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For nearly a decade, I was a slave to what I thought would bring me freedom. Growing up in a Christian home, I was blessed beyond belief but still saw my fair share of heartbreak and abhorrence. 

At the age of thirteen, my life flipped from day to night. Although I knew many family members had addictions and illnesses that would be the death of them, I never once thought that I, too, would fall to similar vices. 

While my Dad was diagnosed with an incurable chronic disease and my siblings relapsed and overdosed more than nine times of a black cat’s good luck, I grasped for control.

At twenty-one, reality sank in as I realized I’d been trying to make room for two idols in my life: God and authority. Between the walls of my bathroom and the oak door on the other side, I’m confident Christ could hear this battle raging. With tears in my eyes, my broken and throbbing foot matched fists pounded to the floor. I was frail; the addiction had met its match.

After seven years of slavery, God freed me from an impaling obsession with what it meant to be “healthy.” Over those ages, my mind had reframed the importance of food and exercise to be anything but nourishing. 

In Numbers chapter 11, God’s chosen people, the Israelites, faced a similar mindset regarding being whole and satisfied.

After God had rescued His people from the brink of despair, they were troubled when disaster struck their unwavering and unstable mentality. Complaining to God in the recent hardship, our Israelites were far from praising their Creator. And when we get in the middle of a storm, don’t we do the same forsaking eternal remembrance for a temporary freak-out session (verses 1-3)?

For many years, the Lord provided manna, a substance the Israelites once prayed to nourish and satisfy their souls. After a time, however, they got tired of eating it day after day. Anyone else sick of leftovers after a week of eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

But instead of asking the Lord to provide new rain, or should I say fresh bread, when Israel hungered for something other than manna, they bluntly noted they’d instead go back to bondage in slavery than wait for how the Lord would provide next. 

“Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the Lord heard everything they said. Then the Lord’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the Lord, the fire stopped. After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means “the place of burning”) because fire from the Lord had burned among them there. Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!” The manna looked like small coriander seeds, and it was pale yellow like gum resin. The people would go out and gather it from the ground. They made flour by grinding it with hand mills or pounding it in mortars. Then they boiled it in a pot and made it into flat cakes. These cakes tasted like pastries baked with olive oil. The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night” (Numbers 11:1-9, NLT). 

I’m not sure if you caught it, but the Israelites didn’t start to complain about their manna until the foreign rabble which was with them began to crave the good things about Egypt. 

This “foreign” or “mixed multitude” that the Hebrew concordance writes as wə·hā·sap̄·sup̄ is a promiscuous assemblage of people. And isn’t that sometimes how bad decisions rub off on us today? We see someone with admirable traits and actions but a deadly soul envying what they have, and we don’t?

But getting a glimpse of a distorted good thing never brings pleasure but bondage. 

“And the people of Israel also began to complain” helps us to see this conversion of life to death, trading in the truth of the Lord’s providence for a temporary “fix” of earthly diversion. 

“Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna” (Numbers 11:4-6, NLT)! 

I’ve seen it happen far too many times in others’ lives and my own. I was running back to bad habits because they were familiar rather than forsaking them for something holy. 

The boy who struggles with porn kept choosing a temporary pleasure because it felt better than waiting for God’s fulfillment and design. For years, the girl who lived with anorexia and orthorexia called it healthy, and that one stings a little too close for comfort. 

No matter the trade-in, if we abandon Christ for a half-truth of what once enslaved us, the outcome will always leave us hungry. Our appetite for Jesus, the trustworthy source and bread of life will become so ravenous that it ceases to exist. 

How easily the Israelites forgot that manna was what they prayed for (Exodus 16), replacing what was provided with what enslaved them. 

In our minds, deception can easily twist the truth into lies and lies into fact. Before we know it, we run back to slavery, thinking it’s independence because it feels good. But don’t allow hardship to make you run back to slavery, understanding it as freedom. 

In Numbers 11, Moses complains to God about these Israelites crying to him, and so, the Lord provides quail to replace the manna. Yet like any good thing, however, once they received it, God made sure they had enough that they never wanted to taste it again:

“Now the Lord sent a wind that brought quail from the sea and let them fall all around the camp. For miles in every direction there were quail flying about three feet above the ground. So the people went out and caught quail all that day and throughout the night and all the next day, too. No one gathered less than fifty bushels! They spread the quail all around the camp to dry. But while they were gorging themselves on the meat—while it was still in their mouths—the anger of the Lord blazed against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. So that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (which means “graves of gluttony”) because there they buried the people who had craved meat from Egypt. From Kibroth-hattaavah the Israelites traveled to Hazeroth, where they stayed for some time” (Numbers 11: 31-35, NLT).

The question I have for you today, friends, is what food do you crave? God’s, or the worlds? Heaven or Earth’s?

When you’re satisfied with the Lord, you’ll never starve of the inner hunger you’re looking for to satisfy tedious cravings. When you run to Jesus above anything and everything else, He not only fulfills and nourishes but breaks chains so that you no longer have to walk around in them. 

In John 6:35 of the ESV, Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”. 

“‘It shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck and will tear off their bonds; and strangers will no longer make them their slaves” (Jeremiah 30:8, NASB). 

Like the people our Lord freed, again and again, we, too, can be happy, whole, satisfied, rescued, redeemed, and released from our cravings knowing where to go to find eternal nourishment. 

Agape, Amber