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
Exodus 12:38 tells us the "mixed multitude went up with" the children of Israel. These folk fell in step with God's army as it marched out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. For how long? Their presence during the quail incident, cited above, indicates that these peoples were still with the Israelites at least one year after the first Passover. That means that the mixed multitude was present at Mount Sinai, some fifty days after the Red Sea crossing. This means they were present at the giving of the Law!
Whoever they were, the peoples of the mixed multitude were much more than just witnesses of God's strength. Even the unbelieving Egyptians witnessed that! The mixed multitude partook of God's grace, experienced it with the children of Israel. Whoever they were, these people were fellow-travelers with Israel for a time, experiencing with them the power of God as He pulled them "out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 4:20; see also I Kings 8:51; Jeremiah 11:4).
Both Israel and the mixed multitude experienced His might as He destroyed the most powerful nation on earth at that time. They both experienced deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea. They both experienced the shaking of Sinai as God thundered the Ten Commandments. They both ate the manna and drank water from the Rock! They both were baptized in the Red Sea (see I Corinthians 10:1-4). The folk God calls the "mixed multitude" were partakers with Israel!
The Mixed Multitude
This passage expresses what motivates the rest of the story in chapter 11: They yielded to an intense craving. Have we ever had intense cravings? Was there a time when our taste buds were watering away for a piece of chocolate, a sundae, a piece of cake, pie ala mode, or maybe a nice filet mignon? Everybody has, but in most cases something stops us. We either do not have the money or the time or we are not in a place where we can fulfill our desire.
But we should not stop considering this with the desires that emanate from the stomach and taste buds. We desire a lot of things: nice clothing, nice homes, nice automobiles. We desire a husband or a wife. All sorts of desires can become so intense that they begin to drive our lives.
When we get into that kind of an attitude, we will begin to find that our desire is not only dominating our thinking, it is making us do what we do and say what we say. Chances are, if we fail to control it, we will begin to take advantage of situations to satisfy our overwhelming desire. We will take advantage of people, if need be, to satisfy it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10
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 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