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What the Bible says about Variety, Drive for
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Numbers 11:4-6

There are quite a number of serious sins exposed in this particular issue - perhaps the most serious being their lack of faith in God's promise. There they were, eating "angels' food," as Paul calls it - the very best nutrition they could possibly receive - and it was not good enough! They had to have something extra, just as all the people in the world do, and they were willing to go back into captivity to get it. Is that not compromising? Is that not a lack of self-discipline? Is that not wanting to be like everybody else around them? Is that not seeking after a variety of experiences?

God is interested in unity, in oneness. There is one way, one God, one religion, one set of commandments, statutes, judgments, and so on. But Israel wanted to be like everybody else. They had the best laws, the best country, the best God, the best Husband, but it is not enough. Whenever self-denial becomes an issue, she did not deny herself to serve and submit to her Husband, God. Is that not serious?

God promises to supply our every need, but in Israel's fearful and fickle discontentment, they did not seek Him to understand what He was doing, but instead, they sought something different from what He was providing them within their relationship with Him. We really need to be aware of this, because this drive for fulfillment in variety is still within the Israelitish people, and therefore in us. God shows us in numerous ways that His desire is for His children to be unified in one system, and that is why He told Israel: one God, one place of worship, one system.

They were permitted only one place to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. In my experience in the Worldwide Church of God, people in almost every congregation had to go to a different festival site every year. When we begin to see that this is immaturity, we realize that not everything that God makes available to us is a right choice for us. God shows this right at the beginning of the Book. In Genesis 3, Eve looked at that forbidden fruit and saw that it was good to eat. She could not deny herself the satisfaction of tasting that luscious looking fruit, even though God said not to.

We (especially those of us who live in America, which is far wealthier than any nation has ever been in the history of mankind) have so many things to choose that it is incredible. But what does God say is our responsibility? He says, "Choose life," and there is more to that word "life" than merely being the opposite of death. By "life," He means choose the things that will be good for eternal life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Six)

Numbers 11:4-5

The Israelites were out in a wilderness area, and they were on the move. They did not have any gardens or stores to run to. There was nothing they could zip in and out of to get what they needed. They were completely dependent upon what God gave them. Even water wells were scarce and far between.

They had their flocks and herds with them, but if they had eaten those things (remember, they numbered over two million people) they would soon have been gone. Additionally, because they were on the move, they could not stop and allow all the animals to reproduce and keep things going. They were between a rock and a hard place, as it were. God had to be the One who supplied their need.

What was God giving them? There would be an occasional rock that Moses would whack, and water would come out, and there was the manna every morning. Everyday, the people had manna pancakes, then for lunch they had manna hamburgers, and for dinner they had manna salad and manna roast. Everything was manna! They ground it up, beat it, boiled it, baked it; they did everything they possibly could to get some kind of variety. But everyday they ate manna.

Would we enjoy eating the same basic thing everyday? Most of us would not. The Israelites did not either, but in this chapter there is a spiritual lesson that God was working out because He knew that, sooner or later, His church would come along and need to learn principles from the lives and experiences of these people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10

Numbers 11:4-6

A number of quite serious sins are exposed in this particular issue, perhaps the most serious being their lack of faith in God's providence. This sin is driven by an arrogant self-concern that forgets that God is working out a purpose and plan in us and overseeing everything in our lives. He bought and paid for us with Christ's sacrifice, and we vowed to submit to His authority when we gave Him our lives. What He provides to those of faith within that purpose is more than fair. In fact, it is usually quite generous.

He promises to supply the faithful with their every need, but in Israel's fearful and fickle discontentment, they did not seek Him to understand what He was doing. Instead, they sought something different from what He was providing in terms of experiences within the relationship. This drive for fulfillment in variety remains within the Israelitish people.

Though the emphasis under the New Covenant has shifted to the spiritual, God shows us in numerous ways that His desire is for His children to be unified in one system—His. The manna provided under the Old Covenant represents God's desire that we are to be strengthened in His way only through His Word.

Uniformity with His way is illustrated in several ways in the Old Testament. For example, the priests could use coals only from one particular fire for the incense offering. They had to be uniform in the clothing they wore when officiating at the one altar God permitted in only one place in Israel. In addition, Israel was allowed only one festival site, Jerusalem.

Consider how God concludes His instructions in Deuteronomy 12, which limited Israel's sacrifices to Him to one location:

When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, "How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise." You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (verses 29-32)

This instruction is specifically aimed to stifle Israel's proclivity to look into foreign religions. The lesson is "curiosity killed the cat"! Deuteronomy 23:6 adds concerning the heathen, "You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever." In Ezra 9:12, where this also appears, God tells them to keep themselves so separated that they were never to make any kind of alliance with neighboring peoples!

As the Bible shows, Israel did not heed God's counsel. In stubbornness, she sought fulfillment in variety and became a great whore.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character

Ezekiel 6:9

There is a lot of emotion in the word "broken." The marginal reference for it gives "crushed." God says, "I am crushed." This is how He felt in the rejection He received from Israel within this marriage.

The idols represent what she greatly desired, and as the context clearly shows, what she greatly desired, God (her Husband) prohibited.

This "whoring" is their fickle drive. They were always curious about how others did things. They were always ready for excitement in some new thing and ever willing to experience a variety of things. Almost always what she chased after was outside the guidelines that God gave in His commands, but to her His commands always appeared to be denying her pleasure.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Seven)

Ezekiel 6:9

"Idols" represent what she greatly desired and expended her efforts to possess. As the context shows, what she greatly desired God, her Husband, prohibited. These fickle lusts led Israel into relationships with ways of life other than God's. Her drive for the "excitement" of experiencing some new thing led her to make those other ways her ways. God labels this as adultery because she abandoned Him for them.

Usually what Israel chased after was outside the guidelines God gave in His commands. However, to her His commands always appeared to be denying her pleasure. Hosea, though the earliest of the prophets to connect spiritual idolatry to the sexual sin of adultery, was far from the last, as this verse in Ezekiel suggests.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?

1 John 2:15-16

These verses are a basic guideline to the alluring heart of the Babylonish system. This system has its basis in human nature. It feeds right into our desire for frequent change and variety of experience as the answer to fulfillment in life, but the Bible clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness.

Babylon promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement and gratification of the flesh, and variety of experience. These major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose. People do not know where they are going. They are bouncing in every different direction. There is competition, hitting heads with one another. There is disunity and diversity everywhere. There is disharmony, fighting with one's neighbor. There is separation from each other and eventually from God and ultimately the separation of death. The result is that the world is not a happy place to live in.

None of these factors that are part of the allurement of Babylon can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, abundant living, and purpose in life because none of them is in constant harmony with the purpose of God. Each of these things, though they may not be sin of and by themselves, can only produce a temporary burst of well-being.

Many, many times, God instructed Israel against this proclivity. They were to seek out only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. But Israel is disastrously curious and terribly smitten with the discontented, unsettled, impatient "grass is always greener" disease.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part Seven)

1 John 2:15-16

These verses provide a basic guideline for avoiding entrapment by this alluring heart of the Babylonish system. Since this system has its basis in human nature, it feeds right into the desires for frequent change and variety of experience as the answers to fulfillment in life. The Bible, however, clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness, which is diametrically opposed to the world's system. It promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement, gratification of the flesh, and variety of religious experience. Its major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose, competition, disharmony, disunity, separation from each other and God, and death.

The result is that this world is not a happy place to live in. None of these factors can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, and abundant living because none of them harmonizes with the purpose of God. They can only produce a temporary burst of emotional well-being or satisfaction.

God instructed Israel often and in many ways against this proclivity. They were to seek only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. Israel, though, is disastrously curious and incautious and filled with discontented, unsettled, impatient, "grass is always greener" yearnings.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 




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