What’s the difference between when they complained the first time about their diet and now? Well, the difference is that a year in their lives has transpired, and during that year God has revealed a great deal about Himself. When they came out of Egypt they didn’t know much about God at all. They were a nation of slaves. But He’d begun to teach them about Himself at Sinai. He taught them that He is a holy God, and that He is a powerful God. They’d seen the miracles. The Israelites knew how He was preserving them as they went through the desert by the manna they ate and the water they drank. A great cloud overshadowed the camp in order to protect them from the hot desert sun in the daytime, and then it turned into a pillar of fire at night to provide both warmth and light. They had perfectly adequate evidence of the power and the grace of God and shouldn’t have been complaining now.
Do you have any evidences of the power and grace of God in your life? Have you been a Christian for any length of time? Whether you have been a Christian for one year or twenty years, you’ve seen many evidences of the grace of God. Isn’t it more serious for you to be complaining about God now than it was within a day or two of your conversion? You see how it works. This story begins to tell us how very serious it is to complain about God.
Now when they complain about the food, this is something that we find very easy to be sympathetic about. They had been out in the wilderness now for a year, and God had fed them with manna. But when they complained about having only manna to eat, we know that’s exactly the way we would feel as well. After all, we’re used to supermarkets. We would want a little variety, and some meat in our diet, which is good for us. And if we did want manna, there would be a whole row in the supermarket. There would be new and improved manna, new, new and improved manna, strawberry-flavored manna, manna in powdered form, manna in bottles, manna that you could buy in bulk, and so forth.
This story tells us that it’s very serious to complain to God about anything that He has given, and this includes food. After all, it is the Lord who gives us our daily bread, isn’t it? Jesus said in that prayer He taught His disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” So if we ask God for our daily bread, and He gives it to us, if we are complaining about our daily bread what we are really doing is complaining about God. We’re saying God doesn’t know what He’s doing. Or if He does know what He’s doing, I don’t like what He’s doing and God shouldn’t be doing it that way. God should be doing something else.
We have to remember that it was, in part, a problem with food that led to the sin of our first parents. Of course, there was a lot more involved in it than that; they were rebelling against any kind of restriction that God would put upon them, which is the very nature of sin. But their sin did have to do with food. Adam and Eve had been given all of the abundance of the garden except for the fruit on that one forbidden tree, and that’s the one thing they wanted.
So we ought to learn from that and be careful. We ought to be satisfied with what God provides us with day by day. It doesn’t mean that if you are able to expand your diet you shouldn’t do that. But we should be thankful for what God provides for us. That is why we offer prayers before meals (and in some traditions, not only before the meal, but after the meal). This is not just a senseless religious rite that Christian people go through. It’s exceedingly proper, because it’s a way of saying that all the necessities of life are provided for us by God. We don’t acquire these things or achieve these things by ourselves. God provides them and therefore we are thankful for them.