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Graves of Craving

What do you crave? Discontentment distorts reality and keeps us from following God. 

Written by Mike Biolsi on .


Kibroth-hattaavah – Graves of Cravings

I don’t mean to complain… but we complain a lot! What are some thing that you hear people complain about at work or home, or that you read on facebook?

  • Weather
  • President
  • Laws that were passed
  • Chores
  • Food

Let’s face it, we like to complain, and we even like to complain about other people complaining!

This morning I want to continue our journey with Israel in the wilderness, but in order for us to go forward in our understanding, we need to go backwards. We are in Numbers 11, but we need to go back to Exodus 16 – about 2 years prior to get the real big picture.

Exodus 16:1–15 || 1 Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. 3 “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “By evening you will realize it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7 In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaints, which are against him, not against us. What have we done that you should complain about us?” 8 Then Moses added, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the Lord, not against us.” 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Announce this to the entire community of Israel: ‘Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud. 11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” 13 That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. 14 When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. 15 The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was. And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat. [NLT]

When Israel first started their wilderness experience with God, they had no water, and God provided. Then they had no food, and God gave them quail and manna.

  1. They had a need
  2. They complained about it
  3. God provided

They had a new relationship with God at this point. They did not have a personal relationship with him, they had been living in Egypt. God brought them our of Egypt and listened to their complaints AND met their needs.

There are at least 3 reasons why it says God provided for them, at least 3 outcomes God was looking for:

  1. To see if they would obey his instructions (vs 4)
  2. To see God’s glory revealed (vs 6)
  3. To know God better (vs 12)

So God provided: quail for one night and manna from that day onward.

Exodus 16:31 || 31 The Israelites called the food manna. It was white like coriander seed, and it tasted like honey wafers. [NLT]

It sounds pretty yummy to me! What is your favorite food? So here is the 30-day challenge: eat just that food for all your meals for 30 days. Do you think you would still like that food after 30 days?

Exodus 16:35 || 35 So the people of Israel ate manna for forty years until they arrived at the land where they would settle. They ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. [NLT]

Imagine 40 years! But that is jumping to the end of the journey.

Approximately two years after God provided qual for one night and manna in the morning, and manna every day since then, we come to our passage for today…

Numbers 11:4–10 || 4 Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. 5 “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. 6 But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” 7 The manna looked like small coriander seeds, and it was pale yellow like gum resin. 8 The people would go out and gather it from the ground. They made flour by grinding it with hand mills or pounding it in mortars. Then they boiled it in a pot and made it into flat cakes. These cakes tasted like pastries baked with olive oil. 9 The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night. 10 Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the Lord became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. [NLT]

This situation is slightly different from the on in Exodus. In Exodus they had no food at all. In Numbers they had food, but they wanted something different.

They are tired of eating the same food every day. They were not satisfied with what God had provided them. They are so worked up that they are wailing and whining at their tents about how horrible their lives are. They were discontent.

Discontentment distorts reality

When we grow discontent we start to compare, but rarely is this an accurate comparison.

  • For the Jews it was manna vs fish in Egypt.
  • In our marriages we might start to compare our spouse to someone else.
  • In our faith we might compare churches we have attended or preachers we have heard.

The problem is that when we start to compare a few things happen:

  1. We undervalue what we have
  2. We over value what we want or once had and miss
  3. We place the highest value on ourselves

For Israel, this was obvious in that they undervalued the reality that God provided just enough food for each day, for over a million people, in a wilderness, without fail for over two years. They certainly undervalued what they had.

Israel thought of the fish, melons, etc that they had in Egypt “without working for it” – for free. They were slaves, in terrible bondage that cried out for relief for hundreds of years. They certainly over valued what they wanted and missed – this was not a realistic lens they were looking through.

They whined and complained about their situation. They WAILED at the entrance of their tents. They wanted something better. They wanted to satisfy their appetites their way. They placed a higher value on their desires than God’s desires.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “be careful what you wish for?”

When I was young my dad took me to the movie theater. We were supposed to watch a kid appropriate, family friendly movie together. When we got to the theater, I begged by dad to take me to a different movie that was for older people. It was a sci-fi thriller movie. He tried talking me out of it a few times but I demanded to see the scary movie. The older I get, the wiser my dad seems – sound familiar? My dad knew what would happen: either a) listen to me complain the entire time, or b) give me what I want though he knew it would not make me happy. We made it through less than 30 minutes of the movie before I begged my dad to take me out! I had nightmares for months after that!

The Israelites wished for meat. God said he will give them exactly what they wanted:

Numbers 11:18–20 || “And say to the people, ‘Purify yourselves, for tomorrow you will have meat to eat. You were whining, and the Lord heard you when you cried, “Oh, for some meat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will have to eat it.” 19 You will eat, not for one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes nauseating to you—because you have rejected the Lord who is among you, and wept before him: ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’ ” [CSB]

God gave them exactly what they asked for - more meat than they can imagine – and then he made them eat it.  All of it. For 30 days.

In this passage we find out WHY God is angry, don’t we? What is the reason? Israel rejected God.  When we reject God’s provision, we reject God. When we are not content with what God has provided, we are complaining against God.

Numbers 11:31–34 || 31 Now the Lord sent a wind that brought quail from the sea and let them fall all around the camp. For miles in every direction there were quail flying about three feet above the ground. 32 So the people went out and caught quail all that day and throughout the night and all the next day, too. No one gathered less than fifty bushels! They spread the quail all around the camp to dry. 33 But while they were gorging themselves on the meat—while it was still in their mouths—the anger of the Lord blazed against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 So that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (which means “graves of gluttony”) because there they buried the people who had craved meat from Egypt. [NLT]

Another difference between this passage and the one in Exodus is that God punished the Israelites this time. He sent a plague that killed a bunch of them off. It was so devastating that they changed the name of the place to mark the tragic lesson.

In Exodus, the Israelites were given specific commands about collecting food. We were told that the commands were given to see if the people would follow God’s instructions.

This entire journey is about God providing what is necessary to help them trust Him. He provided proof, over and over, that he could be trusted to provide, protect and bless. Yet, over and over the people fail to trust.

“If God is so good and powerful, and he is taking us to a land flowing with milk and honey, why not give us some of that milk and honey now?”

Because it is not our stomachs that God is most interested in, it is our heart.

This past week, Laura and I celebrated 30 years of marriage. I am officially recommending her to our association for sainthood! ?

If you approach marriage with the perspective that it is about your gratification, that it is about your needs being met the way you want, you will not make it 30 years. When we are demanding in our relationships, we devalue the other person. When we complain about our spouse, we cannot truly love our spouse.

I know we all complain. Have you ever thought of your complaints and rejecting or devaluing God? What have you been complaining about? What does it say about the way you are viewing God’s provision?

Philippians 2:14–15 || 14 Do everything without complaining and arguing, 15 so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. [NLT]

When we complain we compromise our witness. A wet blanket does not dispel darkness – a bright light does. Our trust in God is what matters, for that is what God is interested in and what God will use to point others to Him.

1 Timothy 6:6–8 || 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. 8 If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. [CSB]

Did you notice that godliness and contentment walk hand in hand? When we are in a right relationship with God, we can be content. As a matter of fact, a right relationship with God, trusting him and relying on him for what you need, is the ONLY way to really be content.

Philippians 4:12–13 || 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. [NLT]

Are you discontent? If so, then you are probably complaining about God. Repent. Ask God to forgive you for rejecting Him and his provision and spend more time craving God and less time craving things that only satisfy you.

Be discontent with your discontentment.

Crave God more.

Graves of Craving