Contentment in the Lord – Numbers 11

“Are you not satisfied?”

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

The Israelites in the desert with Moses had their own dissatisfactions – they certainly did not have the easiest of lives. It was not an abode of luxury wandering around the desert from camp to camp, but God was with them and He provided for all of their needs.  From time to time, they would experience serious challenges where their fundamental needs were put at risk. But God always came through for them, providing all that they required and moving them forward towards the Promised Land through a desert of otherwise very 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 many of us, went through periods of discontentment.  They wanted more.  And oftentimes, we want more, too.

There is a fine balance between wanting more to improve the quality of life for our families, and just wanting more for the sake of having more.  When the focus is strictly on the “more”, it can become a false god in our lives.  Few are immune from the temptation of craving for ever-increasing material goods or riches.

In the desert, the Israelites had a basic diet centered around the manna that God was miraculously providing for them six days a week.  (They gathered enough for two days on Fridays before the Sabbath). There were various ways to utilize the manna, which allowed for a variety of food dishes and tastes at the table.  But manna was still their basic staple for everyday life.

As slaves in Egypt, it is doubtful that the Israelites’ dinner fare was much better or more sumptuous.  Living in freedom with a manna-based diet had to be far bette than being a slave, no matter what the slaves were eating.  But recall, when the Israelites left Egypt, they were also accompanied by a “mixed multitude”.  These were Egyptians who decided that their prospects were better following after a truly powerful, loving God than to remain in Egypt and continuing to depend on 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, either, and they began to complain.  Complaining is contagious, and it eventually spread throughout the camp 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 living among them, the Israelites began to be consumed with dissatisfaction themselves. 

Have you ever spent time around people who influenced you to be dissatisfied with what God has provided for you? I have. Discontent can easily be stirred up by others around us.

We need to be loving and to provide blessings for those with us – that is what God wants us to do.  But when people begin to negatively influence us to be unsatisfied with God and His provision, it may be time to pull back a bit and to set some boundaries around ourselves.

People can affect us and bring us to the point of agitation.  Whenever we become disturbed, for whatever reason, the best thing for us to do is to pause.  We can check our growing fear or the anger stirring within us to pull back before we respond in an unloving manner.  We can ask God to help us to settle down and to be more loving. Our best response in the moment may be to not reply to the situation at all, as gently as possible explaining that it is not a comfortable moment or conversation for us to have right now. 

The apostle Paul had some profound words to share about living a contented life.  He also learned the hard way that the key to contentment, like so many things, is to lean on Jesus for divine strength, healing, and understanding.

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 one bit.  He wants to help us love others, as well, even in times of discontent or agitation, and to forgive them for any negative emotions they help to generate within us.  Our best example comes from Jesus, who prayed while those around Him were crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”


What areas of dissatisfaction or discontent disturb you the most? 

Many of us struggle with the feeling that we have been given the “short end of the stick”, especially when some others around us appear to have what we think we lack.

We can take these thoughts and emotions to the Lord in prayer:

Father God, help us to experience the peace and gratitude that comes from Your presence, and to have faith that You will hold us up to provide everything we need to live out a joyful and satisfying life. Thank You, Father, for Jesus and for the presence of the Holy Spirit each moment of our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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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