Songs and Praise
   

 
 
 

Less 97 THE UNGRATEFULNESS OF THE ISRAELITES

 
Numbers 11:1 35; Psalm 78:17 41;

Lesson 97 Senior Lessons

MEMORY VERSE:  "Thou gavest also thy good spirit to Instruct them, and with heldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst" (Nehemiah 9:20).

1 The Complaints of the Israelites

The people's complaint, the subject of which we are not told, brought sudden judgment upon them, Numbers 11:1; Psalm 78:17; Philippians 2:14; Proverbs 19:3; Jude 16; Hebrews 12:29; 13:5; Deuteronomy 32:22 Moses once more proved himself a faithful intercessor by praying for the people, Numbers 11:2, 3 Another complaint, started by the mixed multitude, caused them to abhor God's food and to lust for the food of Egypt, Numbers 11:4 9; Psalm 78:18 25; Numbers 21:5; Psalm 74:14; 106: 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11; 15:33; 11 Corinthians 6:14; Psalm 1: 1; Proverbs 4:14; John 6:31-35

II Moses' Plea and God's Answer and Instructions

The sound of the complaint reached Heaven and caused God to be angry with the Israelites, Numbers 11:10; Psalm 106:25, 26; Numbers 14:22, 23; Deuteronomy 9:22; Hebrews 3:16-19 Moses' prayer showed his knowledge of both his own impotence and the need for God to carry the burden of the rebellious people, Numbers 11:11-15; 1 Kings 19:4 8; 11 Chronicles 20:12 Moses was told to select 70 proven and tried men, not novices, to help him, Numbers 11:16,17; 1 Timothy 3:8-10 God gave His message for the Israelites to Moses, who told God of the immensity of the request made by them, Numbers 11: 18-23 The 70 elders were especially anointed for their assigned tasks, a type, or earnest, of the baptism of the Holy Ghost which was to be given to anoint and empower Christians after Christ's death and ascension, Numbers 11:24-30

III The Results of the Israelites' Complaint

God sent quails, supernaturally, to satisfy the desire of the people, Numbers 11:31, 32; Psalm 78:25 29; 105:40, 42 The ill advised request, not being conditioned on God's will, brought evil consequences, Numbers 11:33 35; Psalm 78:30-33; 106:15; Isaiah 10:15, 16; Matthew 6:10; 26:39; John 7:17; 1 John 2:17; 5:14, 15 Their repentance, when in trouble, was not the quality with which God is pleased, Psalm 78:34-37, 40, 41; 95:8-11; 11 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 55:7; Joel 2:13; Psalm 66:13-15 God, however, remembered that they were only flesh, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them in their sin, Psalm 78:38, 39; Isaiah 40:6-8; 1 Peter 1:24

NOTES

The All too familiar Habit of Complaint

Our lesson opens with a few words that might tend to discourage the reader, at first glance, but which rather encourage him as he ponders them, considering all that took place in and around the camp of the Israelites during this early period of their wanderings. 'The people complained' against God and against His appointed men often   far too often   until their complaints almost resolved into a habit. But this one time, at least, quick judgment came upon them when they voiced their unbelieving complaint. 'The fire of the LORD burnt among them' to show them their wrong attitude of bitterness.

 

Moses again went to God, as he had many times before, in behalf of the people. The Lord heard his prayer, and the consuming fire was quenched, thereby sparing many lives. But that did not end the complaint or turn the hearts of the people wholly toward God, as one would think it would. A mixed multitude had come out of Egypt with them and these never wholly followed God, nor honored Him as they should. The mixed multitude 'fell a lusting' and the Children of Israel were influenced by their example and wept a complaint against God because of the food they had to eat.

The Danger of Evil Associations

A Christian must carefully choose his companions and company. He lives in the world of sin, does business with its inhabitants, and, to a certain extent, lives among those who are ungodly. But a Christian must realize the danger of close association with any member of a 'mixed multitude,' lest he take on himself the sins of that group or be found unnecessarily in their company more than in the company of God's children. In our lesson the Children of Israel cried out for the food of Egypt instead of the bread of Heaven!

 

The mixed multitude's murmurings made the Israelites forget the distasteful things of Egypt. They thought of the fresh foods there, but forgot the privations they had experienced. Their needs had been fully supplied in the wilderness. God had never failed to give them the manna, as He had promised. He had given them flesh to eat also as He saw fit (Psalm 74:14). He had caused fountains of water to spring forth from a rock, and sweetened other bitter springs for their use. Their complaints were not those of a starving group without sufficient food for their daily needs. They were, instead, the expressions of carnality, of uncontrolled desire, of unbelief in the God of Heaven and earth, and of unthankfulness for all the God of Abraham had done for them.

 

No sin dishonors God like the sin of unbelief. It is so deeply rooted in the hearts of some people that even though God performs miracles of the greatest magnitude they still doubt His ability to provide for their smallest needs. The unbelieving heart will not allow itself to say that God is as interested in man as the heart of faith knows He is. One must frequently examine his heart to make sure the enemy of his soul has not sown the seeds of this terrible sin there.

 

The Israelites were favored above all other nations, and yet it seems that few people have ever lived who were less appreciative   until we visualize the condition of our own hearts except for the regenerating grace of God. Manna dropped from the heavens for them, and they returned murmurs and complaints. The rocks gave them rivers of life giving water, and they replied with floods of wickedness. God never neglected them once, providing for them in many miraculous ways, but they doubted His ability to give them flesh to eat.

 

They had grown so weary of the bread of Heaven that they wanted something else   something that both they and God knew was not necessary for their existence. When they murmured for water at Massah there may have been a slight basis for an excuse for their conduct, as they were asking for something absolutely necessary to life. Their sin at that time was in murmuring instead of praying! But here they lusted for some thing unnecessary. It is bad enough to mistrust God when the issue seems, to our temporarily dulled senses, as one of dire necessity; but it is infinitely worse when the issue at stake is nothing but a greedy rage for superfluities.

 

A dissatisfied spirit fancies it would find pleasure in things that are denied it; but that kind of spirit finds no pleasure  for itself when its wish is fulfilled. On the contrary, faith never complains but is ever thankful and appreciative. Had the Israelites drawn near to God instead of to the. mixed multitude, they would have found new freshness in God's provision of the manna for them as they ate it day by day. The minor key of their wall of complaint would have been, instead, the joyful major mode of a song of praise. Let us praise God for our blessings instead of complaining of our supposed needs.

Intercessory Prayer

Moses knew the secret of true success in God's work, intercessory prayer. He knew that the complaints, lustings, and rebellions, which would be the natural results of the people's sinful hearts, could never be coped with unless God Himself remained their Leader. He knew he was powerless to bear the responsibility of this people who continually, in their hearts, turned back toward Egypt.

 

We can learn a great lesson from Moses' conduct at this time. Some have chosen to condemn him for his attitude in prayer at this time. They would tell us that Moses should have been, in himself, a 'pillar' that would never break under the load placed upon him, no matter what the conditions. But Moses was only a man, even if he was a type of the Great Intercessor that was to come. The burden of this people was too great for Moses, or any other man, to bear alone. He realized his inability to do so. There is no wrong in realizing that we are Incapable, in our own human strength, of doing what God would have us do. It is commendable for a person to realize that his sufficiency and strength is of God, that he must have help from God or fall under the load. Our help is not in ourselves. It must come from God.

 

There was only One who could bear the guilt of man, and He was more than a man. He was Christ Jesus. In this confessed helplessness of the great man, Moses, we can also learn somewhat of the true value of the mediation of Him who Himself bore 'our sins in his own body on the tree,' and of our need of God's help at all times.

Promise of God

The answer God gave covered all the needs and petitions of both Moses and the people. For Moses a council of 70 was to be selected from the elders of the people. God would then especially commission and anoint them for the work. The people were to receive their request and be enabled to eat their fill of the meat for which their souls lusted. This was a staggering promise, the execution of which would defy their wildest imaginations.

 

When Moses, impatient with the people, attempted to estimate what would have to be done to make this promise possible, God reprovingly asked him if the Lord's hand were short, testifying again of His power and ability to do even this that the people desired and lusted for. To say that a person's hand is short, in Hebrew conception, was to say that he was powerless or impotent. Even among the modern Arabs and Persians the expression a long hand denotes strength and a short hand, weakness.

 

God gave Moses the authority to select 70 men of the elders of Israel and to bring them to the Tabernacle. Moses was to be the sole human being to judge their fitness. God empowers His leader with wisdom for each responsibility that He gives them   then and now! (Read I Kings 3:4 14.) The people did not elect these men but they were placed in their position by God, through Moses, and instructed by God Himself. And there is no one more capable or qualified to select those who are to fill the places of responsibility in God's service than the leader, or overseer, that God has placed in charge of His work. That person is led by God as he serves God and the people. Moses, being a true shepherd and leader, acted as he felt God would have him act, and appointed those whom he knew and felt God would have him appoint. He was a faithful leader, faithful to God as well as to Israel.

 

Two of the appointed men were unable to appear at the Tabernacle for reasons unknown to us now but sufficient at that time. But that did not prevent the same power from filling them and anointing them that filled the 68 who stood before the Lord at the Tabernacle. God has commissioned and empowered His people, at all stages of the history of the world, with special gifts of His power and Spirit that they might carry on His work. In Old Testament times this energizing Spirit came for specific purposes and times and was not given as an abiding anointing as it has been since its first outpouring in this dispensation of the Church. This manifestation in Israel's early history, we might say then, was an earnest, or type, of the outpouring that was to come in later times when not only a few specially called could receive its fullness, but also all those who meet the conditions, who pray 'with one accord,' having been already sanctified wholly (Joel 2:21 32; Acts 2:1 21).

The Reward of Lust and Wanton Desire

Soon there went forth a wind from the Lord which brought quails to the camp of Israel. God sent quails, a choice delicacy, when He might have sent fire and brimstone instead! But since their complaint was so phrased that it denied the fact that He had power to give them their heart's desire, God first showed them His power, to make their obnoxious unbelief the more plain to them and to us also. Then He sent the much deserved punishment.

 

Their pleasure was short lived. While the meat was still in the teeth of some, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord struck them and they were smitten with a very great plague. Their festivities and gluttonous indulgences ended with a mass funeral.

 

They were not content with the provision that was sufficient for their needs of the day, as God would have us content ourselves, but in their lustful greed gathered great quantities of the birds and spread them upon the ground to dry. Their motive in so doing was, no doubt, to provide for their needs of the future. They had murmured when they had nothing in sight to eat, and God gave them their daily manna. They had complained about the manna, and God had now given this miraculous bounty of fresh quail for which we do not read that they thanked God even once.

 

They even had doubted that God could, or would, send them meat to eat when they complained about their lot. Now they doubted Him still further, showing in their actions that they did not believe He had given them the meat but that it was only a matter of chance or good fortune for them. They intimated by their greedy actions that it was an opportunity that must be taken advantage of while in their grasp, for it would probably never occur again.. It has been estimated by some that the least amount of quail gathered by any person was about 80 bushels.

 

The unbelief of these people was chronic and incurable, from all outward appearances. Miracles of both mercy and judgment were unavailing to change their doubting hearts. They might have been made to wonder in amazement when they saw the hand of God outstretched in their behalf, but they could not be made to believe! Someone has said that unbelief and a continuance in sin go together. The Israelites loved their sin and would not give it up, so they continued in their unbelief that they might retain their sin. Let us pray that God will keep in our hearts a love for heart cleanliness and a firm belief in His Holy Word.

 

The Psalmist tells us that they sought God in a measure and enquired after Him outwardly, but that their tongues spoke only lies and their prayers were only flatteries. Their heart. were not right with God. They did not have a desire for Him above all other things. They were not eager to do His will nor to have His will done for them. They wanted their own way. But God was patient and long suffering, and dealt with them in mercy, remembering that they were but dust and as the grass and flower of the field that passes away.

 

Oh, how great is God's mercy! It is from 'everlasting to everlasting' (Psalm 103:17); it 'endureth for ever' (Psalm 106:1); it is 'great above the heavens' (Psalm 108:4); and it is abundant in the earth (Psalm 119: 64).

QUESTIONS

1. Why did the judgment fire of God burn in the camp of Israel?

2. What did Moses do when this fire came?

3. Mere did the complaint against the manna, originate?

4. What lesson can we learn from this text regarding the selection of our associates and friends?

5. What did the Israelites want instead of the manna?

6. What would you say was their sin in wanting these things rather than the manna

7. What other great man of God besides Moses prayed a prayer when in despair, similar to Moses' prayer at this time?

8. Did God hear Moses' prayer? What was the answer, if He did hear it?

9. What did God do in answer to the complaint of the Israelites?

10. What great attribute of God was displayed in all His dealings with the Israelites?

 
   
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