“And the children of Israel said unto [Moses and Aaron], Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)
How perplexing it is that we should so quickly find the Children of Israel once again murmuring against Moses and Aaron! Now it was hunger, and not thirst, which caused them to lose confidence in their leadership and fear once more for their very survival.
Perhaps nowhere else in the Hebrews’ Wilderness Experience do we find such a striking parallel between their trials of faith and our own. Most of us living in the Western world are not in want of enough food; few of us are ever really at serious risk of dying from starvation. Affordable food is abundant in our civilized society and charitable programs, both private and public, are plenteous enough to provide something to eat for even the most indigent in our communities. Even so, the inner conflict reflected at this point of the Wilderness March remains as relevant for us as it was for them.
How is that those who walked daily under the Shadow of the very Presence of God could become so fixated on the provision of their most basic of needs? How is it that the same people who witnessed the mighty hand of God at work by the shores of the Red Sea and the waters of Marah could doubt His gracious providence again? Their problem is identical to ours: regardless of the spiritual heights to which we climb, the needs of our frail flesh remain and, until we entrust the same God Who cares for our spiritual needs to also meet our physical, we remain tethered by the grumblings of our own appetites.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.” (Matthew 4:1-2)
What a contrast between the Hebrews’ response to physical hunger and that of the Lord Jesus. Jesus demonstrated that the feeding of man’s soul is as important as the feeding of his body and that the same God Who provides for the one provides for the other. Unlike the Children of Israel (and most of us, to one degree or another), Jesus was not at the mercy of His fleshly appetites and He knew what it meant to bring the body into submission to God. The Lord is to be our God, not our bellies (cf. Phil. 3:19) and this is what times of fasting, both voluntary and involuntary, remind us of. Though the flesh remains with us, with all of its appetites and desires, when we yield those desires to God, when we look to Him to satisfy our hunger, spiritual and physical, we are recognizing our dependence on Him and acknowledging His gracious providence.
We see that the Children of Israel complained that they had nothing to eat. We see that they even wished to God that they had died back in Egypt rather than to die of hunger here in the Wilderness. Nowhere do we see them asking God, or asking Moses to ask God, for food. We are reminded of the simple yet profound observation set forth in James’ Epistle: Ye have not because ye ask not (James 4:2). I wonder how different things would have been had they asked and trusted God to provide. I wonder how different my own experience would be if I were more dilligent to do so also.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,