The children of Israel are coming off of a big celebration after their fleeing Egypt. But almost instantly, they begin to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. Their lamentations consist of their living conditions as nomads in the wilderness and the lack of food. They wish they were back in Egypt where they ate meat until they were full. The people accuse Moses and Aaron of bringing them to the wilderness only to kill them with hunger.
Frankly, it is easy to see both sides of the situation. With the benefit of hindsight, we can empathize with the Israelites. While they were in slavery in Egypt, they enjoyed a standard of living that seems comfortable. Food abounded, and it also appears that they could live together in good shelters as families. Now they are continuously mobile and food is scarce. God, who did so much to bring them out of Egypt, now seems to have abandoned them. They did not have a heritage of faith that we have and their relationship with God was worlds different than ours. It must have been easy for them to complain in this situation.
But in reality, we know that their complaints showed their lack of faith in the Lord. If God had done so much to save them, would He not then create a way for them to live safely with their newly given freedom? Recall how God led them out of Egypt on a path that did not confront other nations, so as not to intimidate the children of Israel back to their captors. As children of faith, these early followers of God have a lot to learn.
Moses and Aaron make the common-sense argument that when they complain, they are doing so against the Lord. But they still go to God with these concerns and God still allows for their lives. He makes provisions for bread and meat for them. With some specific instructions on how much and when to gather the manna, God makes His authority and the surrounding conditions of these blessings clear. Despite this, the Israelites still could not simply have faith in God and follow the instructions. In this chapter the Israelites displayed the following traits:
- Lack of gratitude
- Misunderstanding of the full import of God’s blessing
- Misunderstanding of the full import of God’s plan
But God’s love is so great and His mercy is boundless. He continues blessing the Israelites, providing mercy and sustenance to them despite their unappreciative attitude.
In this chapter, the Lord makes a reference to His commandments and His laws. In just a short time, God will formally deliver His laws to the Israelites from Mt. Sinai. Other interesting facts about this chapter:
- The omer of manna kept for remembrance and will ultimately be kept in the ark of the covenant
- The children of Israel ate manna for forty years while in the wilderness
What can we learn from this chapter? Certainly the character of the Israelites is interesting. It is easy to condemn the Israelites for their impetuous complaining but when has any one of us been completely innocent of complaint, particularly when there is no real need to complain? If we survey the Israelites as human beings, we see similarities of ourselves in them. But we have to try to see beyond our condition and reach for God even when conditions are bad. This is much easier to preach than to practice, but going to God in the bad times and in the good will always help us when we need Him most.
And, the more we live in prayer and study His Word, we find that we need Him at all times.