Numbers 10-14; Acts 16-17

Week Number

Last week we read about David’s thoughts on talking with God and his keen awareness of God’s love and trustworthiness. This week we again encountered these central themes, but we hear them from different sources and viewpoints—Moses’ and God’s.

In Numbers 11, Moses and God had a discussion about the ungrateful Israelites who were once again complaining, this time about the lack of variety in their diets. Moses’ time with God wasn’t one of praise and worship but a down-in-the-mouth, heartfelt lament. “And Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why are you treating me, your servant, so miserably? What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep complaining and saying, “Give us meat!” I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! I’d rather you killed me than treat me like this. Please spare me this misery!’” (Num. 11:11,13-15).

Do you almost feel yourself bracing for God’s reaction? Moses had accused God of fairly serious neglect. In an instant Moses could have developed leprosy, the ground could have opened and swallowed him, or he could have been struck dead as others had been before him. But that was not God’s reaction. Instead God told Moses how He would help him bear the burden of leading the people. God provided a solution for Moses’ weariness, with no reprisal for Moses’ complaints.

God’s reaction to Moses is in direct contrast to His reaction to the Israelites’ complaint of not having meat. God tells Moses that He will provide meat for the Israelites’ diet, but He also tells him of the price the Israelites will pay for their complaining: “You will eat it for a whole month until you gag and are sick of it. For you have rejected the Lord, who is here among you, and you have complained to him” (Num. 11:20).

What was the difference between Moses and the Israelites’ complaints to God? Why didn’t God punish Moses for his frustration with leading the people when He punished the Israelites for a similar frustration with the monotony of their diets?

One glaring difference is that the Israelites did not talk with God, as Moses did, about the things that troubled them. They complained among themselves. Yes, Moses had questions of “why” and “where.” Yes, there was even a large dose of self-pity when he told God to go ahead and kill him, but there was also a plea to God for help with “this misery.” Moses was completely candid with God, but it was God to whom he talked.

The most amazing part of this story is that, after God did not condemn Moses but told him instead that He would provide help for him and meat for the nation, Moses argued with God that it would be impossible to obtain enough meat to feed the vast number of Israelites because that much meat did not exist. Moses was on quite a roll that day!

And what was God’s reaction? Once again, God did not chastise Moses for asking the honest question of “how” but asked him in return, “Is there any limit to my power?” (Num. 11:23).

God asks the same question to us today. And we answer, “No.” But when we do the gut check, is our actual answer, “Maybe”? Do we believe, deep down inside, that there is a limit to God’s power or at least a limit when it comes to our own situations? Isn’t it easier to trust in God’s unlimited power when it is in the abstract than when it is in the personal places of our own lives?

I don’t know about you, but at least for me, I fear that this is too often the case. The true limitation, though, is in our ability to trust in God’s power and love for us, not in God’s actual power or His actual love. Are we putting a limit on God’s power in our lives by not being open with Him like David and Moses? Like David and Moses, we don’t have to clean up our feelings, our hurts, our confusion, and our lack of trust when we talk with God. God, who cares tenderly for us, will hear and answer our cries of “I don’t understand,” “Help me,” “I’m afraid,” “I’m confused,” “I’m lonely,” and even “Help me to trust You.”

We only need to be honest.


© 2010 Arlina Yates

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