DAVID GOFF | APRIL 22, 2020
There is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!
As I entered the supermarket, my gratitude meter was already running low. It had been a week since I stepped outside my door, due to COVID-19, and I had a debilitating case of cabin fever. As I began to shop, I found myself complaining about many things, such as the necessity to disinfect the shopping cart, annoying health announcements on the loudspeakers, and the lack of disinfectant products. By this point, my gratitude meter was running on fumes.
Toward the end of my shopping, as my unspoken tirade continued, I happen to notice the worker at the check-out line was the very same lady who helped me the week prior. She was faithfully putting her life on the line, and all I was doing was whining and complaining to myself about my trivial inconveniences! It was then it hit me. I had a gratitude problem.
When we have a lack of gratitude, it can manifest itself in the following ways:
· We are unsatisfied and anxious.
· We live with a sense of entitlement.
· We become disobedient to God.
In Numbers 11, we see the story of the Israelites journey when they fell into a season of complaining. As we consider their story, we will examine two truths to help us learn from their sins and have gratitude in our journey.
“But now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (6)
As the Israelites journeyed away from Sinai, the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day. The cloud represented God’s presence, which guided them through the wilderness.
Yet, it wasn’t long before the people began to complain about their circumstances. In particular, they were dissatisfied with the lack of variety of their food, and complained, “Who will give us meat to eat?”(4)
Their demand became irrational as they began to crave the food from Egypt: fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. In their warped thinking, they remembered Egypt as a place where they ate freely - yet they forgot about their lot as slaves.
Their complaints were so severe that Moses became overwhelmed with the sound of the people weeping throughout the camp (10). During this time of frenzy, the Israelites missed God’s goodness in their midst.
At that moment, the Israelites forgot about how God previously filled their empty stomachs with bread from heaven. The Bible says that when the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would miraculously fall on it. Despite God’s continued provision of manna, Israel didn’t uphold him as good.
In our lives, we can focus on what we are lacking or how things could be better. When we do that, we overwhelm ourselves and others with our dissatisfaction. It also brings great anxiety into our lives. This lack of contentment can occur during something as serious as a global pandemic or as minor as a bad day in the office. The circumstances may vary - but the heart issue is the same.
God calls us to uphold him as good; to meditate upon his goodness in all things. He is abounding in goodness and calls us to everlasting contentment and peace in Christ. The author of Hebrew also affirms this as he declares:
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
When we live our lives in the light of the goodness of Christ, we can live a life of contentment and gratitude.
“…the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague.” (33)
As the people of Israel cried out for meat and desired to return to Egypt, their disobedience brought about the displeasure of Moses and the anger of the Lord. Before we judge the Lord’s anger as harsh, it might be helpful to recall that this wasn’t the first time Israel showed a complaining heart.
You might recall that as the Israelites were escaping Egypt with Pharaoh’s army pursuing, they complained, “…have you taken us away to die in the wilderness?” We see another example when they tasted the water of Marah and complained of the bitter taste, saying, “What shall we drink?” During these times, the Lord had been dealing with the complaints of Israel with longsuffering. Yet, Israel was slow to learn Gratitude. It was clear; their dissatisfaction has become sinful.
In response, the Lord promised that he would give them what they wanted: meat in the form of quail. By providing the children of Israel what they demanded, he was giving them both a blessing and curse simultaneously. In Psalm 78, the Psalmist retells God’s response to Israel:
He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens;
And by His power He brought in the south wind.
He also rained meat on them like the dust,
Feathered fowl like the sand of the seas;
And He let them fall in the midst of their camp,
All around their dwellings.
So they ate and were well filled,
For He gave them their own desire.
They were not deprived of their craving;
But while their food was still in their mouths,
The wrath of God came against them,
And slew the stoutest of them,
And struck down the choice men of Israel.
You see, the answer to Israel’s problem wasn’t for God to provide for their cravings. That only led them to a gross overindulgence, dissatisfaction, and disobedience. As a good parent is often called upon to practice tough love with their disobedient children, so the Lord does the same to his own (Hebrews 12:4-11). The Lord wants to teach us gratitude.
In our lives, we can pursue a heart of Gratitude. When we uphold the Lord as good, we see his goodness all around us. No more significant example of his goodness is the grace he offers us in Christ. When we have gratitude, we do as the Psalmist encourages us to do, “Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High” (Psalm 50:14). Amen.
David Goff is the Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church, Washington MI