In today’s reading I want to zero in on a curious incident in Numbers 11. It is the story where the Israelites complain about having to eat nothing but manna, to which Moses takes their complaint to the Lord who agrees to exchange their manna for quail. What I’d like to observe in this story – of all the things which can be pulled from it – is Moses’ attitude towards God. He becomes so frustrated with the people that he basically tells the Lord,
If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death now! – Numbers 11:15
Those are pretty strong words. Later when the Lord promises to send quail from the sea Moses moves from bitter anger towards God to sheer skepticism:
Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them? – Numbers 11:21-22
Moses is prepared to throw in the towel. He has had enough and he blames God for his situation. Now upon reflection I am slightly annoyed by some Christians who say things like, “don’t question God” or “don’t talk back to God” or “don’t doubt God”. What kind of relationship with God do they have anyways? Have they already completely entered the New Age where being human has become bygone to them? Or are they just so holier-then-thou that they transcend all of the personalities of the Bible whom God raises up? Because not two chapters later the Lord declares of Moses:
“When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face. – Numbers 12:6-8
I’m beginning to think that these Christians have it backwards. It may be that the closer one is in relationship with God, the more open and abrasive they can be. In fact, I think God wants’ it that way. I think God wants’ people to be genuine with Him. God of course may prefer that we have no angst in our hearts, but if we do we should not put on a smile and use our “Christianese” in church and blab about “faith, faith, faith”. God wants’ you. Not phony you. Not religious you. Not Christian you. Not churchy you. But you. You in Christ of course, but you nonetheless.
What amazes me most about our text is the way the Lord replies to Moses.
The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” – Numbers 11:23
It is a gentle response. When the Israelites tested the Lord, God’s mercy seemed quite short. When they complained, the Lord’s anger was aroused, fire fell and many died (Numbers 11:1-2). But Moses, who is closest to the Lord, doubts and questions the Lord’s judgment and complains to the Lord about his situation, even blaming him, and the Lord’s response is gentle.
There’s a lesson in there.
How’s your relationship with the Lord?
Do you feel you can be genuine with him?