Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.The Irksomeness of Religion
We all know how after a certain time the children of Israel began to loathe the manna. Their soul rejected it, it was light food. It was bread from heaven, says the Psalmist—angels' bread, and yet it proved distasteful to the camp. The strange thing is that it was they—and not God's enemies—who found the manna such a distasteful dish. It was the children of Israel who felt the diet irksome, and the children of Israel were the people of God.
I. That leads me by quite a competent spiritualizing—for did not Jesus say, 'I am the bread'?—to dwell on a very urgent matter, I mean the irksomeness inherent in religion. There is nothing on earth so paramount and vital as the relationship of the human soul to God. Yet men who have felt all that, and feel it now—and wherever an awakened soul is, there it is felt—such men and women, whensoever they reveal their souls, confess to the seasons, sometimes unbroken years, when religion was an irksome thing to them. Or again, one might say religion cannot be irksome if the great key-words of the New Testament be true. There is rest, and there is joy and love on the narrow path which Jesus Christ hath trodden. But for all that, there are few travellers on that path who have not felt the irksomeness of their religion.
II. We detect it sometimes by the quiet relief we feel when our religious exercises are concluded—a certain secret sense of satisfaction when the prayer is got over, and the worship done.
We detect it again in the way in which many try to put service in the place of personal religion.
But the irksomeness of a quiet and abiding piety is seen above all in the love of religious excitement.
III. I wonder if we can discern the grounds of this element of irksomeness in heart-religion? Surely the first and the deepest is just this—religion is spiritual, and we are carnal. It is because we are far from Christlike yet; it is because God is holiness and love and purity and truth, and because in religion we must walk with God, that even to the saint it has its irksomeness.
Another reason for that same feeling is this, we strive and seem to make so little progress.
But in our religion, I think it is the Gross above all else that does it. It is the fact that in the very centre there hangs the pallid figure on the tree. In other words, it is the abnegation, it is the humility and self-denial, it is the renunciation of much that is sweet to us, and the eye fixed on a dying and bleeding Saviour; it is that, when life is sweet and full of music, and calling us as to the freedom of a bird, that may keep an element of irksomeness in all following of the blessed Lord.
—G. H. Morrison, Sun-Rise, p. 279.
Dew and Manna
Israel represents humanity in its pitiful failure to realize the goodness of Divine providence.
I. Here are Usual and Unusual Mercies.—Dew is usual, manna is unusual. Dew falls everywhere and always; not so manna. Life, however, receives both dew and manna. The sad fact is that we often fail to appreciate either class of mercies.
II. Here are Natural and Spiritual Mercies.—Dew is a natural blessing; manna represents a spiritual good. One is according to the established course of nature, the other a supernatural gift of God. And yet the distinction between natural and spiritual is largely man-made. To the Christian it is almost impossible to differentiate between the two spheres. God is behind the dew as surely as the manna. The spiritual represents the supernatural, but not the unnatural.
III. Here are Mysterious Processes in Life.—Who understands the dew? Who understands manna? The very word carries the idea of mystery. It con-notes an inquiry—'What is it?' None can evacuate either gift of its mystery. And lite is full of mysterious processes. There is mystery about the ordinary and mystery about the usual. If we give up religion because of its mystery, both logic and honesty will compel us to surrender a host of other things, for they are instinct with mystery. Life would be a dreary monotony if there were no mystery; and you would not accept a religion devoid of mystery, for mystery is the sign of divinity.
IV. 'Dew and Manna.' Life abounds in Common Mercies.—'When the dew fell upon the camp, the manna fell upon it.' It was a universal benefit. Both dew and manna were common to all Israel.
Do not the best gifts of life bear the stamp of universality? The dew and manna fall upon 'the camp'. Sir Walter Scott, in the latter part of his life, said to a young friend, 'The older you grow, the more you will be thankful that the finest of God's mercies are common mercies'. It is profoundly true. The Apostle Jude writes of 'our common salvation'. Peter speaks of 'the common faith'. Moses spoke of 'the common death'. Recall that fine saying of Schiller's: 'Death cannot be an evil, for it is universal'.
V. 'When the Dew fell upon the Camp in the Night, the Manna fell upon it.' Here are Associated Mercies.
VI. How regular, too, are God's Mercies!—'When the dew fell, the manna fell.' Neither sprang out of the earth: they fell from wondrous heights. The sun never fails on any single day to appear. The air currents are always flowing. Harvest comes every year. God's constancy is the miracle of miracles.
VII. God's Mercies do not Absolve Man from his Duty.—God sends the dew, but only that we may utilize the ground He thus prepares for us. God sends the manna, but it is not to be eaten just as it falls. Grace is to be improved.
VIII. Dew and Manna are Typical Gifts.—They are typical in two respects:—
1. In the case before us the season of their bestowment is full of parabolic suggestiveness. When did these blessings fall? 'In the night.' Spiritual benedictions are often richest in darkest hours.
2. Dew is the symbol of grace. Manna, too, is typical. In the 6th chapter of John's great gospel Christ sets Himself in apposition to the manna.—Dinsdale T. Young, Unfamiliar Texts, p. 189.
References.—XI. 14.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, p. 329. XI. 23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 363. XL 25.—G. Matheson, Voices of the Spirit, p. 11. XI. 26.—T. G. Rooke, The Church in the Wilderness, p. 209.
Lord, Thy servants are now praying in the church, and I am staying at home, detained by necessary occasions, such as are not of my seeking, but of Thy sending. My care could not prevent them, my power could not remove them. Wherefore, though I cannot go to church, there to sit down at table with the rest of Thy guests, be pleased, Lord, to send me a dish of their meat hither, and feed my soul with holy thoughts. Eldad and Medad, though staying still in the camp (no doubt on just cause), yet prophesied as well as the other elders. Though they went not out to the spirit, the spirit came home to them.
Lord, grant me one suit, which is this—deny me all suits which are bad for me: when I petition for what is unfitting, O let the King of heaven make use of His negative voice. Rather let me fast than have quails given with intent that I should be choked in eating them.
References.—XI. 27.—W. J. Dawson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. 1897, p. 296. XI. 29.—T. G. Selby, The Holy Spirit and Christian Privilege, p. 215. W. Sanday, Inspiration, p. 168. T. De Witt Talmage, Sermons, p. 221. T. M. Rees, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 293. J. Warschauer, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiv. 1908, p. 417. XI. 34.—J. Baldwin Brown, The Soul's Exodus and Pilgrimage, p. 279. XII. 3.—T. R. Stevenson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 109. XIII. 16.—J. M. Neale, Sermons for Some Feast Days in the Christian Year, p. 213. G. Trevor, Types and the Antitype, p. 115. XIII. 17-33.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, p. 332. XIII. 21, 23, 27.—R. Winterbotham, Sermons Preached in Holy Trinity Church, Edinburgh, p. 275. XIII. 23.—W. Brooke, Sermons, p. 30.
And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the LORD, the fire was quenched.
And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the LORD burnt among them.
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 garlick:
But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.
And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.
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.
And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me?
Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing father beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto their fathers?
Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they weep unto me, saying, Give us flesh, that we may eat.
I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.
And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom thou knowest to be the elders of the people, and officers over them; and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee.
And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.
Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;
But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
And Moses said, The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month.
Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?
And the LORD said unto Moses, Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee or not.
And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp.
And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!
And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
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.
And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.
And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.
And the people journeyed from Kibrothhattaavah unto Hazeroth; and abode at Hazeroth.