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(March 16, 2005)
Lusting, Complaining and God's Anger
By Fern Horst
"And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted." (Numbers 11:33-34)
We often think of lust in association with inappropriate sexual desire. Lust certainly includes sexual desire which is out of bounds. However, lust also encompasses any desire which is out of bounds. The object of our desire may not even be sinful in and of itself; but our desire for it may be.
The Hebrew word translated "lust" in the above verse means to "desire, incline, covet, wait longingly, wish, sigh, want, be greedy". It was such an evil thing in God's eyes that He killed many of the Israelites with a plague. Curiously enough, the object of their lust was meat! Now God had never commanded them not to eat meat. In fact, Genesis tells us that God gave animals to mankind for food (Genesis 1:30). So what was so sinful about the Israelites wanting to eat meat?
It seems that the problem wasn't what they desired, but that they became so consumed with a desire for it that they believed God was not being good to them by not providing it for them. God had already provided miraculously by sending manna each day from heaven. They were not perishing from lack of meat as they imagined. But they allowed a normal desire for something good to cause them to question God's goodness to them because they didn't have it.
Interestingly, even though their lusting after meat was wrong, God gave it to them in response to their demands. But it was not accompanied with His blessing. Their very greediness and insistence on the gratification of their own desires made Him so angry that He sent a deadly plague among them.
In the New Testament we are warned to take note of what happened to the Israelites and to not commit the same mistake they made: "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry." (I Corinthians 10:6-14)
Many Christian singles speak of a desire to be married -- a desire which in and of itself is quite normal and good and God-given. However, there are times when this desire crosses the line into idolatry: when we begin to think that God is not good to us because we do not have a mate or because our mate was taken from us, we are committing the sin of idolatry. We have come to value the object of our desire more than God Himself. Our desires must be placed under His Lordship and left within His sovereignty to bring to pass or to withhold from us as He sees fit. In doing so, we are trusting His goodness and His omniscience to see the whole picture.
God has given mankind many wonderful things to enjoy. Some individuals have some of these elements to a greater measure than others. We will not all have exactly the same things in life, and for good reason: God has different purposes for each of us, and He has promised to provide all we need to fulfill those purposes for us.
Do you think that living contentedly with an unfulfilled natural desire is too tall an order? "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." This promise gives us reason to trust His goodness in everything in life. After all, only He knows what we truly need.
© 2000 Fern Horst
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