“Are we there yet?”; “I have to go to the bathroom”; and “I’m hungry!” are but a few of the complaints that exasperated parents have heard while traveling with young children. There is a certain level of immaturity on their part that prohibits them from seeing the bigger picture and appreciating what the parents are doing for them.
When we examine the Israelites and their wilderness wandering we find a similar spirit. Although God had delivered them from an oppressive dictator and relieved them from a heritage of back-breaking labor, they still found time to complain against God (Ex. 16:2, 7). Yet, we see that God, in his mercy, acquiesced to their complaints and gave them provisions of food and water (Ex. 16:12; 17:6).
The inspiration of scriptures allows us to learn timeless truths from certain events regardless of how inconsequential we may deem them to be. The provision of an evening meal might seem a small matter to the world, yet Christians understand that these things were written for our learning and as an example (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6). What lessons can we learn from God’s divine catering of quail?
God expects gratitude. Although the Israelites are complaining against God and his servants, He still hears and grants their request (Ex. 16:3-4). This was not the first time that God had heard their cry (Ex. 2:24-25). Yet, there is a marked difference in these pleas: the former was a mumbling of ingratitude toward God’s provision while the latter was a cry for deliverance. God heard both cries and both were met with different answers. The cry for deliverance, of course, was answered with the granting of their freedom (Ex. 3:9-10) while the latter ultimately ended in destruction (Num. 11:1).
As Christians we understand that God hears the cry of the obedient child (1 Pet. 5:7). We also understand that the avenue of prayer should be used as a highway of humble request infused with thankful praise, and not a waste bucket of continued complaints (Phil. 4:6, 2:14). God expects us to be satisfied and grateful with the blessings that he has given us (Heb. 13:5). The Gentiles became so focused on themselves that ingratitude soon filled their hearts (Rom. 1:21). If we focus on what we presume God has not granted us instead of that with which He has already blessed, we are cultivating a spirit of ingratitude.
Natural desires can be our downfall. The Israelites were craving something that was natural to them: food (1 Cor. 6:13). Yet, when we assume that every natural desire should be fulfilled in every situation, we soon discover that sin is waiting at the door. The Israelites were humans, and so they became hungry; yet, they failed the test God had given them when they succumbed to seemingly natural desires (Num. 11:33). Instead of realizing their sinful ingratitude and displaying self-discipline in response to such, they went about collecting the food as if God was the divine vending machine who responded to their every whim. The situation did not change much in the New Testament (John 6:26).
The desire for sexual intimacy is a natural desire. Yet, just because it is something that we desire as human beings, does not mean that God accepts every scenario in which we choose to fulfill those desires. The Bible is very clear on the judgment coming for the adulterer, fornicator, and homosexual (Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 6:9). Satan can use our natural impulses, which God intended for good, against us (James 1:3-5). We can choose to limit and abstain from those impulses that come natural to us if necessary (1 Cor. 10:23).
The Lord provides. “The LORD will provide” was the translation given to the place dedicated by Abraham after seeing God’s provision of a ram for sacrifice instead of his son (Gen. 22:13-14). Yet, a lesson learned so adequately by this man of faith was lost on his descendants. Not long after leaving Egypt they were already complaining of the lack of God’s provision (Ex. 16:1-3). Yet, it was in that moment when God needed them most that He was there for them, providing the sustenance that they needed with the evening quail. I imagine that is the greatest lesson we learn from God’s divine catering—in our moment of greatest need, God is always there (Heb. 13:5). Just as he did with the Israelites, he is waiting to bless us abundantly (Eph. 3:20). Let us learn from their mistake and go before the Father in a spirit of gratitude, realizing our Savior relates to our struggles and receiving the blessings of a God Who provides.
*Article used with the permission of the original author, Jacob Rutledge