NUMBERS 11: DO YOU HAVE A COMPLAINT?
"Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp" (Numbers 11:1-2).
The fire scared some and they stopped complaining, but even fire couldn't keep "the rabble among them" from complaining, "If only we had meat to eat! Oh, and we remember the free Nile fish, the cucumbers, melons, and leeks, and goodness, don't you remember the garlic?"
Can you believe this rabble? Well, have you ever complained about food? Ever been on a short term mission trip, and over the humble meal someone has served, you are talking with others about the food back in the United States. Not too far-fetched is it?
Manna meant literally, "What is it?" because when it first appeared on the ground, that's the question they asked. We know from Numbers 11:7 that the color was like gum resin and the texture or taste was like coriander seed (see photo). Many of us know coriander as cilantro.
Even Moses complains. "Come on, Lord! Did I give birth to all these people that you would want me to carry them like a nursing mother with them sucking on my breasts!" Pretty funny stuff. Everybody is upset about the food situation. Moses complains again saying, "Where am I supposed to get meat for everyone?" He doesn't have the imagination God has.
God has two responses to all this. He gives them quail to eat, so much the text says, that they will eat for a month and it will come out of their nostrils! (11:20) This is because they complained and said life in Egypt would be preferable to the liberated life without their favorite foods. Second, God had compassion on the nursing mother Moses! He told Moses to bring the council of seventy elders and God transferred some of the spirit that had been on Moses to the elders (11:17, 25, 29).
Keith Green brings this episode of complaining to life in a song from 1980, and this video below is old enough to be a classic. As he says in his opening to the song, it's really not about Israel and Egypt but a parable about today, whether 1980 or 2018.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.