Numbers 11 Commentary

Numbers 11 Commentary: Israel in transit. Trouble begins

Trouble begins. We can call it the complaints chapter. Again we see just how displeased the LORD is with complaining. Strangely, many of our prayers today fall in this category. For the most part, complaining is a manifestation of doubt and ingratitude. The LORD reacts by sending a fire but again Moses’ intercession saves the day.

The meat, the onions, the garlic…it’s another day at the office. They are discussing the good old days in Egypt. No wonder the LORD is upset. All the festivals, including the Passover, were meant to afford them good memories of the generosity of the LORD. But who cares about it anymore! The mention of foreigners rings a bell. As we hear pagans talk about holiday outings, trending fashions, houses and the good cars on the market, the temptation to start our own war with the LORD God begins to take shape. We are being envious of the wicked and the life we left behind. God forbid!

Moses has his own complaint but it is a prayer to the LORD. What a difference it makes! The LORD responds in a very strange way. Moses doesn’t die (the request he makes) and the LORD doesn’t eliminate the troubles, but instead the LORD provides means to cope with the troubles. My grace is sufficient for you. I guess these words were whispered to Moses.

For the saint today these lines teach us to understand that while elimination of troubles is the quickest and preferred solution for us humans, the LORD doesn’t always endorse it. It is a harsh reality! In many cases the LORD simply provides more grace to cope with the problem.

So seventy leaders are selected from amongst the people to help carry the burden of governance. They receive the anointing for leadership without any of the rituals that you would expect – a dove here, blood there or oil ruining down on one’s head. Even in these times there is enough demonstration of the LORD’S eagerness to do things without rituals.

Moses has valid concerns which the LORD duly attends to. It is an encouragement that we can go to the LORD when stuck or when human effort hits a limit. Six thousand hungry (and consequently angry) men isn’t a joke.

Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ Numbers 11verse 13.

Moses’ question here isn’t meant to reflect his doubt in the power of the LORD. But as one would expect Moses is drawing the LORD’S attention to the fact that he was completely unable to provide a solution. The LORD’S response is more like, worry not Moses. I’m on top of things. I will not fail like you. It’s a line that brings out a hidden admission that Moses’ task is beyond him.

Moses’ statement does show us the extent of the task. Prayer is easier when you begin by admitting your inadequacy. But an observer would want to ask why the LORD put such a huge task on a mere mortal, Moses. The saint does well to reflect on their own lives and ask why the LORD subjects them to the life they have. It’s the puzzle the LORD resolves perfectly but imperfectly. So we must ask the same question endlessly. Maybe we, saints, are just children, after all.

The children of Israel moved on and camped at Hazeroth.

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Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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