In this passage of scripture (Num. 11:10-23) that we are going to take a look at in my sermon for today, we find Moses in a very peculiar position; it is one that I believe the genuine believer is familiar with. Moses was in need of the Lord’s providence, but his faith was being completely strained by the situation of he and the children of Israel. Have you ever been in a desperate situation where you were in need of help but your heart was so strained that you could not clearly see where the help was going to come from?
I guess you could say that we are living in a time where it would be very easy for the faith of many believers to be strained. The cause of the strain comes from much of the confusion that we are seeing in our society. There are mixed messages on what one should do; mostly because leaders are saying two different things. As you have heard me say in the past, our faith is a faith that is prudent and listens to wise counsel.
The problem we are finding at this moment is that this crisis has become very taxing in the three facets of living. We are being taxed both mentally and physically and, in turn, this can tax us spiritually as well. When we are taxed in such a manner, it is easy for the believer to begin to wonder “how long?” We begin to wonder, “How long am I (or we, in this crisis) going to have to go through the strain (or burden)?”
We begin to ask this question because the strain is too much and the burden becomes too much for us to bear. In this situation, I have found that there are three options that we choose to take, but one of the options is often the last ones we take. First option: we can choose to hold on because help is on the way. There is going to be a believer that says, “Well, that’s what I always do, preacher,” but in reality, it takes us a while to truly come around to this option.
The second option: we can simply give up, but I find that for the genuine believer, giving up is never an option. The third option: in times where our faith is so strained, we often rush off trying to do things our own way. The problem with strained faith is when we choose to do that! We don’t realize that we are rushing off from the Lord instead of waiting on Him. If you feel that your faith is being strained, I tell you to hold on because help is on the way.
The Strained Faith of Moses
Let’s take a look at this strained faith of Moses that I mentioned at the start of this sermon and see what it was God did for him. I was in this chapter of Numbers around the last time we gathered together at church when I was looking to confirm something in the Bible for a member. He had raised the thought during one of our Sunday school lessons about a time when God stopped giving the children of Israel manna (Num. 11:18-20) and gave them a bird (quail) to eat (Num. 11:31).
Journeying with the children of Israel
At this point in time, the children of Israel had been freed of their bondage in Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and were now making their way to the Promised Land of Canaan. (This event took place just before they were commanded to wander the wilderness for forty years for not wanting to enter Canaan – Num. 14:33-34.) The journey was one that the Israelites found to be tiring, frustrating, and hard.
I want to take this moment to say that our journey to the Promised Land of heaven seems to be very similar. We find that the plight of our journey can be very strenuous. There are certainly some good days that we have on this journey, but those aren’t the days we remember right away are they? No, this journey can be very difficult!
Griping and complaining along the way
The children of Israel began to complain on the journey (Num. 11:1). What were they complaining about? Well, they were not happy with the way things were and complained that things were better when they were in Egypt. Imagine that, believing life was better when they were living in bondage instead of being free of Pharaoh.
Their complaint: they complained that they had no good food to eat. We see them say (Num. 11:4-6), “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”
This kind of reminds me of the day we are living in right now. The children of Israel were free of bondage and should not have had complaints. God was providing and making a way for them, but they couldn’t stop complaining because of the pleasantries that they thought they were missing out on in Egypt.
We are the same way now in this crisis, but even before the crisis, we would complain because of how good we did not think we had it. Let me tell you something, we always have it good when God is a part of our lives and is blessing us. We are living a life that is no longer in the bondage of sin, but a life free of sin! That is a life that is leading towards living with our God in His heavenly kingdom – that’s having it good in my opinion.
We are told in a couple of scriptures here how Moses felt about the people’s complaining and how Moses even felt towards the Lord. We are told (Num. 11:10) that Moses heard the cries of the people and was displeased. In other words, he was not happy and we will see that he was not happy with this whole situation.
We see him say to God (Num. 11:11), “Why have You (God) afflicted Your servant?” On the journey, Moses felt that he was being burdened by not only what he may have been going through but what all the people were going through as well. Some of us get this same way, don’t we? There are some who live with their own burdens but will also take on the burdens of others as well. Many people get completely worn out when they live this way so definitely be careful if you are one of the people that do this because it certainly can and will strain your faith.
Moses, I want you to understand, was simply a man. (Now, he was a man that the Lord certainly used and did tremendous works through, but he was still flesh and blood – human.) We all can get taxed and exhausted physically and mentally while on the journey. I want you to pay close attention to what Moses next said to the Lord. Moses says (Num. 11:13), “Where am I to get meat to give to all these people?” Let’s stop right there.
Moses’ gripes and complaints
Let’s notice that instead of asking for the Lord to provide, Moses essentially asks, “What am I going to do?” You see, this is that option that I mentioned we take in our strained faith. Moses, a man of great faith, had started to grow so tired and exhausted that he just wanted the problem to be relieved – to go away. He wonders what he can do to make it happen.
He then says to God (Num. 11:14), “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me.” You see, this admission of faith is all he needed from the start! God does not want to hear us say, “what can I do?” when we come to Him! No, God simply needs an admission from us that we are in need of Him!
Paul wrote (1 Cor. 10:13), “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
We often talk about how God will not put more on us than we can bear, but how soon do we forget! How quick we are to forget all of the things that the Lord has brought us through! God has never allowed us to be overcome by our burdens, but many of us will quickly give up on Him (that other option I mentioned earlier) and suffer in our burdens. You see, we ought to hang on because help is on the way in our Lord.
Now, watch what the Lord does for Moses. God gives to Moses 70 helpers so that they could help Moses in carrying the burdens of the people (Num. 11:16-17). I often try to remind believers that God has given us help in this world; we don’t have to always try to be the hero! Meaning: stop trying to be the only one carrying the burdens of others!
This is a subject that was spoken of in the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Galatians (Gal. 6:2), “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What was the “law of Christ”? Is it not to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:39)? Wouldn’t helping to bear the burdens of others be an act of love? Paul wrote to the Romans (Romans 15:1), “We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak.” No one person should be trying to carry all of the burdens! (Plus we have God who can be our burden bearer as well.)
Careful what you ask for and how
To answer the cries of the people, God tells Moses that He was going to provide meat for the people, not just for a day or two, but for an entire month (Num. 11:18-20). God was going to provide so much meat that the people would get tired of eating it! You have to be careful with how you talk to, beg, and ask of God!
Our faith ends up strained sometimes because we think we know what we want. A lot of times we pray to God for the things we want and not necessarily the things that we need. Many times, the Lord answers our prayers with a no because He knows what we need and what is best for us. No is not the answer we want to hear sometimes and so we will continue to complain, grumble, and beg.
I tell you that there are times when God will give us exactly what we want only to show us that it’s not what we needed. We will begin to loathe the thing that we thought we wanted to the point that we want nothing to do with it. We should pray for the things we need and ask in thanksgiving – not out of want, begging, or complaining.
Moses’ strained faith causes doubt
It sounds like the Lord is answering Moses’ prayer, right? So, why does Moses respond the manner in which he responds in the following verses (Num. 11:21-22). Moses says to the Lord, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?”
Moses’ faith was so strained in the Lord that this question is filled with all kinds of doubt in what God can do! This is a place we often end up in our strained faith – a place of doubt! Let me tell you something: we all have ended up in this place at some point in time and even to this day! (I do not want to hear a believer say otherwise because that is a lie!) There are times when it is hard for us to see how God is going to do what He says He is going to do! That most definitely happens when our faith has become strained and tired.
God’s arm is not short!
We see the Lord’s response to Moses in our key verse for today. Let me paraphrase what the Lord says into our tongue of today so that you all can see just how the Lord viewed Moses’ doubt. God says, “Have my arms shrunk? When haven’t I been able to do what I said I was going to do? Tell you what, you just sit right there and watch and see Me do what I said I was going to do!”
When our faith is strained, God is still going to work on our behalf. What we must learn not to do is: A) Give up on Him. B) Rush off frantically trying to do things our way and make a mess. I believe Moses was getting close to the point of rushing off to do things his own way. However, what Moses did do that was right was go talk to the Lord. Moses held on to his faith because he knew that his help was out there and he knew who to turn too! God did exactly what He said He would do (read the rest of the chapter).
Today, I tell you, if your faith is strained to hold on because help is on the way. Go and talk to the Lord and then wait for your help to arrive! As the scripture says in the book of Isaiah (Is. 40:31), “those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”