had made this Manna sweet, good tasting, nutritious, and available, you will note however that though God provided it, it was their responsibility to go out and gather it and shape it into a form that could be eaten!
a. This is true with the bible, God provided it…
b. But we must gather it, shape it into forms that can be consumed, etc.
4. This was bread from heaven ... it didn't change over the course of the entire 40 year trip to the promise land, it was exactly the same the whole journey!
a. And so it is with the bible, God's Word will never change, it will be the same the whole trip to the promise land; all the way to heaven!
b. It never lost its ability to provide all the strength they needed, it was God's blessing upon them; one they took for granted and grew tired of!
c. It was there in the evening, and gathered in the morning each day except the 7th day. On the 6th day there was twice as much so they could rest on the Sabbath!
d. All attempts to store it up failed (except for the Sabbath) ... it would not be fit if they tried to get ahead; it had to only be gathered daily for consumption!
C. Murmuring & Blubbering! 11:10-15
1. However, like us many times, they failed to see the constant blessing of this bread from heaven and they hungered for something more thrilling!
a. They organized a planned complaint, each stood in the entrance of his tent and moaned and wailed out loud!
b. Imagine a couple million or so people doing this all at the same time!!
c. God has a hard time with discontented hearts!
2. Moses has a hard time with all these discontented followers too! Like many Pastors who pastor churches of discontented people he too becomes discontented!
a. Discontentment is infectious!
b. Now, not only are the people blubbering and complaining, so is Moses!
3. Moses mistakenly assumed he was to carry these people's burdens alone, but in fact God had only asked him to lead these people; God would carry them!
a. The people cry out loud!
b. Moses cries out loud too!
c. The last line of verse 15 indicates Moses was more concerned about his own reputation that he was of God's at that time, “do not let me face my own ruin.”
4 Israel had lost sight of the difference between “wants” and “needs!” They needed the manna, they wanted flesh, but too much want can distract attention from the real need!
ILLUS: IN HIS BOOK "MAVERICK" BY RICARDO SEMLER, HE TELLS OF A LESSON HE LEARNED ABOUT WANTS AND NEEDS. HE WORKED AT SEMCO AND IN A MEETING SEVERAL DEPARTMENTS COMPLAINED OF THE NEED FOR MORE FILE CABINETS. THE NEED CAME TO ABOUT $50,000 FOR MORE CABINETS, AND SEVERAL DEPARTMENTS HAD BEEN WAITING FOR MONTHS ALREADY WITH FILES LYING AROUND. HOWEVER; SOMEONE ASKED THE QUESTION “WHAT IF WE CLEAN OUT ALL THE UNNECESSARY FILES AND OLD PAPERS NO LONGER NEEDED FIRST.” THEY TOOK A HALF DAY AND EVERY DEPARTMENT WENT THROUGH EVERY CABINET CLEANING OUT ALL THE OLD STUFF NO LONGER NECESSARY. AFTER THE CLEANOUT, NOT ONLY DID THEY FIND THEY HAD ENOUGH CABINETS, BUT THE COMPANY WAS ABLE TO AUCTION OFF DOZENS OF OLD FILE CABINETS THAT WERE EMPTY AND NOT NEEDED! THE REAL NEED WAS CLEANING OUT THE OLD, NOT BUYING MORE CABINETS! THIS SAVED THE COMPANY MORE THAN $50,000! -- Source Unknown
a. How many times do we tell the Lord what we NEED, when what we really need is already available!
b. We need a relationship healed and we pray for God to do it, when all the time the bible tells us about how to heal relationships; how to forgive, how to know “love that covers a multitude of sins,” how to go to our brother and make things right; but we ignore this “word” and hope God will somehow take care of it supernaturally for us instead!
II. DELIVERANCE & DISTRESS! 11:16-30
A. Magnificent Blessings! 11:16-17, 24-30
1. God starts with Moses, God instructs Moses to find 70 men with reputations as leaders, men of proven character already!
a. To these men, God will put the same Spirit that is on Moses on them!
b. It is clear from this plan that God was not talking about helping Moses out administratively ... this had already happened earlier thanks to advice from his father-in-law Jethro.
c. It is clear that what God had in mind here was for Moses to have Spiritual help! These would become like Elders, men to lift up Moses and be an encouragement to him, to help him keep focus spiritually!
2. Moses losing perspective because of all the complaining people made it necessary for him to have some spiritual support, to help keep him from losing perspective too!
3. No longer would Moses carry the people alone spiritually, already there were those helping carry the load administratively, but this would be spiritual help!
4. This kind of help to him would require the SAME SPIRIT that already was on Moses!
a. And so God does this!
b. And it becomes a great blessing to Moses.. .and Israel in the long run!
B. Messy Blessing 11:18-23
1. Moses is back on track, but now the people need addressing, they begged for “flesh” and so God is going give them what they want!
a. The only thing sometimes more frightening than not getting what we want from God is getting exactly what we want from God!
b. God may sometimes give us exactly what we complain we want, and in the end it will prove to be very bad, but very educational!
2. There is an interesting contrast here between the “wind that blew in camp” ... the coming of the Spirit on the 70 and the “wind that blew outside the camp” that brought the flesh!
a. It is hard to find the Spirit outside the camp!
b. The only wind to blow outside is the wind of flesh!
c. God was inside the camp and the tabernacle, but outside the winds of flesh blew!
3. God promises to give them what they want, he will send them flesh if that is what they really want and it will be a mixed blessing, they will get what they want and within a month it will make them all sick, some unto death!
a. Their idea of "blessing" would prove not to be God's idea of "blessing!"
b. God granted them the desires of their heart!
III. DANGEROUS DESIRES! 11:31-35
A. Misguided Bounty 11:31-34
1. While the Holy Spirit settled on the Elders inside the camp, the "wind" of flesh struck outside the camp!
a. The word in Hebrew for "wind" and "Spirit" is the same... it is "RUACH," thus it was the Holy Spirit inside camp, and the "spirit" of flesh outside!
b. They certainly must have praised God for this "answer" to their prayers at least at first, oh how happy they were in the beginning!
2. Israel got quails, the Elders got the Dove! The Elders got the better deal by far!
3. NOTE: These same Israelites that were tired of gathering the daily manna were willing to spend 36 hours without sleep to gather all this flesh!
a. Each man gathered no less than 500 gallons of flesh, pretty weighty stuff!
b. The efforts for flesh were far greater than for the manna!
c. If only they had the same commitment to the heavenly bread!
4. Yet, while the very blessing they had begged for was being consumed, it turned rotten in their mouths!
a. They had brought flesh into the camp of God and it was there that this flesh turned sour in the very act of consuming it! Sin is often like this, tastes sweet when first experienced but leaves a bad taste in our mouths after.
b. A plague broke out among God's people, many became sick and some even died!
c. The blessing they wanted proved to be a curse in the long run, instead of fulfilling their inner desire it only made them ill, something "flesh" will always do when it becomes the substitute for the Word of God or heavenly bread!
5. Lusting for something other than God's bread didn't satisfy, lust never is satisfied!
ILLUS: THE STORY IS TOLD ABOUT ABRAHAM LINCOLN AS HE WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET ONE DAY WITH HIS 2 SONS, BOTH OF WHOM WERE CRYING OUT LOUD. A PASSERBY HEARD THE BOYS CRYING LOUDLY AND CAME UP TO LINCOLN AND ASKED, "WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOUR BOYS?" LINCOLN'S ANSWER WAS VERY INSTRUCTIVE, HE SAID, "EXACTLY WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WHOLE WORLD, I HAVE 3 WALNUTS IN MY POCKET AND EACH BOY WANTS 2 OF THEM!" -- Source Unknown
6. Israel thought they could do fine without the bread from heaven, that a substitute would be just as fine ... but the substitute brought death, not life like the heavenly bread!
a. The world, especially the Church, is not fine without God's Word, the heavenly bread. It never changes, it is exactly what we need for the journey.
ILLUS: WHEN THOMAS PAINE SHOWED BENJAMIN FRANKLIN THE MANUSCRIPT OF “THE AGE OF REASON” FRANKLIN ADVISED HIM NOT TO PUBLISH IT, SAYING, "THE WORLD IS BAD ENOUGH WITH THE BIBLE; WHAT WOULD IT BE WITHOUT IT!" – Source Unknown
b. God's provision is still the best one, monotonous or not!
7. They renamed this area, "KIBROTH HATTAAVAH" which in Hebrew means, "Graves of cravings."
a. They are not to forget this experience of lusting for the flesh and the results.
b. The name change would remind them and the future generations of the dangers of craving flesh over the Word of God!
c. Their craving for flesh had left its mark, many sick, several died. A tragedy that could have been avoided had they stuck to heavenly bread!
B. Mercy Bestowed! 11:35
1. This story doesn't end on a tragic note however, God intervenes and in His mercy He takes them from "graves of cravings" to "Hazeroth" which in Hebrew means, “courtyards ... it was an oasis in the desert!
a. God does not hold on to His anger, He brings them to a place of rest and refreshment, here they would rest and once again be fed Manna, God's heavenly bread!
b. Here, hope would be restored, and so would perspective!
c. Here, they would gather strength and find healing again!
2. They stayed here for a while, and with lessons learned they settle down once again and find satisfaction and joy while feasting on “bread from heaven!”
a. So often we want something new and exciting to happen to us, yet what we need most is to learn to appreciate the provisions God already has given us … His daily bread the Word of God!
b. Nothing is better for us than this manna!
3. This oasis was better than the desert, but the food was the same … manna!
4. Refreshed in body and spirit they would be ready to journey on again!
CONCLUSION: Israel grew tired of the "ordinary" bread God had sent them each day. They began to crave something more exciting. As their dissatisfaction grew their willingness to accept anything new grew also! As they cried out to God for something more than heavenly bread they finally got what they wanted ... lots of flesh, and it made them sick in the end! Getting what we want isn't always what is best for us. Be sure to seek heavenly bread!