Contentment in the Lord – Numbers 11

“Are you not satisfied?”

Someone I know heard the voice of God speak this gently to her as she was washing dishes at the kitchen sink.  She was thinking how life would be so much better if their family could just afford a larger home.  Hearing this directly from God was a life changing experience for her and for her ministry. 

The Israelites in the desert with Moses did not have the easiest life, certainly not a life of luxury, but God was with them and provided for all of their needs.  From time to time, they did experience challenges where their fundamental needs were at risk. But God always came through for them, providing what they required and keeping them going forward in a desert land of limited resources.

I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.  Deuteronomy 29:5 ESV

But the Israelites, like us, went through periods of discontentment.  They wanted more.  And often, we want more, too.

There is a fine balance between wanting more to improve the quality of life for our family or others, and just wanting more.  When the focus is strictly on the “more”, it can become a false god in our lives.  And no one is immune from the temptation of always wanting more material goods or riches.

In the desert, the Israelites had a pretty basic diet centered around the manna that God miraculously provided for them daily.  There were various ways to use the manna, which allowed for a variety of food dishes at the table.  But manna was still the basic staple of their daily life.

As slaves in Egypt, it is doubtful that the Israelites’ dining fare was sumptuous.  Living in freedom with a manna-based diet had to be much better existence than being a slave, no matter what the slaves could eat.  But recall, when the Israelites left Egypt, they were also accompanied by a “mixed multitude”.  These were Egyptian free people who decided that their prospects were better following a powerful, loving God than to remain in Egypt, continuing to follow the old gods they had been serving.  God and Moses were both very willing and excited to let them follow along.  But eventually the manna diet did not sit well with them, and they began to complain.  This complaining was contagious, and it eventually spread to the Israelites.

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “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!” Numbers 11:4-6 NKJV

Prodded by the discontent of the mixed multitude with them, the Israelites began to be consumed with discontent themselves. 

Have you ever spent time around people who influenced you to become less satisfied with what God has provided?  I certainly have.

We need to be loving and provide blessings for all of those around us.  That is what God wants us to do.  But when people around us begin to negatively influence us to be unsatisfied with God and what He has provided us, then it is time to pull back a bit and set some boundaries around ourselves.

People and the environment around us can bring us to the point of dissatisfaction and agitation.  Whenever we become agitated, for whatever reason, the best thing for us to do is to pause.  We can check our growing fears and anger that begin stirring within us and pull back before they cause us to respond in an unloving manner.  We ask God to help us to respond in love, perhaps by not responding at all, or by gently explaining that it is not a comfortable moment or conversation for us to have right now.  In prayer, we can ask that God’s will, not ours, be done in the situation.  And if necessary, we can “opt out” of any uncomfortable situation we might find ourselves in, without giving any hint of rancor or retaliation.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  But no, it is incredibly difficult.  It is only something we learn to do after repeated failures and the resulting emotional hangovers.

The apostle Paul had some profound words to share about living a contented life.  He also learned this the hard way.

11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:11-13 NKJV

God’s love for mankind has not changed.  He wants to help us to love others even in times of discontent and agitation, and to forgive others for any negative feelings they may help to generate within us.  As Jesus said, Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.

Reflection

What areas of discontent haunt you the most?  We all struggle at times with the feelings that we have been given the “short end of the stick”, especially when others around us seem to have so much more than we have.

Under what circumstances do you find yourself wanting more?  Which situations bring agitation?

God, help us all to experience the gratitude that comes with Your presence, and to have the faith that You will hold us up and to provide everything that we need to live a joyful and satisfying life through all that You have provided for us.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5 ESV

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