Never Good Enough
(23) Yet, he commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven, (24) and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. (25) Man ate the bread of angels. He sent them food in abundance. (26) He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led forth the south wind. (27) He rained down on them meat like dust,winged birds like the sand of the seas. (28) He caused them to fall into the midst of their camp, all around their tents, (29) and they ate and were well filled, for he brought to them their desire. (30) But before they had satisfied their desire, while the food was still in their mouths, (31) the anger of God rose against them, and he killed the strongest of them and struck down the young men of Israel.
The historic background to these verses is set forth in both Exodus 16 and Numbers 11. Through forty years of wilderness wandering, the nation was sustained by God’s miraculous provision of manna every morning and flocks of quail every evening except on the Sabbath. The repeated words in this section emphasize God’s provision for his people. “Heavens” occurs three times (vss. 23, 24, & 26). “Rained down” is used twice (vss. 24 & 27). “Desire” is likewise found twice (vss. 29 & 30).
Even though God constantly provided for Israel’s needs by supplying them with daily bread and meat in response to their entreaties, there remained a persistent undercurrent of dissatisfaction with this diet. Instead of thanking God for his miraculous provision, the people expressed a longing for the variety of foods they had eaten in Egypt while still in bondage. It is no wonder that God’s anger rose up against them for their ingratitude.
I. God’s miraculous provision for Israel’s needs (23-29)
II. God’s anger because of Israel’s persistent ingratitude (30 & 31)
Failure to express gratitude to God for his abundant provision and care is a sure way to arouse his anger.
In Luke’s Gospel we read about Jesus encountering ten men afflicted with leprosy, a terrible skin disease which removed them from normal society and banished them from temple worship (Lk. 17:12-19). When the ten saw Jesus, they cried out to him for mercy. In response, he sent them to the priest to be examined, and on the way all of them were healed. Only one of the ten bothered to return to thank him, and this one was a Samaritan, a member of a racially mixed group despised by the Jews.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” With these rhetorical questions, Jesus was not seeking information but rather making an important point. The genuine expression of gratitude is both a rare and neglected spiritual grace. Jesus then made one more comment to the Samaritan who had returned: “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Lk. 17:19). As we consider the significance of this final statement, we should ask, “Does this mean that the other nine who were healed physically never received the spiritual rebirth the Samaritan experienced simply because they never bothered to express their gratitude to the one who was able not only to cure their bodies but also to save their souls?”
Neglecting to give thanks is bad enough. However, ingratitude mixed with dissatisfaction and complaining over blessings received is a lethal mixture that deeply infuriates a holy God. This is precisely what was evident in Israel’s grumbling in the wilderness. This same attitude was also evident one evening when I was volunteering at a rescue mission. I overheard one of the homeless men waiting in line grumbling to a friend that all that was on offer that night was soup and bread, not a full meal. I never voiced the response that passed through my mind: “You ingrate! Soup and bread is far better than an empty stomach!” It is no wonder that God was furious when Israel complained about having only manna and quail to eat in a wilderness where food was simply unavailable. The very least we can do in light of all that God has done for us is to offer him our worship with grateful hearts.