“And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a-lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, ‘Who shall give us flesh to eat?’”
Numbers 11: 4
King James Version
“Lust That Consumes”
“Rule your passions, or they will rule you.”
When I hear the word “passion,” what comes to my mind?
What passions rule my life?
“The happiness of a (woman) in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of (her) passions.”
“And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.”
Numbers 11: 32
King James Version
Have you ever had such a craving for something, an overwhelming desire, that it completely blocked your mind to all sensible or reasonable thought? I remember once as a child, eating so much ice cream at one time it made me so sick at my stomach, I was certain I would never again eat the stuff.
All of us have desires, longings, and passions that can overwhelm our God-given power of reason. However, before we label all “passion” as evil, I’d like for us to understand that “passions” are a gift from God.
I’ll never forget the day in the Delivery Room when my niece, Bethanie, was born. As this precious baby girl let out a loud cry for the very first time, tears began to pour down my face and a love – a passion – for this child filled my heart. As the theologian Choan – Seng Song beautifully explains, “It is the passion shown in the birth of a child that gives us a glimpse into the passion of God giving birth to creation.” I believe nothing could be truer! Just go into a garden overflowing with flowering vines and floral blossoms and let the fragrant aroma invade your senses and you’ll understand, in a very small way, the creative passion our God is filled with – a passion He instills in us. With senses that can explore the variety of smell, taste, hearing, touch and sight, God never intended for us to be passionless beings, walking through life trying to squelch the vibrancy of a world created to enliven and bring total enjoyment to us. I contend that if anything, sin has blunted our passions for we were created to embrace all that God initially placed within the unfurled beauty of Eden’s garden home.
Sadly though, when passions run awry they can bring us to the brink of disaster or worse. As Publius Syrus so wisely noted, “A wise (woman) will be master of (her) passions, a fool their slave.” Nowhere do we see this statement lived out in such a dramatic way as in Numbers 11.
When the children of Israel left Egypt, some of their Egyptian neighbors wanted to come along. Possibly some of these individuals were married to Israelites. We don’t know for certain.
However, about one thing there is no question this group proved to be trouble for God’s people. If you read yesterday’s devotional about the “Sacredness of Separateness,” you’ll notice that the “mixed multitude” broke all God’s rules when it came to being “separate.” These individuals were constantly trying to intermingle the old life in Egypt with the new life God had planned for His children.
After leaving Egypt, knowing the trip to Canaan would take some time and that the desert wasn’t the most fertile place for a fascinating food supply, God, in His gracious kindness provided daily food for His children called, “manna.” Every morning, the people were able to collect a fresh supply of this heaven-sent food to meet the needs of their families for the day.
Evidently, believing that variety is the spice-of-life, the Egyptian tag-a-longs, began to whine and complain. Manna was boring. Everyday – morning, noon, and night – it was manna for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I don’t know how many ways manna could be prepared but obviously, it wasn’t enough to satisfy the “mixed multitude” and soon they had some help with their griping for God’s chosen people began to whimper. “Give us flesh to eat,” they howled. But they went farther also than just a little complaining. Numbers 11: 5 tells us these ungrateful people said, “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlik.” But there’s more from this grumbling group. They added these snide words: “But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes” (Numbers 11: 5, 6 K.J.V.). God heard this commotion and He couldn’t believe that His children, after being released from the daily whippings of Egyptian taskmasters, could fall so low as to spit in His face.
So God said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not” (Numbers 11: 23, K.J.V.). And let me tell you, this is a text we should pay attention to, for thankfully God protects us from ourselves and doesn’t always answer our requests when they come from passions run “afoul:” And believe me, ungrateful hearts, howling for “flesh to eat” in the face of God’s unending care, was passion run “afoul.”
In this case though, God gave the people what they asked for. God’s hand gave them what they demanded! Their lustful prayer was answered. They received flesh – quail to be exact and after eating so much of this bird, they became sick. Their lust consumed them! Out of control passion overtook their lives. As Sarah Scott penned. “How little do they know human nature, who think they can say to passion, so far shalt thou go, and no farther!” This is what happened when God’s children ignored the “Sacredness of Separateness” and decided to join in complaining against God. Before you know it, they were consumed by their own lust. God gave them what they cried out for – what their lust demanded and it proved to be fatal. God’s children found out that in the words of Pythagoras, “It is more grievous to be a slave to one’s passions then to be ruled by a despot.” Crying for quail was worse than Pharaoh’s whip, for passions uncontrolled brought down God’s children and they can do the same to you and me.
“Free us from the Tyranny of the passions so that we may worship Thee alone, the eternal light.”
Thalassios the Libyan
“O Lord our God, grant us grace to desire you with a whole heart, so that desiring you we may seek you with a whole heart, so that desiring you we may seek and find you; and so finding you, may love you; and loving you, may hate those sins which separate us from you. For the sake of Jesus Christ.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus