There are two groups of people, in this account, the rabble and those taking responsibility for others. Rabbles are disorganised, disorderly crowds. Rabbles are a dangerous threat to life when out of control, particularly when hungry.
Moses, the leader of the Israelites had a problem. The rabble had a strong craving for meat. Unless we are vegetarian or vegan I guess most of us can identify with this.
We’ve been told to eat less meat. Our farmers have been told to cut down on meat production and use the land animals grazed on to plant trees. Farmers in South America have been doing the opposite, cutting down rain forests to produce beef. Since the Amazon rain forest is the lungs of the earth, this is accelerating climate catastrophes elsewhere. Apparently cows and pigs in particular blow off an exorbitant amount of carbon into the atmosphere and are adding to the increase in temperature and extreme weather conditions we have seen on every continent this year.
Ironically, because of the exorbitant rise in gas prices we cannot produce enough carbon dioxide to stun animals before slaughter. We also have a lorry driver crisis so getting meat products to our supermarkets in time for our Christmas dinner might be problematic.
Eating less meat will lower our need for our overstretched NHS. Cancer, lower immunity to diseases, heart disease and being overweight are all associated with diets high in meat. These are predominantly illnesses suffered by richer, Western nations. Those living on bean and rice based diets are healthier. Plant based diets are better for our weight, health and grocery bill.
Yet, we crave meat, preferring the diets we were brought up on. Like the Israelites we don’t like change.
The Israelites had suffered a huge amount of change. They were refugees in the wilderness, camping in tents on their journey to the Promised Land that God had promised to lead them to.
Life had not been wonderful for them in Egypt. The Egyptians were incredibly wealthy. We see that in the tombs, artefacts and architecture. Around the banks of the River Nile Egyptians produced much food. The Israelites remembered the meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic with affection.
Israelites and Egyptians had lived together for over 400 years before the Israelite children were seen as a threat. They had been reduced to living as slaves, building cities with less and less resources. Their children were being murdered at birth. Ethnic cleansing was taking place, perhaps in much the same way as it is for the Uighurs in China today.
God had rescued his people, leading them out by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The waters of the red sea had swept back to enable them to cross and begin their journey in becoming the people God had called them to be.
The rabble only remembered the good times. They were jealous of what the Egyptians had materially.
They were bored. They complained that there was nothing to look at in the desert.
They were becoming weak on the staple of manna and quail which God had provided.
They were depressed and weeping at the entrances of their tents.
They were putting pressure on Moses to do something about it. Where was he to get meat for such a large number? Moses was displeased and felt helpless. He had obeyed God and now he felt he was being treating unfairly both by the Israelites and God himself.
I wonder whether our politicians sometimes feel like that.
Moses felt so depressed and angry he asked God to put him to death at once to end his suffering. He was exhausted and recognised there was no way he could provide for God’s people by himself.
It is not good for us to always get our own way. Lives of luxury and waste damage both us and our environment.
We do not have to be broken by the changes that are happening around us. We are changed for the better when our focus is on God and not on what we will eat or drink.
The desert is an awesome place to meet with God. God had provided for all the Israelites needed so they could concentrate on him and form a strong bond with each other.
The Lord was angry with the rabble. He had done so much for them but they were not thankful.
Moses needed the Lord to do something so the Lord told Moses to gather 70 of the elders and officers of Israel, people who were responsible and reliable, those who had a history of helping their people. Moses then placed them round the tent of meeting, where they came to worship and hear from God.
The Holy Spirit came down in the cloud upon the 70 and Moses. They were reenergised and prophesied. When we prophesy we don’t necessarily predict the future. Primarily we speak the words of God gives us.
The anointing the elders received was just enough to re-establish their position. Once the anointing had faded they didn’t prophesy again.
Eldad and Medad, two of the men who were not elders and not called to the tent of meeting were also anointed by the Holy Spirit. They continued to prophesy when the cloud lifted. The Holy Spirit transformed the lives of these two ordinary men who were receptive to him.
Because they didn’t have any positions of importance, Joshua, Moses’ assistant was jealous and asked Moses to stop them. Moses response speaks to us today. “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”
Those filled with God’s Spirit were given new ministries. They were no longer depressed and bored. Instead of craving meat and exotic fruits, they craved more of God and his Spirit. Instead of feeling empty and deprived they were filled.
They were no longer helpless and useless. They were enabled by God’s spirit to minister to those around them.
We are facing unprecedented changes as a result of global warming. Even the food we are able to grow and the time of harvest is changing. We can choose to complain and harass our leaders. We can be part of the rabble or we can act responsibly.
God in these last days has poured out his Spirit upon all who are thirsty. The Holy Spirit enables us to dream dreams and see visions of a better future.
Let’s forget about ourselves and our fleshly appetites and invite God’s Holy Spirit to satisfy and fill us. May he enable us to minister to those who fearful of the days to come.