Those Graves of Lust


The people were soon complaining about all their misfortunes… (Numbers 11:1a NIV)

It sure didn’t take God’s people long to start complaining. It must be human nature to complain, because it didn’t make any sense. The people had seen with their own eyes the glory of God and had as one man signed on to God’s plan. You’d think after having been so close to the presence of God the people would have been a little more patient with their “misfortunes” and a little more reverent of their God. But no, they were “soon complaining.” We’re not told what those “misfortunes” were. Moses, in writing Numbers, didn’t list them. It’s likely they were numerous minor irritations; small aggravations that got under the skin of the people. Ever misplaced your glasses? Or your keys? Or your phone? Has your neighbor parked his car in your spot again? Has that colleague from work texted you once too often? Again? If these things have happened to you, then maybe you have an inkling of why the people complained.

Complaining in and of itself isn’t necessarily a sin. Sometimes the right kind of complaint can lead to improved circumstances in your life, your community, even your country. But Israel’s complaint was no small matter; it was a sin. In fact, it was a big sin made up two smaller sins: unbelief and ingratitude. The people had started to complain because they beginning to doubt whether God really would fulfill His promises. That kind of unbelief is a serious thing – to doubt God’s Word. And they had forgotten they how blessed and how favored they were. They had no gratitude for what the Lord had already done for them.

The grave of the unbeliever and ingrate is always a lot closer than he thinks. What started out as a small series of complaints turned into a gaping chasm of destruction from which the complainers would not escape. The steps from the place of privilege to the pit of doom may be very few, indeed.

“But if the Lord does a miracle and the ground opens up and swallows them and everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you will know that these men have despised the Lord.”

He had hardly finished speaking the words when the ground suddenly split open beneath them, and a great fissure swallowed them up, along with their tents and families and the friends who were standing with them, and everything they owned. (Numbers 16:30 – 32 TLB)

The fire burns

Moses was used to the murmuring and complaining of the people. This was not the first time he had to put up with it and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Here, though, we’re not told if Moses heard these complaints, but God did and wasn’t at all pleased.

…the Lord heard them. His anger flared out against them because of their complaints, so the fire of the Lord began destroying those at the far end of the camp. (Numbers 11:1b TLB)

Some scholars suggest it wasn’t the people who were consumed by the fire of God but just their possessions. That’s not what the text says, however. This complaining was a serious breach of faith between some of the people and God, and God takes that very seriously.

Thank God we Christians are living in an age of grace. Were it not so, there would be a lot of barbequed believers walking around! This incident isn’t a precedent, thank God, but it does serve to teach us an important lesson. God is highly displeased with those of us who continually criticize and complain, especially about Him, the church, and other believers. Some saints never cease to find fault and criticize the things and people of God and nothing He ever does is good enough for them. God wants us to be joyful and cheerful as we serve Him, not miserable and surly.

The sin of lusting

Verse 4 gives us a vital piece of information about who initiated the complaining:

Then the Egyptians who had come with them began to long for the good things of Egypt. (Numbers 11:4 TLB)

The biggest problems in Israel were caused, not by God’s people, but by “the Egyptians” who had left Egypt with the Israelites. Technically, these trouble makers may or may not have been Egyptians. The KJV refers to them as the “mixed multitude,” a group of people who couldn’t be sure what tribe they belonged to; they couldn’t declare or demonstrate their pedigree. Most of this “mixed multitude” were the products of mixed marriages; marriages between an Israelite and an Egyptian. That being the case, most of the “mixed multitude” had one parent back in Egypt. They were Egyptian enough to like the things of Egypt, but Israelite enough to want to go on the wilderness march to the Promised Land.

Unfortunately, the church today is full of people just like that. These people want to go to church and mix with Christians, enjoying the blessings of God. They want to live moral and good lives and they join the church because that’s what “good people do.” But during the rest of the week, they like to mix with the world, enjoying the things of the world. This causes a problem for them. At some point, they’re not sure where they belong. They have one foot in church and one in the world.

Those are the real trouble makers in every church. They are the complainers. They are they ones who are trying to have it all – they travel with the world and they travel with God’s people. You’ll find them in church on a Sunday, but not every Sunday, and you’ll see them at the banquets but never at a Bible Study or a work day. They’re not sure what they believe and are way too comfortable around unbelievers and often uncomfortable in church.

The problem with sin

The “mixed multitude” lusted for the things back in Egypt – the food, especially. What started out as discontent among a few soon spread throughout the population. Now, a whole lot of Israelites were growing discontent with, well, just about everything associated with the journey to the Promised Land.

While it sounds innocent enough – just complaining about the lousy food – this was a serious problem which rippled up the ranks to the very top.

First, they weren’t happy with the food and that led to loathing God’s provision.

But now our strength is gone, and day after day we have to face this manna! (Numbers 11:6 TLB)

This manna wasn’t take out from the local hamburger joint! It was something God specifically cooked up for His people. The manna was supposed to give the people of God everything they needed – all the sustenance they needed to get from Sinai to Canaan. It wasn’t a permanent fix, it was temporary until they took possession of a land flowing with “milk and honey.” All they had to do was just eat the manna for now, but keep their eyes of the prize.

But they couldn’t do it. Their dislike for the manna was really a loathing toward God’s blessing; His provision. Really, what the Israelites were doing was not complaining about the manna but telling God He didn’t know what was good for them; that they knew better than He did. This manna from Heaven saved their lives! But now it had become so commonplace the people lost all gratitude for it. It’s a bad thing when the gifts of God become boring and uninteresting, and it’s powerful evidence that the heart is not right.

Second, all this complaining led to the discouraging of God’s servant. Moses was a great man; great because he trusted God, but he wasn’t made of stone! In time the constant grumbling among the people got to him; it wore the poor guy out and he ended up lashing out to God.

If you are going to treat me like this, please kill me right now; it will be a kindness! Let me out of this impossible situation! (Numbers 11:15 TLB)

God’s servants are only human and the great honor of leading God’s people soon became an awful burned to Moses. It happens, sometimes. There isn’t a pastor or elder who takes his position seriously who hasn’t felt just like Moses did here. Fortunately, it passes, but it always leaves a scar.

God’s promise

Moses shouldn’t have said what he said to God, and he’d admit it if you could ask him. Moses made a mistake – not in complaining to God – but in thinking he was the only one who was bearing the burdens of his people. God never asked him to do that. Fact is, God was having not only to bear with His people, but also with Moses. In His grace, God gave Moses a solution that would last down to the days of Jesus:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Summon before me seventy of the leaders of Israel; bring them to the Tabernacle, to stand there with you. I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take of the Spirit which is on you and will put it upon them also; they shall bear the burden of the people along with you, so that you will not have the task alone.” (Numbers 11:16, 17 TLB)

There’s a great lesson here for every pastor, elder, and church leader. Don’t shoulder the burden alone. You were never meant to. And for rank and file believers, the same truth holds. No Christian was ever meant to bear their burdens alone, either. God gave Moses 70 elders to help him. God gives you friends and family members who are believers to help you, too. However, something needs to be pointed out. The tradition of the 70 elders continued to the time of Jesus. They became the Sanhedrin. And these 70 elders made the decision to put Jesus to death. It’s fine to “take advantage” of the people God leads into our lives to help us and share His wisdom with us, but ultimately our hope must be in God.

That was God’s promise to Moses. But He also made a promise to the people.

And tell the people to purify themselves, for tomorrow they shall have meat to eat. Tell them, ‘The Lord has heard your tearful complaints about all you left behind in Egypt, and he is going to give you meat. You shall eat it, not for just a day or two, or five or ten or even twenty! For one whole month you will have meat until you vomit it from your noses; for you have rejected the Lord who is here among you, and you have wept for Egypt. (Numbers 11:18 – 20 TLB)

This promise puts a whole new spin on a famous verse we like to quote:

And he will give thee the desires of thy heart. (Psalm 37:4b AV)

It cuts both ways. Be careful what you lust after. God may give it to you.

Terrible consequences

But as everyone began eating the meat, the anger of the Lord rose against the people and he killed large numbers of them with a plague. (Numbers 11:33 TLB)

The people sinned in treating God and His provision with contempt and arrogance. God takes such behavior seriously. What we witness here in Numbers is an immediate judgment of God. Psalm 78 gives us the results of lust in graphic terms:

They ate till they were gorged—he had given them what they craved. But before they turned from what they craved, even while the food was still in their mouths, God’s anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel. (Psalm 78:29 – 31 NIV)

Imagine killing yourself with God’s blessings. Christians do it all the time but they don’t notice it’s happening. We can be sure that God still judges the sins of His people. Salvation isn’t hanging in the balance, but when we believers treat God badly and crave the wrong things, we will reap the results of our lustings. Remember what Paul wrote:

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:31, 32 NIV)

1 Response to “Those Graves of Lust”

  1. 1 valary cherono March 13, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    our God is great I love the teaching God bless you people I have learn something that we are mixed Even in church.I have been going through challenges in life especially in my dad had three wives but I never live with neither of my parent. I was raised with relatives and friends but I thank God for his faithfulness i love him so much.I am not in marriage but I have a daughter and God has never changed he still the same yesterday today and forever I trust in him I have learn not to daughter will live the best life

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