“And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, hound about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
And the people stood up all that day, and all that night and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves hound about the camp.
And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, eye it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.
And he called the name of that place Kibroth-huttaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.”
The way to heaven is the way of faith!
Without faith it is impossible to please God not only, but without it one cannot live as a pilgrim of the heavenly country. He who in this life refuses to live in faith will never enter the pearly gates, but in unbelief will fall by the way-side!
Such is the lesson which the children of Israel had to learn as they traveled from Egypt to Canaan. And that is the lesson we have to learn again and again when as pilgrims we travel through the wilderness of this present time to the heavenly Canaan of rest!
It was the Lord who had delivered Israel from the mighty hand of Pharaoh. And He taught them thereby, and unmistakably clear it must have been evident to them, that it was the Lord alone who delivers them from the bondage of sin!
And as they travel from Egypt to Canaan He impressed upon them how that they were so deeply dependent upon their Saviour. He must guide them by pillars of cloud and by fire. He must feed them and give them drink. And He led them purposely through the dry and thirsty wilderness in which no waters be, so that they would place their faith only on Him. Deuteronomy 8:3tells us that He humbled them and suffered them to hunger, and fed them with manna which they knew not, in order that they might know that man lives, not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord. And that Word was Christ, the Bread of life and Water of life. In Him Israel must trust, and all would be well!
But alas! Israel, according to the flesh, rebels again and again in unbelief. They will not live by the Word that proceedeth out of God’s mouth alone. They must have flesh to eat! For that they pray!
And God heard and answered their evil prayer!
How blessed when He hears the prayer,of faith!
How terrible when He hears and answers the prayer of unbelief!
Kibroth-hattaavah! God answered their evil prayer!
But who were they that offered this evil prayer? For what did they actually pray? And why was it such an evil prayer?
We read in the context “and the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, who shall give us flesh to eat?” Evidently many of those who left Egypt with the Israelites were Egyptians or slaves of the Egyptians as the children of Israel had been. While there in Egypt they also had been under harsh oppression, or they constituted the lower class of Egyptians and therefore were also oppressed. At any rate, they had joined themselves to Israel when the latter were led to freedom. Perhaps there were some who had joined Israel for spiritual reasons, but it soon became evident that the majority had joined for purely carnal reasons. And now, after about a year and two and one-half months of desert travel, they were getting sick of it. Naturally, like Israel, they too were demanded to bear deprivations. And because they were carnal, at least the majority of them, they began to rebel.
It did not take long before their lusting for flesh took its toll on the children of Israel. Only a little while, and we see the people of Israel, and again the majority of them, standing before the door of their tents weeping. It is Israel; prompted by this carnal element that prays: Who shall give us flesh to eat? Fresh in their minds were the fish, the cucumbers, melons, onions and garlic of Egypt. Though they had suffered the whips of the Pharaohs, they nevertheless had always had their appetites satisfied with delicacies.
They pray for flesh! This in itself was not wrong. There is nothing wrong with having meat. It must be considered an essential part of a good diet. Nor could it have been sinful in itself to have desired it.
But their prayer was a prayer of lust! Their claim is that they have nothing before them but this disdainful manna; manna, which tasted like fresh oil, and was therefore not only nourishing, but also palatable. In the language of our day we would say that it was enriched with all the necessary and nourishing vitamins. But Israel is sick of and fed up on this daily diet of manna. Their claim is that they will soon die if they are not given something else. They need meat, for their souls are dried up. And therefore they ask: Who will give us flesh to eat? This was indeed an evil prayer!
Evil it was because it was an accusation against God, against God Who had so wonderfully delivered His people and supplied all their need. Never had He allowed them to go wanting. Their bread and water were always supplied. Their clothing and shoes waxed not old. From Egypt to this place, He had kept them in health and strength. But now their voices were raised in accusation against Him. This is certainly implied in their cry: Who shall give us flesh to eat? The implied answer is: No one, not even God. He will let our souls dry up until there is no life in us. But that is not all!
Evil was this prayer also because it was a denial of Christ Who was the manna. It was not only substance meant to sustain their physical, earthly life. It was also a type, a type of the Bread of life, Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus Himself makes this plain when He declared, according to the Gospel of John, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven.” When Israel, therefore, disdained the manna, their action was a direct denial of and aversion to Christ. While God was teaching His people to live by the Bread which cometh down from above, they proudly said: Away with this bread, we are sick of it! They speak and act as practical atheists and unbelievers. They will not look for the Antetype!
Their prayer was evil because they lusted after earthly things! The fish, onions, garlic and melons of Egypt are types of the things which are passing away. They symbolize all that satisfies carnal desire and earthly pleasure. Israel virtually said: We want nothing of heaven, but we want the earth and its fulness! They implied that they hated the very idea of being a stranger and a pilgrim. They express the carnal passion for the pleasures of sin!
For our admonition these things are written, upon whom the ends of the ages are come. O, my soul, haste not to utter such vanity! Seek thou the things which are above, and wait thou only upon God from Whom cometh every good and perfect gift!
And God answered their evil prayer!
How terrible it is when He gives according to an evil desire!
Literally, He fulfilled their lust! Their meat came to them in the form of quails. Miraculous, but awful answer to a carnal prayer! Millions of quails showered down upon them. Three feet deep, and as far around the camp as one could walk in one day, so many were the quails!
And O, how greedily they gathered them! He that gathered least gathered ten homers, sixty to a hundred bushels. The Lord was intent on giving them flesh, not for one day, nor for twenty, but for a whole month, until it would come out of their nostrils, and it became loathsome to them! One would think that such abundance would have caused them to become suspicious, that they would hesitate to indulge. But the Psalmist (Ps. 78:30) tells us: “They were not estranged from their lust.” They conclude: This is the life! Let us eat, drink, and be merry!
My reader, do you know people like that? Are you perhaps one of them who never have enough? It seems to me that if ever there was a time when the multitudes fall a-lusting, it is in our day! I see thousands upon thousands of my countrymen lusting and grabbing after the things which are below. I see the capitalists milling day and night to amass their thousands and their millions. I see the labor man and his unions throwing stones and even bombs, and by force of strikes and boycotts he is striving to gain the riches of the rich. And most sorry of all, I see my fellow Christians caught up in this spell of materialism and greediness. They do not ask: Is it good for me? They do not live any more out of the principle that the Lord will care for His own. They do not seem eager today for the Bread of life, but for the bread that is perishing!
And O, how the Lord is sending His quails today! When I see so many quails, I become afraid. I’m afraid that the Lord is answering the prayers of evil lusters. When the Lord sends so many quails, beloved reader, beware!
The wrath of the Almighty accompanied the answer to that evil prayer! You see, God is not mocked! The quails are given in His holy wrath! Israel is punished with a horrible plague. We are not told what exactly was the nature of the plague, but the text makes it very plain that by eating many died! In Psalm 78:30, 31, we read: “But while their meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.” It meant that even the youngest and the strongest could not endure the awful wrath of God!
Instead of banqueting, as they supposed, there were mass funerals! From the glee that registered upon their faces at the sight of abundance of meat, they are brought to deepest sorrow. Nausea, indigestion, and death rained upon them as they fell under the curse of the Almighty!
O, indeed, the Lord will not be mocked! Whether it be the world of wicked men, or the wicked in His church, all who despise Him, turning their necks upon the living God, and repudiating the Manna from heaven, shall feel His wrath!
The psalmist in Psalm 106:13-15, tells us also of this episode in the history of Israel, when he says: “They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel: But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request: but sent leanness into their soul.” Carnal lust and leanness of soul, these two always go together. When one is full of Christ, there is no room for carnal passion, but when the soul of man despises the heavenly Bread, which can be appropriated only by a true and living faith, there must of Divine necessity be leanness of soul in a dispensation of wrath.
Among this mixed multitude there were no doubt children of God, who for a time were caught up in this maelstrom of carnal lust inspired by the flesh seekers. They no doubt repented, for God will lead His people into Canaan at last, but all that generation of lusters went down on the sands of the desert. All of which is to teach us that entrance into Canaan shall never be by our own merit, for the natural man savors not the things of the kingdom of heaven, they are foolishness to him. It is only by sovereign grace that we are made to taste the Bread of life, and thus to enjoy pleasures forever more. He who has once tasted this heavenly Manna, to him the things of this world become strangely dim.
But the mockers, the carnal flesh seekers, they may have what their lean souls crave after in this life, but Divine wrath accompanies their pleasure, and in the end they have eternal desolation, even though they belong in their generations to nominal Israel or the church of Christ in this world.