I grew up thinking that God’s provision of quails in the wilderness was a blessing on par with the manna that fell from heaven. As I read the story again though, I saw that God caused quail to fall from the sky because his people had rejected him. It’s a heart-breaking story that gives us an insight into the stubborn, hard heartedness that eventually led to an entire generation dying out before they witnessed the fulfilment of God’s promise.
Two years after the Israelites were freed from more than four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, they started craving the meat of the land they’d begged God to deliver them from. They became dismissive of the miracle of the daily provision of manna from heaven and hankered back to the things from their time in bondage. Their rejection of God as their source, along with their constant complaining so stirred his wrath that he caused an entire month’s worth of quail to fall around the camp in a single day. The people gorged on the meat but while it was still between their teeth, the anger of the Lord was kindled against them and he struck the people with a great plague. The name of that place became Kibroth-hattaavah, which means graves of craving, because that is where they buried the people who had the craving (Numbers 11:31-34).
Have you ever felt like you are not enough for someone you love? The one you are devoted to always seems to be looking elsewhere for something more. Maybe you feel that way when you’re with your family, your friends or your colleagues. The feeling that you are not enough pierces the heart like few things do and although God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts, we have been created in his likeness. He too feels our rejection and longs to have our full attention.
Is God enough for you or do you crave something else?
The story of the quails highlights an attitude among the Israelites that had become pervasive. They could not let go of what they thought were the better things of Egypt, even though that was the place of their oppression. They stubbornly refused to surrender control and love God first and completely. We then see how things begin to fall apart as Moses’ sister and brother (Miriam and Aaron) both oppose his leadership and when spies are sent into the Promised Land, ten of the twelve were incapable of seeing what God wanted them to see. Their negative thinking stopped an entire generation from stepping into all that God had for his people (Numbers 12-14).
What is God asking you to surrender?
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can lay aside our cravings and choose to love and follow God with all our heart, soul and mind.
After Jesus had revealed who he was to the Samaritan woman, the disciples returned from buying food and urged him to eat, but he said; “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:31-34).
My prayer is that our love for God and our obedience to him will be what truly nourishes and satisfies.
© 2021 by Ruth O’Reilly-Smith