The Rabble Among Them
Num. 11:4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat!
Every morning when the Israelites awakened fresh manna lay on the ground, ready for them to consume. No one had to work for their daily bread, except to collect enough for their family. This special food from God provided all the nutrition they needed to be a healthy and satisfied people, and yet, they were not satisfied. Evidently a core group of individuals decided to grumble and complain that they didn’t have any meat to eat. They are referred to as, “the rabble among them.” These individuals had a “strong craving.” We might even say, “they had a hankering for barbecue!”
So strong was their “hankering” that they began complaining and this negativity was contagious. The rabble infused the entire camp until finally they were all grumbling, “If only we had meat to eat!” In the following verses they list a menu of food items which they enjoyed in Egypt. In essence they were saying, “Everything was awesome when we lived in Egypt.” They missed the onions, garlic, cucumbers and melons that they used to eat there and this memory suddenly overwhelmed the memory of a faithful God who had rescued them from the hands of their oppressors.
They refused to put their faith and trust in God and the “rabble” were willing to take their grumbling and negativity back to their homes. Their own families began to complain and the attitude of the rabble spread through the camp like a contagious disease. It was a disease which could ultimately lead to the death of their own children who would turn their backs on God. These people were enjoying their time of complaining.
We find the word “complaining” used again on rare occasions in the New Testament but it is used by the gospel writer, John in 6:35, 41-61. This is when Christ is explaining to the Jews that he is the bread of life which came down from heaven. Jesus is the manna and the rabble go home and “complain” about who he is. They are repeating the exact same behavior which we have seen here in Numbers. The power of the “rabble” is immense for negativity is highly destructive.
The frightening part of this story is the influence of the “rabble.” This may have begun as a small handful of discontented individuals but it soon infused the entire camp. The destruction seen to their own families and households as a result of their selfishness is overwhelming.
Today is Sunday and there will be many around the world who will go to church and participate in a small group and a worship service. What will your children hear on the way home today? Will there be criticism of those who led the lesson, or the pastor’s sermon? Over and over again I hear of young people who are turning away from the church and Christianity because they do not see it as being authentic. I’ve heard them tell me that the way in which their parents behaved at home had nothing to do with the way they behaved when they were at church. The Israelites’ grumbling would eventually lead their children to death. This was the reality in the Old Testament and they were still doing the same thing by the time Jesus arrived.
Do we understand the destructive nature of our negative criticisms? Are we willing to drive a wedge between our children and their faith in God because we want to complain about the Pastor?
Being a member of the “rabble” is highly infectious. It may win us some attention today and the crowds may be turned on by our negative rants but it will lead us back to Egypt.
Lord, please keep me from the temptation to be rabble. Amen.