The apostle Paul speaks much about the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for forty years. They are given as an example for the church, and their failings are also mentioned as potential pitfalls for the saints today. Those whom Moses led out of Egypt struggled with the same issues that the church must face and overcome if they are to enter into the promised rest of God.
It is often underappreciated that those who have gone before us serve as examples, both good and bad, to today’s saints. The people of Israel who followed the pillar of fire and the cloud throughout their wilderness wanderings are referred to in scripture as “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38). Paul clearly states that the church should pay careful attention to their failings, lest their same errors should be repeated.
I Corinthians 10:1-11
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
Paul affirms repeatedly that the things we read about the Israelites in the Old Testament were written for those who are a part of the current age, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. What was the great struggle of the Israelites? It was this very issue which we are studying. Yahweh desired for them to be loosed from the bondage to the flesh, a bondage symbolized by the cruel taskmasters of Egypt. He desired that they should live to follow Him obediently, putting the flesh and its desires to death.
Paul states that the Israelites were not successful in overcoming the flesh, dying to all personal initiative and living only to accomplish the will of Yahweh, and for this reason God was not well-pleased with the majority of them. Could Paul have any meaning other than that the same peril exists for the church today? Is it possible that God might not be well-pleased with the majority of the church as well?
Paul mentions specific instances of failing among these Israelites. They were a grumbling and a murmuring people. Yahweh spoke to Moses of them in the following manner.
“Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.” And Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me. Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says Yahweh, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses shall fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.’”
The sins of the Israelites were threefold: they failed to trust Yahweh; they made idols and declared them to be God; and they were not content with His provision and will for them. I would like to look specifically at this last offense and how it can disqualify the saints from entering into the Sabbath rest of God.
We have previously defined Sabbath rest as being in a state of harmony with the revealed will of Yahweh. It is apparent that the Israelites were not in such a state of harmony. In fact, they were very dissatisfied with Yahweh’s will and provision for them. Even when Yahweh’s provision came in a miraculous and unheard of manner, it did not satisfy the fleshly longings of a carnal people.
And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by Yahweh’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. And it will come about on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that Yahweh has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of Yahweh, for He hears your grumblings against Yahweh; and what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “This will happen when Yahweh gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for Yahweh hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against Yahweh.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, ‘Come near before Yahweh, for He has heard your grumblings… And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am Yahweh your Elohim.'” So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which Yahweh has given you to eat… And they gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt… And the house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white; and its taste was like wafers with honey.
It seems a most remarkable thing that a people that had spent 430 years in a foreign land, most of the time serving as slaves, should find themselves suddenly delivered in a most spectacular fashion, and yet they should grumble continuously against the One who delivered them. Not only did the Israelites witness the miraculous and terrifying plagues that came against Egypt, but they were protected from the same plagues. Not only were they released from captivity, but they spoiled the Egyptians when they left, taking great wealth from them. Not only were they freed from their cruel taskmasters, but they saw the mighty Egyptian army perish in the Red Sea as Yahweh sent confusion upon them and then covered them with the waves of the sea.
Despite all of these miraculous events and a tremendous change in their fortunes, they grumbled at every inconvenience and they murmured against the good intent of Yahweh, accusing Him of not caring for them. Having barely left Egypt, they began to complain that they did not have all of the appealing things to eat that they had while they were slaves in Egypt. Clearly, knowing the will of Yahweh for their nation and performing His will was not the greatest of concerns to them. Their great concern was to satisfy their own fleshly cravings. Like the majority of Christians, they were concerned for what they could get out of their relationship with God.
In a most spectacular manner, Yahweh provided bread from heaven to meet the physical needs of the Israelites. The bread is even described as having a pleasing taste like unto wafers with honey. The manna that the Father provided had everything in it necessary to sustain life and to cause the bodies of the Israelites to be strong and healthy, but the flesh is not so easily satisfied. The flesh lusts after many things to satisfy its desires. It wants a rich variety of meats and delicacies. It not only wants to live, it wants to live in great pleasure. It wasn’t long before the manna was no longer pleasing to the Israelites.
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of Yahweh; and when Yahweh heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of Yahweh burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to Yahweh, and the fire died out. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of Yahweh burned among them. And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna…” Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of Yahweh was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased.
How far removed were these people from the attitude displayed in Yahshua’s life. When Yahshua was in the wilderness for forty days without any food we are told that He became hungry. Yet even in His hunger He was content to wait for the Father’s provision to be manifested. Satan’s temptation to turn the stones into bread was akin to the sin of the Israelites. Satan was in effect saying to Yahshua, “You haven’t eaten for forty days. It is not reasonable that you should be deprived of food. It is a small thing for you to speak to these stones and turn them into bread. Why don’t you do so?”
Yahshua, however, saw the heart of the matter. To fail to wait on the Father’s provision was no different than the murmuring and complaining Israelites saying that they were not cared for by Yahweh. It was an issue of trust as well as an issue of being content with the will of the Father. If Yahshua had turned the stones to bread He would have demonstrated that He was not content to await the provision of Yahweh. He would be declaring that Yahweh’s will for Him in this matter was not acceptable.
Yahshua did not respond as did the Israelites, however. Instead He rebuked Satan with the words, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4). Yahshua understood that true life is found in being in harmony with the will of Yahweh. If it was Yahweh’s will for Yahshua to wait yet a little longer to be fed, then this was the essence of true life. Life would not be improved by feeding the desires of the flesh. Life would not be any fuller, richer, or vibrant by satisfying the longings of the flesh. The only true life is found in being in complete agreement with the will of God.
When the Israelites came to this same test they failed it. The Father also led them into the wilderness and He allowed them to become hungry. Would they look at all of the signs and miracles they had witnessed and proclaim, “I know the Father must have a perfect provision for us in this matter. He has shown His concern for us over and over. How can we doubt Him now? We will await His provision with patience and thanksgiving.”
This would have been an appropriate response, and one that would have found favor with Yahweh. Why did they not respond in this manner? It was because they did not want to have to suffer any inconvenience to the flesh. They had been taken out of bondage in Egypt, but they were still in bondage to the fleshpots of Egypt. They still lived to satisfy the carnal desires of their fleshly nature.
Seeking the will of Yahweh was not their aim and desire; satisfying their flesh was. Moses revealed to the Israelites that they were led to these tests to expose what was in their hearts.
“And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh.”
Moses was declaring that the true essence of life is to know the will of Yahweh (that which proceeds out of His mouth) and to fulfill His desire and His will. It was this passage that Yahshua quoted when He was tempted. Yahshua knew the purpose of the wilderness testing, both for the Israelites and for Himself. Where they failed, He succeeded. He did not allow Himself to entertain any thoughts of dissatisfaction with Yahweh’s will for His life.
This is the message of the manna. Yahweh has a plan and desires for each one of His children. Will we be satisfied with His will for us? Will we be content to know His will and walk in obedience whether our flesh must suffer, or not? Will we resort to murmuring and complaining as the Israelites did? Will we be tempted to alter Yahweh’s provision and plan by acting of our own initiative as Satan tempted Yahshua to do?
This is not an easy matter to judge. It would have been a simple matter for Yahshua to turn the stones into bread. In our lives it is also a simple matter for us to seek our own will over the will of God. There are many things we can do to satisfy the longings of our flesh. All we need do is stretch out our hands in an act of our own initiative and we can have what our flesh desires. Multitudes do so every day, and multitudes fail to enter into the Sabbath rest of God.
If we are to walk perfectly before Yahweh we must seek His will at every turning and we must be ready to accept whatever His will is. We must not grumble or murmur. We must say, “My meat is to do the will of the Father. His will is what I live for. Accomplishing His will is my sole desire. I have no will of my own. I will not allow my flesh to dictate what course I will follow. I will put the flesh to death and follow the leading of the Spirit of God.”
The church knows little of such a walk today. The church is full of its own initiative. Few seek to even know the will of the Father in a matter, and should the Spirit make His will known there are even fewer who will willingly follow where the Spirit leads. The church today has conformed itself to the description of the church of Laodicea. The church has not crucified the flesh, but has pursued the fulfilling of the flesh’s desires until the following is true of her.
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this… “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent… He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
A church that esteems the satisfying of the flesh’s desire has sought to fill itself with many things to gratify its longings. In gratifying them this church feels that it has gained all that is needed. It declares that it is not lacking in any way, yet Yahshua says that this church is wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Vast is the disparity between the church’s view and Christ’s view of things.
Yahshua overcame the desires of the flesh. He did not love His soul life, not even at the cost of death on the cross. At the height of His greatest struggle between the will of the Father and the desire of His flesh to preserve itself, He declared, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Your will be done.” He states that those who overcome as He did will be worthy to sit down with Him on His throne.
As we enter the seventh day of creation, God is looking to find those in the church who will once more count the cost of following Him. There is no provision for the flesh promised. As Winston Churchill proclaimed to the residents of the English Empire as the threat of Nazi Germany loomed over Europe and all of the free world, “All I can promise you is blood, toil, sweat, and tears.”
The Father calls His children to count the cost and to follow the example of His Son. Those who lose their life will find true life, but those who seek to keep and protect their soulish and fleshly life will lose out on obtaining real life.
Once again Yahweh has brought His people to a wilderness where decisions must be made. Once again He is giving them manna to eat. Will the church be content with His provision, or will they long for the fleshpots of Egypt?
Yahshua therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” They said therefore to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” Yahshua said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
Never has the saying “You are what you eat” been more true. As we eat the Bread of Life we become like Him. As He did not seek to save His life, neither will we. As He sought above all to do the will of the Father, so will we. As He never did anything of His own initiative, neither will we. As He would not stretch out His hand to do anything that was not the will of the Father, neither will we.
Only in this way will we enter into the Sabbath rest set before us. Let us receive the manna that God gives us from heaven with thanksgiving. Let us not enter into the error of the children of Israel. This is Paul’s message to us and this is the message of the manna.
This blog is an excerpt from the book Sabbath.
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
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