Numbers 11:4-6

And the mixt 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? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.

 Israel set up camp at Kibrothhattaavah, which I will hereafter refer to as Kibroth. Some of the Gentiles, “the mixt multitude” accompanied Israel when they left Egypt. According to Matthew Henry’s commentary the Gentiles left “expecting a land of promise, but not a state of probation in the way.” The mixt multitude heard about the day that the Hebrews God would come get them and then their God actually showed up performing great feats to free his people from the arrogance of Egypt. They thought that they were going to get rich in a land of milk and honey, but all they got was one quart of manna in a never-ending desert. When the Israelites started complaining about hardships the mixt multitude started murmuring that they were better off in Egypt and that stirred up Israel to rebel against God’s provision as well.

Israel was doing fine until the mixt multitude “fell a lusting.” In our society the word “lust” immediately brings to mind sex, but they were not lusting for sex. They lusted for fish sautéed with leeks garlic and onions rounded off with a side dish of cucumbers and melons. They were sick of the manna that the angels in heaven eat, this manna that no one else in all the earth had ever seen much less been privileged to eat. God’s provision was not good enough for them, and when they let everyone know it, a little leaven leavened the whole lump.

Numbers 11:10 KJV

Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased.

 If Israel returned to Egypt, they would still remember the wonderful fish dinners and not have them. The fish in the river died and the crops were destroyed before they left Egypt.[1] Their God debased Egypt, so they could be free from the slavery of arrogant men who denied them freedom of religion. Pharaoh used fish dinners to manipulate them and keep them under his control; that may be one reason God took the fish dinners away. God does not manipulate people by giving them whatever they want just so they will do what he wants. Neither Pharaoh nor the things they remember are an option any more and Egypt will never be the way they remembered it again.

Why were God’s people longing for things that don’t exist when they should be longing for things that are yet to exist? If you look back, you won’t be fit to go forward! Not all that long ago the people stood in the door of their tents to worship.[2] Now they were standing in the door of their tents to weep. Remembering turned their worshipping into weeping!

Unfortunately Israel is not weeping over reality. They are wept over a memory of food and a way of life that no longer existed. All of the great people of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11 were controlled by a memory of things that did not exist as well. They lived their life remembering promises that they died in faith without receiving. Nevertheless, they saw the promises being fulfilled afar off and being persuaded the promises would come to pass, they embraced them and chose to be strangers on the earth. If the people of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11 had been mindful of the land God brought them out of, like the mixt multitude were, they also would have found reasons to return. [3]

When you consider what the people were weeping about it’s easy to understand why the Lord was angry and Moses was not any happier than the Lord! Not only were the people complaining Moses began to complain.

 Numbers 11:11-15

11        He asked the LORD, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now– if I have found favor in your eyes– and do not let me face my own ruin.”

 When people look to flesh and blood to give them what they need in life instead of to the God whom Jesus said is a Spirit;[4] they become a burden too heavy for flesh and blood stewards to bear. The people wept in the door of their tents because they thought they were better off in Egypt. If that was true God would have left them in Egypt. They are weeping and distraught over a lie. How could Moses, a man of flesh and blood, solve their problem? The answer is simple. He couldn’t! 

God’s ministers cannot do anymore than you can unless God empowers them by manifesting one or more of the gifts of the Spirit, whichever one you may need. They will cry out to the same God you can and all it will do is make God jealous that you went to flesh and blood for the answer instead of to him. When you have a problem the first thing you should do is get in your prayer closet and cry out to your Spiritual Father whose foolishness is wiser than the greatest wisdom of any flesh and blood. Let your Father send one of his flesh and blood ministers to help you. The unrealistic expectation of the people that a man they can see with their eyes is able to meet their every need was crushing their Pastor. The people became such a heavy burden Moses asked God to put him to death.

 Jesus told us how to deal with burdens.  It’s very simple to do!

 Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 When Moses did what Jesus instructed us to do God intervened. The burdened received a lighter burden to bear but it did not stop there. Those who created the burden were dealt with as well! First God lighten the burden that the people had become to Moses.

 Numbers 11:16-17 NIV

The LORD said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.  17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.

 Take note that God did not remove the heavy burden people can be. Changing people takes a long time, indeed for most of us a lifetime. It can’t be done with an incantation and the wave of a hand. In addition, we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens but God does not expect us to bear everyone’s burden alone. God lightened the load on Moses by multiplying Moses. He gave the same ability Moses possessed through the Spirit of God to elders Moses knew had leadership ability.

My heart bleeds with sympathy for people in leadership positions like Moses who are worn out, weary and burdened beyond their ability to endure. God did not place a heavy burden upon them. They picked up the burden and refuse to release it because they lack knowledge of God’s ways. They are burden lifters who suppress the talents of those God placed in their life to help them. All they have to do is ask and the Lord would lighten the burden but he can’t do that until the burden lifters are willing to receive help. Unfortunately, most people won’t receive from God until they get to the end of themselves. Our own sense of self-importance prohibits us from allowing others to stand by our side as an equal and help us lift. This kind of attitude in ministry creates rebellion and suffering under heavy burdens until people are burnt out or worse shipwreck their ministries.

The real wonder of Moses complaint is why Moses was so burdened that he wanted to die when he had already implemented a plan to solve this problem shortly after they entered the desert.[5] It was a good plan, but it wasn’t God’s plan because it was rift with the selfish arrogance of man.

Shortly after they crossed the Red Sea, Jethro brought Moses his wife and children, which had no doubt been sent home when things became difficult in Egypt. Before Moses father-in-law returned to Midian, he observed a non-stop flow of people in and out of Moses tent from morning to evening seeking advice and counsel regarding the things of God. Concerned for his son-in-law, Jethro offered some good advice; distribute the work so only the difficult cases are brought to Moses and others can handle the menial things. The purpose of implementing this plan was to make it

 Exodus 18:22-23 KJV

…easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. 23 If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure,…

 Jethro said if “God command thee so” but it is questionable that Moses ever consulted God. The Bible plainly tells us who he listened to,

 Exodus 18:24

Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.

 Moses listened to flesh and blood and did everything the wisdom of man said to do. Paul calls it walking in the flesh. The flesh has good advice that sounds so right but it’s never as good as God’s! 

The words “the burden” that Jethro used may be in italics in your Bible because they are not in the original manuscripts. Jethro said to Moses, “they shall bear with thee.” “Shall bear” is the Hebrew word nasa and it means to lift. Basically, he told Moses that you need people to help you lift the load. But all Jethro’s advice did was put the heavy mud on Moses back and gave everyone else light straw just like Pharaoh did when he made the Hebrews carry mud and the Egyptians carry straw. God does not govern like Pharaoh does. Jethro’s solution to the problem did not work because a year later Moses could no longer endure and cried out to God using the same Hebrew word, nasa, that Jethro used, three times in his complaint. Moses said,

 Numbers 11:12,14

12 Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, (Nasa/Carry them) in thy bosom, as a nursing father (Nasa/beareth) the sucking child,… 14 I am not able to (Nasa/ bear) all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.

 Alone Moses! What about the rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties and rulers of tens that you appointed to nasa with you.[6] If there is a ruler for every ten people and there are one million people, (some commentators say two million but we’ll work with one million), there are presently at minimum one hundred thousand rulers helping Moses nasa.  If God was even consulted, he knew Jethro’s plan would not work, but he could not implement a plan that would work until the one he had appointed to lead comes to the end of his own self-importance. Did Moses really think he was the only one that could handle a difficult problem? Did Moses really think God wanted all the heavy mud on his back? If he did, he was wrong! If Jethro’s plan worked why did Moses cry the load is too heavy? You will labor alone until you are willing to receive people with the same gifts and talents you possess and allow them to work by your side.

Moses gladly implemented Jethro’s plan because those enlisted to help him were not his equals in ability. They dealt with the menial stuff Moses did not want to deal with. They did not possess the same Spirit of leadership God had given to Moses. Therefore, he did not feel threaten about implementing Jethro’s advice. Not until Moses was so burdened that the he would rather die than go on did he see the wisdom of equality and was willing to allow others that bore the same gifts he did to have authority in the church.

When you don’t have to be a one-man show anymore making heavy burdens light is easy for God to do. When Moses finally realized that Jethro had good advice but not the solution to the problem, God said no problem. God told Moses choose seventy men that you know and bring them to the tent of meeting. God gave them the same anointing and authority Moses possessed. If one of them thought Moses could be replaced because they possessed the same gift Moses did from God’s hand, God drew the boundaries when he spoke to Moses alone in their presence. Even if it was Moses idea to give the Spirit of God that was upon him to others he could not have implemented it because we don’t control the Spirit of God. God’s plan was initiated and performed by God when Moses finally broke and came to God with his burden.

God’s first concern was for the burdened but He had not forgotten the ones who make life a burden for others.

 Numbers  11:18-20

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month– until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it– because you have rejected the LORD who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” ‘”

 Sorry you ever became a Christian! You are a burden in the church.  Better off before you started following the Lord. You are not only a burden you are walking on dangerous ground. God’s love will never let you go. How can he let you go when there is nothing to go back to? The place you would go back to will reject you just like you are rejecting God.

Do you really think Egypt would have welcomed Israel’s return? In Egypt’s mind Israel is the reason there are no fish in the river. In Egypt’s mind Israel is the reason there will be no food in the cupboard this winter. In Egypt’s mind Israel is the reason everyone lost a firstborn son. In Egypt’s mind Israel is the reason their government is in shambles. Of course none of that was true because the real reason all those things happened in Egypt was not Israel’s fault but a stubborn Egyptian Pharaoh who would not allow people to worship a God he could not control. When God acted on behalf of people who wanted to worship him, it burned the bridge behind them. When Israel left all the trouble in Egypt stopped. Therefore, Egypt would never want them back. If the Hebrews didn’t drown crossing the river and join their beloved Pharaoh in hell, they would have found nothing but hatred when they arrived in their beloved Egypt. That beloved place never loved them anyhow. Egypt would not even let them sit at the same table and eat lunch them. If they had succeeded in returning to Egypt they would have been more miserable in Egypt than they ever were following God in a wilderness. 

 Hebrews 10:26-27

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  

 Whoever loves the world is the enemy of God. Yes, God delivered Israel. Yes, God treated them like a friend but they did not treat God like a friend. They speak about God like he is the enemy trying to destroy them. Their love for what the world gave them, fish dinners with separate tables and mud on their back has made them the enemy of God.

 Hebrews 10:28-29

28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

 Before they left Sinai a covenant was established with God and sealed with the blood of animal sacrifices. Moses took half of the blood and sprinkled it on the altar. He read the book of the covenant and the people agreed to its terms. Then Moses took the rest of the blood and sprinkled it on the people. They are God’s people that he has purchased with blood to be his family. But some of his family became his enemy when they treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant and insulted the Spirit of grace. But how did they insult the Spirit of Grace? I’ll tell you how, they want out of the family. They are immoral like Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of beans. They are willing to give up all that God desires to give them just to have a fish dinner again; a bowl of beans, a fish dinner, what’s the difference?

There is a difference between Esau and Israel because Esau did not stand at the foot of Sinai and enter into a legal covenant of law sealed with blood. The people that wept with the mixt multitude to return to Egypt will be punished. God gave them meat to eat until it came out their nose and they loathed meat because they rejected the Lord. Other versions say they despised the Lord.

You become a burden in the church and the enemy of God when you despise the God who delivered you. These are people who know God and were saved by mighty miracles. They are the same people who stood in the door of their tent to worship God afar off. Part of their problem is that they never wanted to draw near God. Our God is longsuffering and kind but he can also be severe. If you reject God why is it wrong if he rejects you? If you despise him why is it wrong for him to despise you? Take heed what you spend your time remembering and what it provokes you to do and say.  You just might get what you want and live to regret it.

Now let’s listen to Moses, that great man of faith and meekest man in all the earth question God’s ability.

Numbers 11:21-22

21        But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

 Moses needed meat because they are wailing for Moses to give them meat. God told him he would take care of this burden but Moses can’t see how God will pull this off even though he already did it at the Desert of Sin. Moses knew God could provide meat for a day, but doubted God could provide meat for a month. This is not a very good confession but it is a confession from a man who has favor with God. Yes, Moses doubted God’s ability but he is not like the people who create burdens!

 Hebrews 11:24-27

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

 Moses knew the riches and pleasures of Egypt better than anyone else yet he rejected Egypt’s treasures because he saw something better ahead. Even though Moses doubted God’s ability he never cried to go back to Egypt and that is one of the reasons he had such favor with God. So much favor that even when Moses did not have perfect faith God still came though for him.

 Num 11:23

23        The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 The KJV says whether my word shall come to pass or not. Did God abandon Moses because he failed to have a good confession and enough faith for God to act? NO! God will act on behalf of those who don’t look back! Moses can’t see how God will do this but his negative confession did not stop God from doing exactly what God said he would do and that is the key element. God does not bring our words to pass. God brings his words to pass. God’s arm is not too short to fulfill what he spoke. Our belief that he will or unbelief that he can do what he has spoken is irrelevant. If God could be controlled with our faith and words we would be greater than God.

It is a mystery to me why we continually question God’s ability. I am just as guilty as Moses. But in my favor I have never seen God do the miraculous things Moses witnessed. Not in my favor is the Bible I possess that reveals and explains the mystery parts of which were never revealed to Moses. In my favor I have never spoken to God face to face as a man does his friend. Not in my favor is the Spirit within me that reveals the very thoughts of God. In my favor is the quick response of God to do everything he told Moses he would do. Moses did not have to wait years for an answer. In most cases it was days and sometimes hours. Moses did not have to wait very long for God to give them enough meat for a month. He only had to wait long enough for God to make his burden light.

 Num 11:31-34 NIV

31 Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague.  34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

 The KJV says there they buried the people that lusted. We could also say there they buried the people that lusted for what the world could give them and made life an unbearable burden for others because they were not content with the things God provided for them.

 Rom 8:5-6 KJV

5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

 The carnal minds of the mixt multitude among them produced death in the church. They did not want the manna God sent them from heaven. It’s drying up our soul they whined. Their lust for “others things” angered God and cost them their life. No! They are not going back to Egypt because they don’t belong to Egypt anymore. They are God’s property. If they are not happy having him as a Father the only merciful option is death.

They were miserable in Egypt serving Pharaoh. Now they are miserable in the wilderness serving God. No matter where they are they are miserable. So now they are miserable in hell. What difference does it make if a plague in the body of Christ is removed by a plague?  They are miserable no matter where they are so what difference does it make WHERE they are?

Actually, it does make a difference where they are miserable. It makes a difference to those who are content to serve God with the things he has provided. It makes a difference to those who are content with mercy that is new every morning. It makes a difference to those who are content to patiently endure until God gives them the things he promised.  Why should Moses be so miserable he wanted to die? He  never cried to return to Egypt and is content with the things God provided? When you are a source of misery to those who are content to serve God in the wilderness, why shouldn’t God remove you? Why should God let you make everyone else miserable when there is nothing God can do to make you happy?

We are living by grace not law and it is highly unlikely we will be slaughtered by a plague today. Paul told us what to do when people become a burden in the church.

 Galatians 6:2-5, 7-8

6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load. …… 7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

 The KJV says “if a man be overtaken in a fault.” The Greek word is paraptoma (par-ap’-to-mah) which means a side-slip (lapse or deviation), i.e. (unintentional) error or (willful) transgression. This applies to both the unintentional and intentional things we do. Most of the time, it is the unintentional errors that create the burdens we must bear. Whether it is intentional or unintentional it needs to be lifted from the body because it weighs all of us down. Therefore, the spiritual, the people who look ahead instead of looking back, should seek to restore an individual gently and in the process the spiritual need to be very careful that they don’t deceive themselves into thinking they are better then the one who was caught in a sin that became a burden to all of us.  Dealing with sin is a very distasteful job but the spiritual can take comfort in the fact that the one who created the load will also bear the burden he became to others because God is not mocked. 

When the burden of others gets too heavy we don’t have to rebel, complain and weep about it. All we have to do is ask Jesus to help us. He will intervene to discipline or if necessary remove the one creating a burden because God is not mocked by our sin. Those who sow to their flesh creating the burdens we must bear will in due season reap the corruption they have sown. They will not be a burden forever and they will drink the same bitter water they made you drink. Those who bore the burden of others because they do not think themselves superior will in due season rejoice in their own work when they reap what they have sown to the Spirit. Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Every man will bear the burden he has made others bear so think long and hard about that before you look back and become a burden others must carry.


[1] Exodus 7:18, 9:25-31, 10:15

[2] Exodus 33:10

[3] Hebrews 11:15

[4] John 4:24

[5] The Reese Chronological Bible gives the date of Jethro’s visit and advice as May 1462 and Moses complaint about the burden of the people being too heavy as May 1461.

[6] Exodus 18:24-25

About Teena Myers

Teena Myers is the Chairman of Southern Christian Writers, a freelance writer and author of three books.
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