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Life of Moses


Numbers 11 - 12

Lesson audio

Pro 17:11 NIV An evil man is bent only on rebellion; a merciless official will be sent against him.

Rebellion of the People

Num 11:1-35 NIV Fire From the LORD

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. (2) When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. (3) So that place was called Taberah, [1] because fire from the LORD had burned among them.

Quail from the LORD

(4) The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! (5) We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost--also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. (6) But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!" (7) The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. (8) The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. (9) When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down. (10) Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. (11) He asked the LORD, "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? (12) Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? (13) Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, 'Give us meat to eat!' (14) I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. (15) If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now--if I have found favor in your eyes--and do not let me face my own ruin." (16) The LORD said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. (17) I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone. (18) "Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. (19) You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, (20) but for a whole month--until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it--because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" ' " (21) But Moses said, "Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!' (22) Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?" (23) The LORD answered Moses, "Is the LORD's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you." (24) So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent. (25) Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again. [2] (26) However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. (27) A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." (28) Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" (29) But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" (30) Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (31) Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them [3] down all around the camp to about three feet [4] above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction. (32) All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. [5] Then they spread them out all around the camp. (33) But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. (34) Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, [6] because there they buried the people who had craved other food. (35) From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.

Takes the form of…
  • Murmuring. Oh, it wouldn’t do to out and out defy the Lord God, especially as He has the odd habit of roasting people who do – literally. But we wouldn’t hesitate to “discuss” it. Why is there no pizza delivery here in the Sinai?
  • Unbelief. This is particularly true of the form of unbelief which picks and chooses what to believe. “A kind and loving God would never…” – which seems kind of stupid to me. I can see believe it or don’t believe it; but to pick and choose as if the Bible were a breakfast buffet? (Hand me another pastry).
  • Walking in our own thoughts.[1] Sometimes we don’t just pick and choose, we invent what we think should be. This seems to be the main method of those today who know that God really approves of homosexuality, it really isn’t a sin. It’s not so much that they ignore the Scripture (they do) but that their own thoughts are taken to be equal with what the Bible says. It’s the Revised Non-Standard Version.
Is caused by
  • Gluttony – in this instance. A man whose god is his belly puts himself first (“look out for number one.”) This is gluttony of the classic sense (food) but anything that you “absolutely just have to have” is going to get in the way of what God knows is best for you.
  • Injustice and corruption[2] - If you’re lining your pocket with money from under the table, if you can be bribed, and you call yourself a Christian, you’re going to hear about it from God. And it’s really going to bug you, and you’re going to complain about it.
  • Hypocrisy[3] - if you claim to be a Christian, and the world isn’t all that convinced, it’s convenient to distract attention from yourself and over to God. Just why is it that He hasn’t solved world hunger yet?

The rebellion of the congregation takes its toll on the leaders. Here are a few examples:

  • Despondency. Look at Moses here; he’s frustrated, doesn’t know which way to turn and (as we used to say in the service) “busted, disgusted and not to be trusted.” Bummed out. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, and it’s just not working. How would you react to that?
  • Doubt. The man of many miracles is complaining that it would take tons of meat to feed these people. What’s the problem? Discouragement tends to lead to doubt.
  • Reticence. When the congregation rebels, often enough the preacher “knows better than to preach on that topic.” (See last week’s lesson on the Ten Commandments to know which topics those are).

Rebellion of the Leaders

Num 12:1-16 NIV Miriam and Aaron Oppose Moses

Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. (2) "Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?" they asked. "Hasn't he also spoken through us?" And the LORD heard this. (3) (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.) (4) At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, "Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you." So the three of them came out. (5) Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward, (6) he said, "Listen to my words:

"When a prophet of the LORD is among you,

I reveal myself to him in visions,

I speak to him in dreams. (7) But this is not true of my servant Moses;

he is faithful in all my house. (8) With him I speak face to face,

clearly and not in riddles;

he sees the form of the LORD.

Why then were you not afraid

to speak against my servant Moses?" (9) The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them. (10) When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam--leprous, [1] like snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; (11) and he said to Moses, "Please, my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. (12) Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away." (13) So Moses cried out to the LORD, "O God, please heal her!" (14) The LORD replied to Moses, "If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back." (15) So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. (16) After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.


Why is it that the leaders of the church – who really should know better – rebel? The reasons are rather unique to leadership – but they all start with one assumption: “I can choose my assignment in the kingdom of God.” No, you can’t. You can take it, or leave it, but you cannot choose it. God will not bless you in it if you do. But once that decision is made, the steps are clear:

  • Envy. Admiration of the leader sometimes turns into envy. If I’m allowed to choose my spot, and I’m as wonderful as I think I am, the spot I choose is the one he occupies. And when you compare my brilliance with his humility…
  • Envy then turns to ambition. In the world, ambition is a virtue. In the kingdom of God, it is a vice. (Not only do I want to be in his spot, I’ve decided to go for it).
  • At the first sign of resistance, the ambitious must decide: accept the rebuke, or defend myself? Such a defense is called presumption: “I really am better at this than he is.” This often winds up splitting a church, or even a fellowship of churches.
What’s wrong with it?
  • First, it’s not what God told you to do. (An interesting example of this, and how seriously God views it, may be found in 1st Samuel 15).
  • Next, it’s fairly clear that a leader’s function included getting rid of rebellion, not encouraging it.
  • Worst of all, this is arrogance. We’re telling God what we will do, instead of Him telling us what we should do.
What can I do about it?
  • Pray. You might not even understand what the conflict is about, but you are commanded to pray for those in authority over you. Just because one or more are in rebellion doesn’t mean you should stop; rather, pray for their restoration.
  • If possible, or called upon for such service, administer church discipline. Go to the one in error, one on one, and point out what you see. Ultimately, they may be thrown out[4], but it’s much better if the matter is resolved before that happens.

What’s God going to do about it?

Send others to warn
  • It’s interesting to note that when God sends someone, it’s usually someone meek and humble. He has no intention of injecting another sparring partner into the conflict.
  • Often enough, He will have the true leaders intercede in prayer for the rebellious. He wants the rebellion to cease, sinners to repent – not for the conflict to produce winners and losers.
  • He will often amplify those who are loyal to Him – as He did here with the seventy elders.[5]
Pronounce judgment

OK, we have fire from heaven, plagues, any number of natural disasters to deal with in this regard. But note one thing: He will often interrupt the happiness of the rebellious to emphasize His wrath without increasing the punishment.[6]


Sometimes He waits – until sense prevails, or someone gets the picture, but at least until He knows things now must be dealt with. We often mistake His patience for indifference.


(Upon repentance, of course.) He will forgive the people as a group, for He knows they are but sheep. He will forgive the leaders, though theirs is the greater sin. But there is one consistent factor in this: someone intercedes on their behalf. Moses does that in this instance; so should we all.

[1] Isaiah 65:2

[2] Isaiah 1:23

[3] Hosea 7:13-14

[4] Ezekiel 20:38

[5] Note the word “amplify.” God does not spread the Spirit thinner. Like a candle lighting others, the Spirit is given without limit.

[6] Numbers 11:23, in this instance

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