Why does God sometimes give us what we want?
We were left yesterday on a cliffhanger. The people have sinned, but this time Moses doesn’t intercede for them. Clearly, the burden of leadership is too much for Moses to carry alone. So God appoints 70 elders to help him.
But there is still the issue of the people’s moan about meat. Moses doubted God’s goodness (v 11), and now he doubts God’s power to provide for so many (vs 21,22). But despite his lack of trust, God is kind to him and simply says, ‘Just wait and see!’ (see v 23).
And in blow the quail. And they blow in, in such enormous quantities that they pile up three-feet high on the ground. God gives the people what they ask for, but it turns out to be an awful judgement (v 33). The people turn their backs on God. They doubt God is good. They demand he meet their needs. They want to go back to Egypt. They don’t want to follow God’s good plans for them. And God shows them that what they want will destroy them.
No one deserves God’s mercy in this story. But God is kind to Moses and gives him help to lead. And God limits his judgement on the people so that they are not all destroyed.Mark Ellis
Give thanks that a good God does not always give us our heart’s desire. Give thanks that in Jesus we have an intercessor who is ableto carry every burden and forgive every sin.
That the Lord always hears his people’s cries is one of the unequivocal promises of the Scriptures, often repeated. Graciously, he not only hears but answers. Sometimes, however, he answers in a way that we least expect and in a manner that we deserve rather than desire – and that is one of the lessons taught here.
The inability of Moses to bear the burden of leading the people alone was the substance of his complaint in verse 14 – a truth that his father-in-law Jethro had pointed out to him long ago (Exod 18). God graciously distributes his Spirit upon seventy of the senior men of the community, who will share in the leadership of the people. The principle of plural eldership of God’s people, established here, continues throughout Scripture and is God’s pattern for the church today. Moses’ prayer in verse 29, that all of God’s people would know his Spirit, finds its fulfilment in the New Testament age! (Acts 2:17,18) God also hears and answers the complaints of the people about the manna. They wanted meat, so he promises them meat: meat for 30 days – enough to make them wish they hadn’t asked. Moses’ doubts that God could provide meat for 600,000 men is answered by a verbal reminder of the power of the Lord’s arm (v 23) and then by physical proof of it in the provision of quail (vs 31,32) – but the thing that they had longed for proves to be the means of the outpouring of God’s wrath. Plague and death are the consequences.
Longing for the wrong things is a timeless temptation to God’s people. James reminds us that it is often a result of uncontrolled lusts and being too deeply involved in the world (James 4:1–4). He counsels us to long, humbly, for grace and to submit to God's will instead (James 4:6,7).