This story can be found in Exodus 16:1-21,31-36; Numbers 11:1-10,18-24,31-35; Psalms 78:20-32; 105:40.
The nation of Israel--a company of over three million men, women and children, along with their enormous flocks of sheep, herds of goats, and "very much cattle"--was on the move! After their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, they began heading South into the Sinai Peninsula. Now, one month later, they arrived at the oasis of Elim in the barren, wind-swept Desert of Sin, just a short distance North of Mt. Sinai.
After pitching their tents beneath the shade of the palm trees, groups of people gathered all throughout the Camp to discuss the situation. It looked serious. All the food they'd brought with them from Egypt had finally run out, and here they were in the middle of the barren Desert of Sin. It was a real test of their faith, and it showed that most of them had little or no faith!
In one corner of the Camp, a crowd of men and women had gathered around the tent of Nabal Baal-e'Aiker, who was angrily complaining, "I never saw such a dreary, barren, desolate plain in all my life! There's not even one blade of grass growing here!"
"But God will provide for us!" replied Caleb, one of the princes of Judah. "He promised He would get us to the Promised Land, and He will!--And look! It's a beautiful oasis! It has 12 springs and ..."
"Huh! A lot of good that will do us!" Nabal jeered. "All our food has run out and we're about to starve to death!"
The crowd angrily agreed with Nabal, but Caleb cried out, "But our God is a God of miracles! Look! Just one month ago He miraculously led us out of cruel slavery in Egypt! He destroyed Pharaoh's armies in the Red Sea! Surely He will also ..."
But the people were not in any mood to listen and have faith!--And soon several large groups of people from all quarters of the Camp began massing together in front of Moses' tent, boldly complaining against Moses and Aaron. Pushing his way to the front of the crowd, Nabal shouted at Moses, "Why did you lead us all out into this desert?--To starve us to death?! If we were going to die, we would rather have died beside our cooking-pots in Egypt where at least our bellies were full! But what are we going to eat now, Moses?!"
The Lord heard their murmurings and complaints and was very upset at their lack of faith! Here He had promised He would take them to the Promised Land, but they just didn't believe His promises! They didn't believe He could supply them the food they needed, and were desiring to return to the "security" of Egypt, even if it meant becoming slaves again!--Or even dying there!
Nevertheless, the Lord knew that the outlook in this barren desert was very discouraging, so He mercifully overlooked their doubting, complaining attitude--this time--and said to Moses, "This very evening you will have meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread, for I will rain down bread from Heaven for you!"
So Moses and Aaron told the Israelites, "At evening you will know that it was the Lord Who brought you out of the land of Egypt!--It wasn't just Aaron's and my idea! For He has heard your grumbling against Him and will send you meat and bread!--And it is the Lord you are grumbling against, really!--Because, after all, what are Aaron and I?" Sure enough, that evening, a strong wind swept such vast numbers of quail into the Camp that they covered the ground! All the millions of the Children of Israel now had meat for several days! But the greatest miracle was to occur that night! While they slept, in the cool of the desert air, a wet mist condensed as dew upon the ground. In the morning the dew lay all about the camp, and when it evaporated, all the rocks and sand of the entire desert plain looked mysteriously white, as if covered by a fine, thin layer of frost or snowflakes!
Upon seeing it, the Israelites asked one another, "Manna? Manna?" which means "What is this?"
Moses answered, "This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat! Now gather it before the sun rises hot and it melts away! Let each family gather enough so that they will each have about two quarts of it per person to eat for the day. You may either bake or boil it, however you please."
So the people went out and gathered the thin, round flakes of manna into containers, until they had enough. Then they took it to their tents to bake. Some ground it between millstones while others pounded it into flour in a mortar. Then they cooked it in pans and made it into small flat loaves.
Nabal exclaimed to his wife, "This is the most delicious food I've ever eaten in my life! It tastes just like wafers made with honey, only better!"
"Yes!" she replied, "it tastes like it was cooked in fresh vegetable oil, and mixed with that tasty, aromatic spice, coriander seed, that only the rich Egyptians could ever afford to buy!"
Caleb came over, eating a manna cake, and said, "I told you the Lord would provide! Not only is He going to get us to the Promised Land like He promised, but all the way there we're going to be eating the finest bread and cakes on Earth!--Bread from Heaven, Angel's food!"
For nearly a whole year the people didn't complain about food any more, for the manna was so delicious and nutritious, and they knew it was absolutely miraculous how the Lord supplied it! But when they arrived at Kibroth-hattaavah, complaining broke out again! It began amongst the foreigners, the Egyptians who had come out of Egypt with the Hebrews. They had been used to eating quite a bit of meat, and began to complain that they didn't have more! Soon their murmuring spread and the entire Israelite camp was all complaining about not having enough meat! Then they started to complain about all the other food they didn't have!
Nabal was quickly caught up in the murmuring, but Caleb said, "Nabal, can't you see? You're just being greedy!--We do have meat from time to time! We have herds and flocks and have beef and mutton and ..."
"Yeah, but we have to kill them only sparingly!" Nabal sneered. "We're just not getting enough meat to suit my tastes! Can God spread a table in the desert? He gave us bread, but can He also provide meat for His people? I doubt it! But if He can, how about sending us some more of that delicious quail He gave us back in Elim!?"
The murmuring and complaining grew to such a state that finally all the people in the camp stood in the doors of their tents, moaning and wailing. "I wish that we had meat for food!" they lamented. "We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlics!" They even began to complain about their Heavenly bread, moaning, "But now we are famished; all the Lord gives us is this...this awful manna! Oh, how much better off we were back in Egypt!"
The Lord heard them and was very angry this time, and commanded Moses, "Tell the people: 'You have wept in My ears, crying, Can God give us meat to eat? Therefore I will give you meat to eat! Tomorrow you shall have meat to eat!--Enough for a whole month! You'll eat quail meat until it comes out your nostrils and you get sick of it! For you have turned against My Will, in crying out, Why did we ever leave Egypt?'"
That evening the Lord stirred up the East wind, and a blustering storm swept through the Israelite Camp. Then the miracle happened! Untold millions upon millions of quail, migrating over the Gulf of Aqaba, were caught up in the wind and swept directly down into the Israelite camp! As Psalm 78:27-28 says, "the Lord rained meat down upon them like dust for multitude, and fowl like the sand of the sea!"
For miles around the Camp, the ground was thick with quails! All day, all that night, and all the next day the people gathered them in! There were so many millions of them that even those who gathered the least amount got 100 bushels full! That evening, tens of thousands of bonfires burned through the Camp as everyone sat down to cook and feast on their meat! The quails were meant to last them a month, but many people just went wild with greed, and devoured bird after bird, till they were so stuffed and full that they became deathly sick!
Nabal cackled with glee, smacking his lips as he glutted himself with quail that evening!--But by the next morning, he--along with thousands of others like him--was dead! As the Bible says, "They ate and were filled to overstuffing! The Lord brought them what they craved, then slew the fattest of them! Therefore, that place was named Kibroth-hattaavah ("graves of greed"), because they buried the greedy murmurers there." (Psalm 78:29-31; Numbers 11:33-34)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
(1) Complaining and murmuring are very common ailments of the human race, and are very easy to slip into, but this does not make them right or acceptable! In God's eyes murmuring is absolutely intolerable! He just cannot stomach a murmurer and hates murmuring, complaining, grumbling, and grouching almost more than any other sins!
(2) The Children of Israel did have difficulties, but that was not the real reason that they murmured! The reason they murmured was because of their unbelief! They didn't believe God could bring them out of their difficulties! (See Psalm 78:19-22,32.) Murmuring is the voice of doubt, but praise is the voice of faith, and no matter how difficult the situation you find yourself in, if you have faith and trust that God can bring you out of it, you won't murmur!
(3) It's easy to criticise the Israelites for murmuring for food in the Desert of Sin, but remember, we often fail much smaller and less important tests, and end up grumbling, so we have no room to criticise!--We only have room to fear God and to learn from their mistakes! (Romans 11:20-22)
(4) Some of the things the people were concerned about were legitimate questions, such as wondering what they were going to eat. Even wanting extra meat wasn't that bad in itself!--Because the Lord was certainly able to provide it! But the point is this: Even if you have a legitimate need--or think you do--this does not justify your bellyaching to try to get it, or murmuring about it if the Lord decides not to give it to you! As Philippians 2:14 says, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings."
A lot depends on your motives for desiring things, as well as the spirit in which you ask for them. If you humbly, sweetly and in faith ask for something, that's one thing, but if you have a demanding, griping, complaining attitude, or go around groaning and letting everyone know "how poorly treated you are," that's a very different story!
(5) There are times when we simply cannot have everything that we want, and we need to learn to be content in whatever physical state we are in! (Philippians 4:11)--To be happy not only when our needs are abundantly supplied, but also to cheerfully continue following Jesus despite hardships or lacks, and to praise God for what we do have! As 1Thessalonians 5:18 says, "In everything give thanks: for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
As long as you're thinking about the Scripture and the Lord and you've got a song or a praise in your mouth, you can't complain and groan about how bad you feel! A few little bad things have to happen so you'll be thankful that they don't happen all the time! You don't always get your way and get to do everything you want to do and have everything that you want, because if you did you wouldn't even appreciate it.
(6) The manna which the Lord supplied them was very delicious and nutritious, so they didn't really need meat, but they demanded it anyway, so the Lord gave them quail to eat and they ate till they got sick! "He gave them the desires of their hearts, but sent leanness to their souls! (Psalm 1O6:15) Sometimes if we insist on something, if we demand it, "God, I have to have it! Give it to me!"--He'll give it to you sometimes just to teach you a lesson to show you it wasn't good for you.
Although you may get what you lusted after, you'll be left with an empty feeling in your heart!--Because you put other things above the Lord and His Will, which is a sin! When you crave and desire something more than the Lord and His Will, you lose fellowship with God! (See James 4:3; Isaiah 55:2; Psalm 37:4; 106:15; 107:9.)
(7) "God gave them Angel's food" (Psalm 78:25) and yet they were totally ungrateful and complained! When people murmur and complain and grouch about what they don't have instead of being thankful for the blessings they do have, God doesn't feel like giving them any more. In fact, He often takes away our blessings when we don't appreciate them!--Then we do, after they're gone!
(8) No matter how much God does for some people, they will never be happy or satisfied or content! Some people find something to criticise and complain about no matter what happens! The only thing that will ever make a confirmed murmurer happy is to have something to murmur about! But if you thank God for every blessing, what time is there left for murmurs or laments?
(9) At Elim, the people blamed Moses and Aaron for their difficulties, but as Moses pointed out, they were really blaming God! A lot of people know they shouldn't blame God for things, so they blame their leaders or overseers instead. But in God's Work, the leaders are God's men or women, and the complainers might as well openly blame God, because that's Who they're really blaming!
(10) At Kibroth-hattaavah, it was only a few people who murmured at first, but soon they had all the millions of Israelites murmuring with them! This is the result of putting the Enemy's doubts and fears into words and sharing his lies with others: It has just the opposite effect of witnessing the Truth of the Word of God! It gets others down and unhappy and discouraged and doubting and fearing and finally murmuring and complaining, just like you are when you start witnessing your doubts to others and sharing the Devil's lies with them. So don't do it!
"Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the Destroyer." (1Corinthians 10:10)
(11) The murmurer always begins murmuring in his heart first and that's why it finally comes out of his mouth. "Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matthew 12:34) Are you a channel for the Devil's lies by harbouring some discontentment or murmuring in your heart? Watch out! Murmuring is a very infectious, diabolical disease, and "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9), and can poison the whole Work of God! Murmuring is the voice of the Enemy, and a critical spirit sows dissension, disunity and discord amongst brethren, one of the seven abominations to God! (Proverbs 6:16-19) That is why He hates it so much!
Hebrews 12:15 warns us: "Looking diligently, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." Just a little root of bitterness or murmuring, if not gotten rid of while it's just beginning, will "spring up" out of your heart and mouth and trouble and defile many! So don't give any place to bitterness and murmuring in your heart!--Amen?
(12) Murmuring does not depend upon the physical circumstances; it's a state of mind and heart. A doubtful heart murmurs no matter what happens, but a believing heart praises the Lord no matter what happens! So God help us all to be cheerful disciples, not complainers! Whatever you do, don't give in to the Devil and go around moaning and complaining the Devil's doubts!
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