Three Facts About Coping With Misfortunes
1. “I can’t complain....” But most of us can–and do! The questions is whether in doing so we are coping with our misfortunes or becoming victims of them.
2. This chapter is a great proving ground for answering that question.
a. It describes what happened when Israel broke camp after a year at Mt. Sinai and began to move on toward the promised land.
b. It depicts their descent into a habit that was to bring disaster upon a whole generation.
c. It develops into lesson the New Testament calls us to pay attention to lest we fall (cf. 1 Cor. 10:5, 10).
3. There are three facts about coping with misfortunes that may be observed from what is recorded here.
1. No misfortune is worse than character without maturity, gratitude, or loyalty.
a. No sooner had Israel started out than they “complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes” (11:1, ESV).
i. What misfortunes? That is the point. You can fill in the blank!
ii. This is a statement about what they were, not about what was happening to them. The KJV footnote says they “were as it were complainers.” The ASV puts it “the people were as murmurers.”
iii. “In the hearing of the LORD” means they were not merely struggling with hardships, they were speaking evil of God.
b. The nature of what was said is apparent from 11:4-6.
i. It gave voice to the craving of the rabble.
ii. It looked back to Egypt and romanticized what they had eaten as slaves.
iii. It expressed weariness and dissatisfaction with the manna God was supplying them
(1) It is thought to have been the pale yellow color of resin.
(2) It tasted like honey and could be ground so that it was like cakes cooked with oil.
(3) It was provided by God as the dew fell in the evening, and in the morning enough for the day was to be picked up.
c. The kind of complaining in which they were engaged indicated three serious problems with their character.
i. They had not changed; there had been no growth or development in them.
(1) A year earlier they had complained in the same three ways we find them complaining here (Ex. 15:24f).
(2) Since that time they had been before God at Sinai, had seen his glory and heard his law, and had entered into a covenant with him.
(3) Now, after perhaps only three days, they were showing the same character as before. No maturing had occurred.
ii. They had no sense of appreciation for the rich ways in which they had been, and were being, blessed.
(1) They were tired of it and dissatisfied with it.
(2) Ingratitude like this is ugly wherever it is found, but it looks even worse in people who had just been brought from slavery and were on their way to the land of promise.
iii. They had no loyalty to God that could survive time and difficulty.
(1) 11:18–“For it was better for us in Egypt.”
(2) 11:20–“Why did we come out of Egypt.”
(3) 11:20–“You have rejected the LORD who is among you.”
2. The burden of leadership is the task of keeping hearts turned toward the promise.
a. 11:10-15 shows that Moses understood this truth.
i. How was he going to be able to take a people to the land that God had sworn to their father if their hearts longed for the land of slavery?
ii. He was feeling a burden most every leader in any capacity among the Lord’s people has known.
b. You can see what it does to a man if you will listen to Moses as he speaks to the LORD.
i. He feels like he has done something wrong: “And why have I not found favor in your sight?” (11:11)
ii. He feels like the responsibility should not belong to him: “Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom...’” (11:12)
iii. He feels as if he does not have the resources to meet the demands that press upon him: “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people?” (11:13)
iv. He feels unable to bear the responsibility: “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.” (11:14)
v. He feels like he would escape it if he could: “If you will treat me like this, kill me at once...that I may not see my wretchedness.” (11:15)
c. There are at least two things that should deeply impress us as we listen in on this conversation.
i. First, the wrong kind of complaining always impacts other people.
(1) The minor things they were murmuring over placed Moses in major distress.
(2) We should realize that fixing all our problems and making us satisfied all the time is more than any man can do.
(3) We have a responsibility ourselves in keeping our hearts turned toward the promise.
ii. Second, what Moses did with his displeasure is very different from what the complaining of the people.
(1) His was not merely over his own cravings.
(2) What he said was spoken to God, not spread among the crowd.
(3) It was left there; it was not a continuing mind-set.
3. What we are looking for comes from letting God have his way, not from getting ours.
a. The rest of this chapter shows what became of the two concerns that have now been introduced.
i. God has provided for the people, but they have insisted that their cravings are more important.
ii. Moses has cried out to the LORD, and God will provide a way for him.
iii. What we should learn is the difference between what happens when we let him have his way and when he lets us have ours.
b. The one who let God provide was given seventy others to stand alongside him in bearing the burden of responsibility.
i. 11:16–“Gather for me seventy men...bring them...and let them take their stand there with you.”
ii. 11:17–“And they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.”
iii. The LORD agreed with Moses. He met the need in a way honored Moses and helped the people.
(1) Moses had to trust him enough to let him do it. (11:23)
(2) Moses had to be humble enough to allow others to help. (11:29)
c. Those who insisted on their own way were allowed to have it, along with the consequences of it.
i. The LORD may judge by turning people over to their own way (Rom. 1:18, 24, 26, 28).
ii. They were turned over to their own greed.
(1) A wind from the LORD brought quail and let them fall.
(2) Instead of gathering manna in the morning, the craving people gathered up birds all day and all night and all the next day: the least that was gathered up was about 60 bushels!
(3) They spread it all out for themselves, and while it was still in their teeth they started to die.
(4) The place was named “Graves of Craving.”
iii. Proverbs 14:12 was already true, and it still is.
1. Numbers 11:2
2. 1 John 2:1