For a single person, I’ve been thinking about babies and parenting a lot lately.
Hear me out.
It’s not just baby fever, although I know a lot of people who have new babies or cute toddlers! It’s also the thought of those years when a child is very small and cute and wriggling and waddling – and how important that time is.
I mean, look at the world we live in. There are so many garbage mentalities, assumptions, and insecurities that are built into little girls and boys from infancy up. We blame society all the time – but how do you compete with it as a parent? How can you raise better people?
Can anyone answer that question?
Moses certainly couldn’t. In Numbers 11 he’s all out of answers. The Israelites are whining and complaining to him because they’re sick of manna.
It’s almost funny to hear them talk about all the delicious foods they miss from Egypt – you can practically hear them going “the leeks, the onions, mmm and the meat?! Man it was good!”
But they weren’t just reminiscing. They complained and blamed and pointed fingers until God got angry. He gave them the meat they wouldn’t stop begging for – specifically quail. For a whole month quail piled up all around camp (ew). The Israelites ate and ate and ate until God struck them with a plague, killing the complainers.
And that’s why you shouldn’t eat meat.
Was that a “yes”, a “no”, or a “wait”?
I’m just kidding. That’s not the point of the story.
But there has to be a point to this story somewhere, right? It’s wild! Leaving aside the literal piles of quail (verse 31), one of the most surprising things in this story is how God chooses to answer prayer.
How does God answer prayers? We can all probably recite the list of answers that God gives to every prayer – “Yes”, “No”, or “Wait”. This is a foil to the angry accusation that God doesn’t answer some prayers. He always does, they told us eagerly in youth group, just sometimes His answer is “Wait”.
When I first heard someone say this, my mind was blown. Duh! God answers every prayer! Nowadays, this response feels less comforting. It seems so cut and dried, so formal. You check your God Inbox every morning and you see just one of those answers and nothing else.
Numbers 11, on the other hand, gives us a slightly different perspective on that trite explanation of answered prayers. In this chapter, God answers two unique prayers in two unique ways.
The first prayer is the one we’ve been talking about all this time. The request for meat.
It was less a prayer and more like a string of complaints filed against Moses and the God who had led them there. The Israelites actually had the nerve to say they “were better off in Egypt”, all over some stupid meat (verse 18).
This prayer was selfish. It was accusing God and Moses of not having the Israelites’ best interests in mind. It was like saying God wasn’t being cool since He wouldn’t give them what they wanted. It was spoiled. It was childish.
Yet God answered it. He gave the Israelites exactly what they asked for – pounds and pounds of animal meat. Then He allowed them to suffer the consequences of it. Be careful what you wish for?
The second prayer was Moses’s prayer. He prays it in verses 11 through 15. It’s almost shocking.
Up to now, we’ve mostly known Moses as the intrepid leader of the Israelites. We know he was fearful and hesitant in the beginning, when the Israelites were still in slavery, but now? He’s been leading successfully, decisively, for so long.
But in this chapter, it’s like he snaps.
His prayer is also a complaint. It’s a prayer of desperation. It’s an accusation. Moses is overwhelmed by his job and the people he leads. He doesn’t know how to fulfill this latest request. He blames God for putting him in this position. He even insists that he’d rather die than keep suffering like this (verse 15).
What does God answer? “Yes”? “No”? “Wait”?
God gives Moses a solution. He lessens Moses’ burden. He tells him to appoint 70 men to “share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone” (verse 17). (Spoiler alert: Moses did it and it worked)
God listened to Moses. And then He had mercy.
What does this tell us about God?
It tells us that He listens to us. He listens carefully. He listens with love.
It tells us that He can handle our emotions. Desperation. Despair. Thoughts of suicide. Anger. Frustration. Lust. Disappointment. Embarrassment. Shame. He doesn’t inch away from any of it. He doesn’t make a face at us. He doesn’t roll His eyes and silently judge us. He handles all of it.
It tells us that He teaches us. Because it’s one thing to listen. It’s one thing to empathize, to silently nod as we pour our hearts out.
Jesus talks back.
He tells us how to work through and overcome our difficult emotions. He reminds us of His power and His wisdom, which can untangle any messy situation. He points out where we are wrong. He shows us where we need to change.
And sometimes, when we won’t listen to Him, He lets us suffer the consequences.
Only to draw us back to Him once more.
“I am your heavenly Father.”
When I was younger, and I used to get spanked, I remember my mom reminding me that she spanked me because she loved me, not because she hated me. The current debate on spanking aside, I really came to understand that statement. I knew that if she didn’t care what I did or how it hurt me, then she would have ignored me. She would have left me to my own devices. Instead, she disciplined me, so that I would learn and change and become a better person.
God is the same way.
If He didn’t love Moses, He would have given him radio silence. He wouldn’t have cared at all how Moses felt. He would barely have blinked an eye.
If He didn’t love the Israelites, He wouldn’t have given them the quail. He wouldn’t have taught them a lesson. He would let them whine and complain and blame Him until they died, none the wiser.
Sometimes we feel like God is treating us that way. Ignoring us. Barely registering our cries.
But stories like this are specifically here to prove to us that God cares. He’s a present Father. He’s an active Parent. He’s a real part of our lives.
If we believe this, or even if we just want to believe this, then we should look for Him in our life.
We should look for Him, catch His eye, and walk closer to Him. Because the closer He is, the greater things we will discover and learn, and the better people we will grow up to be.
What do you think? How has God answered your prayers? Comment below and share if you think someone needs to hear this.