In this chapter, the Israelites complain a great deal about many things. Eventually, the Israelites begin to feel dissatisfied with the manna that God has provided for the last two years in the wilderness. It has always supplied their needs, but now they simply want the taste of meat.
It is here that I remembered the consistent theme of the Bible, as the Lord responds to the complaints of the Israelites by bowing to their wishes. Indeed, the Israelites are punished by getting exactly what they wanted. But as Numbers 11:18-20 indicates, when they get it, they no longer want it.
"And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?"
The theme I keep teasing without actually mentioning is this - the Lord has this tendency to punish the people of the world (especially the Israelites) by giving them exactly what they desired.
We see that at play here, but we also see it when the Israelites reject the Lord's kingship over them. They desire to have a king as all the other nations, so the Lord gives them a king as corrupt as the kings of all the other nations.
Perhaps most strikingly, in Romans 1, we see this same principle as it applies to those who have rejected the evidence of the Lord's existence entirely. As verse 28 clearly indicates,
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient."
The Lord punishes them by simply allowing them to continue along the paths they set for themselves, along the pathway of sin.
But if this is such a consistent thing to see within the Bible, there is one shocking statement that must be true. If man's desires can be a punishment, then man's desires are ultimately harmful to himself.
How is it that man cannot know what is actually good for him? How is it that we consistently have our hearts in the wrong place so that we desire the wrong things? How is it that our desires don't line up with what the Lord wishes in our life?
It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 6:10-12,
"That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he. Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better? For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?"
And with that simple thought I leave you with another simple question - how are your desires? If the Lord granted them, would that be a blessing or a punishment?