Lesson: God Sends Quail and Plague

By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – October 10, 2021
Taught From – Numbers 11:24-35

Introduction

This week’s lesson is going to pick right up where we left off in our lesson last week.  Last week we saw that there was grumbling and complaining coming from within the camp of Israel about only having manna to eat.  We also saw that Moses was in need of help which the Lord provided to him in 70 elders and officers of the people.  We also saw that even though there was grumbling and complaining coming from within the camp, the Lord was still going to provide food for the camp.  Our lesson this week will be taught from Numbers 11:24-35.

Moses’ Help

Our lesson this week opens with Moses telling the people the words of the Lord and gathering the seventy men of the elders (v. 24).  Again, just to remind you all, this was the help that the Lord was providing to Moses after Moses’ plea to Him.  As we saw last week, Moses felt overly burdened by the task of having to lead the camp of Israel (Num. 11:11-14).  So, the Lord commanded Moses to gather seventy men of the elders of Israel and to bring them to the tabernacle so that the Spirit could be put on them (Num. 11:16-17).

So, Moses tells the people the words of the Lord.  What this means is that Moses relayed what the Lord had just spoken to him about the seventy and also the food that God would be providing.  Moses also gathered the seventy to the tabernacle and they were placed around the tabernacle.  So, again, we see another ceremony that would be something that could be publicly witnessed by the camp of Israel.  God, as He had told Moses earlier, came down in the cloud, took of His Spirit and put the same Spirit that was on Moses onto the seventy men of the elders.

The work of the Spirit  

As I said last week, there are many people that believe that the Spirit was not present in the Old Testament, but again, I want to point out that the Spirit was definitely present in the Old Testament.  For example, when the Lord was in the process of creating this world, we are shown that the Spirit was very much present and was at work.  We are told in Genesis, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2).”  The Spirit of God was the one moving and working during the creation event; dividing the light from the dark and setting for the firmament, etc.

The Spirit of God, according to the Lord, was clearly resting upon Moses as he went before Pharaoh and also as he was leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land.  That same Spirit was put on the seventy by the Lord and let’s notice that their immediate actions are very similar to those of the apostles when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in them on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4-8).  The apostles began to speak in different tongues of the wonderful works of God.  

In our lesson today, we see that the seventy began to prophesy in that moment.  Two of the men who were of the seventy, remained in the camp and did not go to the tabernacle but still Spirit came upon them as well.  We are told that the two men also prophesied in the camp (v. 26).  Scripture does not specifically tell us why those two did not join the other sixty eight, so, we don’t know if they were being disobedient or not.  Yet, what is clear is that even though they were not present at the tabernacle, they still received the same portion from the Lord as the others.

Joshua’s resentment 

A young man ran and told Moses of the two men prophesying in the camp and Joshua, after hearing about this, was moved to tell Moses that he should forbid the men from prophesying (vss. 27-28).  Now, why was Joshua so moved against these men prophesying?  I want you to understand that their prophesying was the work of the Spirit of God.  As we saw in last week’s lesson, to speak against the Spirit is to blaspheme the Spirit.  So, Joshua, let’s understand, was dangerously close to a sin that he would not be able to walk away from had he committed to blaspheme the Spirit.

So, why was Joshua resenting the two men who had been prophesying in the camp?  Moses actually tells us the answer to that question by asking Joshua a question himself.  Moses asks, “Are you zealous for my sake?”  It would seem that Joshua was of the belief that these men were attempting to take up Moses’ position of leadership.  

This was a very worldly way to look at this for Joshua.  Moses, considering this spiritually, then responded, “Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them (v. 29)!”  This desire from Moses is something that has actually been fulfilled in our world today – at least partly fulfilled.  I say partly fulfilled only because there are many who sit quietly while the Spirit dwells within them.  We live in a world today where all of those that genuinely believe in the Lord have been filled with the Holy Spirit.  

The Spirit of God always wants to move and so we should be filled with a fire to do just that – move.  Yet, so many of us sit by quietly and hold back the testimony that the Lord has given to us through His work in our lives.  Oh what our world would be today if all of those who the spirit abides in would speak of their testimony, but not only their testimony, but also God’s gospel as well.

Quails and a Plague

From this point in our lesson, we will see just how the Lord provided food to the camp of Israel.  Let’s recall from our lesson last week that God had said he was going to provide the camp with so much food for a month that they would great to loathe the food they would be eating just as they loathed the manna (Num. 11:19-20).  The idea of the camp having this much food even made Moses question where the food would come from.  So, we saw that the Lord essentially told Moses to watch and see (Num. 11:21-23).

We are told that a mighty wind went out from the Lord and brought to the camp quail from the sea (v. 31).  So, instead of the people having to go fish and hunt for food, as Moses suggested, we see that the Lord brought the food directly to the people!  The wind was apparently so strong that the birds were unable to fly in it!  We are told that the quails ended up fluttering around on the ground and were easy picking for the people.  To show you just how much quail was on the ground for the people, we are told that they extended out from the camp a day’s journey and were stacked off the ground two cubits (3 feet).  So, that was a lot of food for the camp of Israel!

The people spent all day and night gathering up this food (v. 32).  The person that gathered the least amount of food managed to gather about 60 bushels (10 homers).  So, a lot of food was gathered over a two day period and you could imagine that there were many people who were extremely happy about this.  So happy, and so greedy, that we don’t see much appreciation for this blessing coming from the camp of Israel.  I do believe that some were grateful but there was certainly a group of folks that were not appreciative of this blessing.

Appreciating the Lord  

Before those who had instigated the grumbling and complaining about the manna could get started eating good, we are told that they were struck with a very great plague from the Lord and died.  We know that it was the people that did the instigating because we are told that those who were buried were the ones that had yielded to craving (vss. 33-34).  I believe they were hit with this plague by the Lord not only because of their instigating but also because they did not give thanks nor appreciate the blessing from God.

As faithful as the Lord is to us in pouring out His blessings onto us, I believe we should be just as thankful and as appreciative.  Where would we be without the Lord’s providence?  We truly are well taken care of by the Lord.  God provides for us and continues to make a way for us on a daily basis.  Again, God is ever faithful to us and so I believe that it is very important for us to honor Him, appreciate Him, and give Him thanks.