When He struck the rock, water gushed out and torrents overflowed. But can He also give bread or supply His people with meat?"
correct them by means of severe judgments. "They required meat for their lust. God provided for their need; they wanted him to provide for their self-indulgence; and this no man has ever any right to expect of God, though, in fact, he does give us all things richly to enjoy." But notice this point. The mere request the people made did not appear to be wrong in itself. The wrong is seen when the heart, the purpose, prompting the request, is clearly recognized. "God looketh on the heart." Compare the request of Simon Magus (Acts 8:21). Simon Peter recognized heart tempting of God, and firmly declared, "Thy heart is not right in the sight of God."
I. OUR REQUESTS CAN NEVER STAND ALONE. We can usually only judge the propriety or impropriety of a request. God never separates the request from the person who makes it. Even we look anxiously for signs of sincerity and earnestness. God finds all the interest of a request in the state of mind it expresses. What prompts the request is the question of supreme importance. God answers the man, not the man's words. Show in how many ways there may be divorce between the man and his request. Illustrate by Augustine's prayer, "Lord, convert me," which sounds well, and can be approved. When he added, "but not yet," he let his heart speak, and spoiled his prayer. When God read his heart, he heard this, "Don't convert me, Lord." If we look at the heart behind the request of the Israelites, we can see the unbelief which would put God to the test, and say, "He can give us this light bread, he cannot give us good meat." Plead for searchings of heart before offering petitions to God, because he will answer the heart, not the petition, so we must see to it that the petition expresses the heart. God is provoked by insincerity to correct through judgments (vers. 30, 31).
II. OUR REQUESTS MAY REALLY BE INSULTS. None of us can come aright to God unless "we believe that he is, and that he is the Rewarder of those who diligently seek him." God asks for trust. "Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." The supreme offence to God is "doubting him," "suspecting him." These men offered insult to Jehovah when in effect they said, "Give us flesh to eat; we know you cannot do that." - R.T.
Can He give bread also? can He provide flesh for His people?I. THE CRY OF UNBELIEF. The question presupposes a negative; they practically said, "We do not believe that He can do any more than He has done." The whole nation missed the meaning of history, and thus lacked all stimulus to hope and confidence. How often that is the case! It is most important that our children should learn history, and learn it as those grand inspired historians of the Old Testament wrote it, and as the father of each Jewish family taught it. They should learn not to see a human Colossus, astride all time, but to see God in every great development of history, in every change and every transition, and thus working out His purposes in all. What we need is simplicity of trust in God. God delivers just at a time when man cannot deliver himself. When, therefore, you are brought to trouble, look in the one direction where there is deliverance. You will never find God to fail you; and when once you have been delivered, do not forget it.
II. THE CRY OF PRESUMPTION. Why should they dictate to God what He was to do? Why should they stake the honour of God upon the mere coincidence whether He thought the same as they did or not? — that is, whether He considered that the best thing that could happen to them was that they should have an abundant supply of bread and meat, and taste of the flavour of the old flesh-pots of Egypt for which they longed? In connection with this, read Exodus 13:17, 18. Oh, how many of us are like them! We seem to presume upon what God has already done. I have heard many a man say before now, "I was born in a good family, and here are poor people, who were born in cots, getting on, while of late I have had nothing but disappointments and losses. I do not see why the Lord should permit all this." What would you have the Lord do? Is there any special reason why you should be free from all trouble? Why, some men have trouble from their cradles to the grave. God never made a special arrangement with your parents that you should go through your life without any anxiety, or sorrow, or disappointment. If He had, I am afraid it would have been the greatest curse you could have had in your life. God never sends sorrow to any of us more than we need. It is not only wrong, but also foolish, to dictate to God what He shall do with us. Leave it to Him. If many prayers we uttered in bygone days were but written up to-day on a tablet, we should each say, "Ah, me, I must have been mad when I uttered that prayer. If God had granted me that, it would have been my ruin. He did not grant it, and I was disappointed; but now I see that was the greatest mercy He has ever shown me."
1. This is an instance of the misuse man can make of a glorious history. The first part of the verse seems to prepare us for something sublime. Could a people who could relate such a history, who could record such facts of Divine intervention as these, finish up with anything but a hallelujah of praise? And yet these people who had a great history, and a history in which God's power ever flashed forth in deeds of exceptional love, missed the meaning of all, were caught by the splendour, and only sufficiently caught by the splendour to yearn for other manifestations still more startling, and more gratifying to their animal passions. The love and patience of God revealed in the miraculous provisions of the past were lost upon them.
2. Thus, too, this is an instance of the misuse men can make of miracles. This was not peculiar to the ancient people. Look at the .New Testament. There is one striking instance in John 11:37. Thus these words, in common with the words of our text, reveal another fact.
3. That miracles thus misused by men not only failed to satisfy, or to ennoble their hearts, but also that they made men more exacting in their demands and more shameless in their requests.
4. Thus God, in dealing with men, has given miracles to convince them of His power only as the occasion demanded, and as the nature of the revelation which He gave required. He has never given miracles of which there has not been supreme need. There has been a Divine economy in miracles throughout the ages. It was necessary that they should cease, or they would cease to be miracles. God now works in another way, not less Divine or even less mysterious. The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation.
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