The same thing happened when I read through Leviticus.
I thought the book was going to be horribly boring and nearly impossible to get through. I thought it was going to be filled with boring rules and bizzaro commands. Instead, I found a rich book full of fascinating and revolutionary glimpses of what life with God could be like. I also found what might be the key to understand the whole story of the Bible.
Now it is happening with Numbers. This book is great! Chapter 11 is a particular standout from the pack.
Back In Egypt . . .
No less than three times, the people cry out that they wish they were back in Egypt.
The food was good. (note: I have been to Egypt. The food gave me a bad case of the mud-butt.)
The food was good?!?!? Really? That is what you remember about Egypt?
Not the fact that you were slaves? Not the fact that Pharaoh had a penchant for infanticide? Not that every single day of your miserable lives you made bricks? Not that even when you were free, Pharaoh still tried to kill you?
You remember the cucumbers and garlic?
Wow, memory can sure play tricks on a person. And apparently, when the people wish that God had never rescued them from dehumanizing, oppressive slavery, he gets angry. And he burns things. You know, usually I am not a fan of God burning his people, but this one kind of makes sense.
I Can’t Do This Alone
Moses hears them complaining. He knows God is angry. I can’t imagine being the middleman in that conversation is fun.
But more importantly, he feels the weight of his leadership. He is carrying an immense burden being the only person in the camp of over 600,000 people who can speak to and for God.
His prayer is quite revealing. He knows what he has been called to. But he knows his limits and knows they have been reached. And perhaps most importantly, he knows that God is the one who is ultimately responsible for the people.
So what does he pray for?
Give the People What They Want
The end of the chapter is a tale of two desires being met. The people want meat (but really, they want to go back to Egypt) and Moses would like a little help.
And God answers.
To Moses, he gives 70 other people who can do what he does. They receive a portion of the spirit of leadership and prophecy (speaking on behalf of God) that is on Moses. The event is so huge that men who aren’t even at that meeting start to do it.
This prompts one of the best things that Moses has said yet:
“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit in them!”
Take that one to your next church leadership meeting!
The next answer is the prayer for Egypt and meat. I think it is important to note that God got angry with the people for wanting to go back to Egypt, not for wanting meat. And it is important to note which prayer he answers.
He gives them toxic meat. Not Egypt.
And let us be clear, Egypt would have been WAY worse.
So here is the million-dollar question: What are you praying for these days? Help to do what God has called you to? Or going back to a time when things were “good,” like Egypt-level good?