What is happening in the above passage? The people of Israel were complaining…again. Not satisfied with having an all-powerful God visibly leading them out of slavery and to a promised country of their own (while providing them food and water on the way) they began to complain about what type of food they were being provided. They wanted meat, and they wanted it now! Isn’t this much like ourselves at times? Instead of being content with the leading and provision of God, Christians instead focus on our own wants and needs. Or, as in the case of unbelievers, the call to follow may be ignored and the only object of focus is the physical desires of the here-and-now. This is a dangerous place to be in, for believer and unbeliever alike! This kind of self-centered world-view is a rejection of the Lord, it is a rebellion against His wisdom and His calling. The passage above states that the Lord agreed to provide their desires, and to send them meat. But He warns them that if they indulge in these desires, they will be worse off than before. It was a very clear warning, that to fill the desires of the flesh is to bring a curse upon yourself. So what was the outcome of this situation, this example of Israel’s persistent discontent and lust of the flesh? Let’s look:
Then a wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. Numbers 11:31-33
Despite the warnings, the people of Israel went outside the camp to have their desires filled. Please note that the quail weren’t walking around next to their tents. No, they were a day’s journey outside the camp. They had to work hard (a day’s journey in a desert wilderness) to fill their lusts. Was it a coincidence that the quail were placed a day away? No. One more time God was showing patience with the people, creating a natural barrier they would have to toil through if they wanted to persist in their rebellion. A day of travel and work to reconsider their actions. But instead of reconsidering, they pressed forward. They endured the work & ignored the warnings, and brought the anger of God down upon their heads. Thousands of people died from this plague sent by God. And why? For some offense they stumbled into unknowingly? No! They were handed over to their own desires in judgment for their unrepentant lusts, for their rebellion, and for their pursuit of self-centered wants.
But that is all Old Testament stuff, right? Well…
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Romans 1:24-25
Here in Romans 1 we find the same principle. The Lord will send judgment on those who refuse to repent, and instead focus on their fleshly desires and wants. And what a frightful judgment it is! To be handed over, given to the desires of your flesh! Whoever serves sin is a slave to sin, and sin is a cruel master. Fleshly desires are never satisfied, they continue to demand more and more. The more they are fed, the more they demand. Ask any addict and they will confirm this. For God to harden a conscience and allow someone to plunge headlong into the iniquity of the flesh is fearsome indeed.
If you are being convicted of desires and discontent in your life, repent today! Do not continue on in sin taking the patience of the Lord for granted! Perhaps our merciful God has even erected some natural barriers to keep you from your sin. Take the time given you by His patience to reconsider your actions. Surely nobody in the Israelite camp would have predicted their complete and total doom as they were walking out to fill their bellies, or they would have turned around in repentance and grief over their actions. They probably gave a mental nod that what they were doing wasn’t a great idea, but “after all,” they may have thought, “no judgment has ever come before from a mild disobedience.” I am reading into the text here, as we are not told what the people were thinking. But what I do know is that the patience and mercy of God should never be taken as His blessing. A pause before the judgment falls should not be mistaken as liberty with no judgment on the way!
In closing, let me state to the Christian that I do not propose that God will remove the salvation of one of His children and curse them for eternity, but I will suggest that he may temporarily turn you over until your life is upside down and you repent and once again recognize Him as Lord. He will not have to judge and chastise you if you do it yourself! And if you are walking willingly in sin no matter what the conviction or consequence, you probably aren’t even saved in the first place (read 1st John), even if you claim Christianity. If this article is setting off warning bells, wait no longer. His patience is truly amazing, but it does have limits, and to argue His patience is actually liberty is the argument of a devil. Repent and seek His face today!