The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6
Freedom for the Israelites didn’t come through the mere strength of man. The miraculous hand of God had sent ten plagues that bent the proud nation of Egypt. The people of Israel, who had been slaves for 400 years, now found themselves with a freedom that was new to them.
Into the wilderness journeyed a people that didn’t have to slave away doing manual labor for hours on end. They had the liberty to spend time with their families. They could rest as they camped. They could seek the Lord. They could learn the statutes and laws of God. They could learn how to worship Him. In this vast open space, they didn’t have to put up with the tyranny of whips, oppression, or be forced to participate in the occult practices of Egypt.
However, the transition from slavery to freedom was a challenge. Inside the hearts of the Israelites were paradigms of the old ways that needed to shatter. God was leading His people in a way where He could be regarded as their Provider, Lord, Leader, Protector, Guide, Deliverer, and so much more. The Israelites didn’t see that. Instead, they complained and desired the old days. “Cucumbers! Melons! Leeks! Onions! Garlic! Slavery, please!” was their cry. Hadn’t the Israelites seen the power of God through the 10 plagues and in the parting of the Red Sea? Why hadn’t it scared them to complain about the food? God was providing manna for them—miraculous bread from heaven! Why was the old life so enticing?
God had a dream He wanted to share with His people. He wanted a nation for Himself. He wanted Israel to know His ways and His heart. There was a Promised Land they could call their own. There was freedom. If they could wait, there was fertile soil and an abundance of food in the land He was leading them to.
But the people were shortsighted. They were greedy for the good life. They wanted God to be their genie. They were so used to Egypt’s gods–gods they could see; gods like the sun and the moon, gods of stone and gold, gods of paint. And Israel’s God, being a REAL God unseen to the eye, was not someone who would bow down to the whims of His people. This real God was to be worshipped, not the other way around.
Transitions will always challenge people. Even if the Israelites were unchained in the wilderness, their minds were still bound by slavery. God was trying to free them from every area of Egypt that had invaded their hearts, but they were resistant. They were bitter, grumbling, complaining, angry, and discontent.
The attitude of the Israelites should make us reflect on ourselves. Transitions in life are never easy. Maybe God takes us out of an old familiar job where money was abundant and then thrusts us into a new one with lesser income. Or perhaps a death in the family occurs, and suddenly we’re uncomfortable and hopeless. Maybe the transition comes when we move to a different city or nation to live in, and everything around us is just so new. We can complain, we can be bitter. We can be angry and grumble. But what good does that do to us? Whenever God transitions us in life, we can remember that there is always a purpose for our journey. We can learn to smile, knowing God’s joy is our strength. Can we be at peace and entrust our worries to God? If there is no food on the table, can we trust God to be our Provider? Can we trust God to be our Guide? Our Protector? Our Deliverer? When God becomes our ALL in ALL, we learn a freedom that we have never experienced before!
God promises that His plans for us give us hope and a future (see Jeremiah 29:11). Also, whenever God takes us through the wilderness, He always does so with a Promise of something GOOD as part of the process and outcome. He is always greater than the Wilderness, and HE will always be faithful to us. The journey will challenge us, but it will always show us His character and reveal facets of His ways that we would have never known had we stayed put in “Egypt.” The key is to remember that God knows what He is doing. We don’t have to complain and grumble. Instead, we can take the route of worshipping Him, being thankful, and saying, “Yes, God, You have me all to Yourself!”
Janina Marie Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine, a teacher of world literature, and a student of the Bible. She enjoys reflecting on life’s curve balls and plateaus. She resides in the Philippines, the country known for people who smile a lot.