The people of Israel are in the desert. And they aren’t happy. It’s really hard to be happy when we idealize the past and take present blessings for granted.
The Hebrews remember that in Egypt they relished tasty foods of all kinds–fish, onions, garlic, cucumbers, leeks, melons. They forget their cruel bondage and God’s magnificent deliverance. And so they complain. In the desert manna is the staple of their diet. . Manna is boring – free, nutritious, satisfying – but boring. Meat. They want meat.
Moses feels frustrated and overwhelmed by his leadership responsibility. The people are irritated with God for failing to satisfy their every whim, and God is furious with them for failing to appreciate his kindness. Moses is thoroughly miserable. If it has to be this way, he tells God, just kill me.
The Lord has other plans. He will supply the Israelites with enough meat to gorge themselves for a month. They will eat meat until it makes them sick. They will eat meat until it comes out of their nostrils. Moses is shocked. How can God provide that much meat in the desert? The fighting men alone number 600,000. Are all the sheep and cattle in the encampment to be slaughtered for them? Are all the fish in the sea to be gathered for them?
God answers Moses with a question of his own: “Is the Lord’s hand shortened?” (Num. 11:23). Have I exhausted all my resources by giving the people manna? Does my power have limits? Has Moses himself forgotten the mighty deeds that secured Israel’s spectacular victory over the Egyptians?
The promised meat comes on the wing. Quail. God redirects the wind and sends Israel a great number of migrating birds. They fly low to the ground and get themselves caught in nets.
Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Great question. When God promises to do something, we may wonder how his word will be kept. He promises to provide for me if I seek the kingdom first, but what if I become too old or sick to work? God promises to be a righteous judge, but on the last day how will he deal fairly with sinners who never heard the name of Jesus? God promises to raise the dead, but how will he reassemble the bodies of people consumed by fire or digested by sharks? Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Does his power have limits? No. Don’t worry about the “how.” Simply trust in the “who.” He won’t disappoint.