And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
Continual mention of murmurings; yet all such murmurings do not meet the same treatment (cf. Numbers 11:31-33). Much alike to outward seeming, but not so in the sight of God. (illustration - the ruddy hue of health; the hot flush of passion; the hectic of consumption. All much alike in appearance, yet how different to those who know what they betoken!) Comparing the history of one murmuring with that of another, we can see by God's treatment of each how different must have been the states from which they resulted. Here it is the impatience of ill-instructed children; later on, it has become hostility and rebellion. Consider in this case: -
I. THE SYMPTOMS. Cf. vers. 3. The monotony of the wilderness had had time to tell upon the people; so different from the varied routine of Egypt. Slavery, too, had become, from long use, almost a second nature with many; they had chafed under it, yet, in some sort, they had relied upon its restraint as a support. After the first novelty has passed, unaccustomed freedom is felt to be a weariness. (Illustration: The cripple rejoices to be quit of his supporting irons and crutches, but without them, at first, he soon tires.) Present privation, contrasted with past sufficiency, intensified the misgivings which were sure to come when the new life was fairly entered upon. Freedom wedded to starvation seemed to be but a poor exchange for tyranny. "The people murmured." It was the murmuring of the half-weaned child, the yet weak though enfranchised cripple; it expressed itself in strong language; but the language was stronger than the offence. Under the circumstances murmming was so natural that it did not call for severe censure; it was rather a symptom of imperfect health, suggesting the need of strengthening medicine.
II. THE TREATMENT. God knew what was the matter; His action shows His knowledge. No rebuke, only a promise, which is to be, and is, fulfilled immediately. (Illustration: The doctor does not take offence at the irritability of the convalescent; says, "I will send some strengthening medicine," sends it, and relies on the effect.) A table spread in the wilderness; the love of freedom revived and strengthened, nurtured by the longed-for food. What should be the effect of such treatment? It stays murmuring, of course; but, further, it should strengthen against further murmuring. On the other hand, whilst it may, as it ought to do, lead to reliance upon the provider, it may also lead to reliance upon the food provided. (Illustration: One patient, strengthened by medicine, will have more confidence in the doctor. Another, strengthened in like manner, will be always grumbling, whatever the circumstances, if he do not experience like treatment.) Practical lessons. -
1. God treats us all according to our real character and position "How unjust," says one, "that that man should have so much easier a time than I. That my comparatively slight offence should be punished so much more heavily than his, which is far more heinous!" Nay! By What standard do you measure the relative enormity of the offences? God's standard is character and experience; the child's open defiance is less heinous than the man's half-veiled impatience.
2. God's treatment should inspire confidence in Himself. All God's gifts are index fingers saying, "Look off from us to God." Our tendency is to rest upon them and credit them as the causes of the satisfaction they occasion. The same medicine may not be appropriate next time, but the same doctor may be trusted. If we forget the doctor and think only of the medicine, we shall be as irritable and dissatisfied as ever; only by confidence in the Physician himself can we hope to go on "from strength to strength." - G.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,