God’s ‘Long Arm’

Posted on September 11, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Stressed Moses
Poor Moses! He was exhausted and his nerves were frazzled.

Chapter 11 of the Book of Numbers displays a rebellious nation, a stressed-out leader, and most importantly, a God of power who has everything under control.

The first three verses recount the persistent whining of the Israelites and the Lord’s deadly response. The next two verses, remarkably, record how the people still complained, this time disdaining the manna God had so graciously provided for them, and their longing for meat.

Unable to bear it any longer, Moses lets loose a flood of hurt, disappointment, and weariness:

Why have You [God] hurt Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your eyes, that You lay the burden of all this people on me? Have I conceived all this people? Have I given them birth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse bears the nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep to me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You do this to me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your eyes, and do not let me see my misery (vv. 11-15).

Heavy stuff!

God Responds
Interestingly, our loving God understands Moses’ plight and doesn’t chastise him. Rather, He takes immediate action, commanding Moses to select “seventy men of the elders of Israel … and I will take of the Spirit which is on you and will put it on them, and they will bear the burden of the people with you, and you will not bear it by yourself” (vv. 16-17).

God then tells Moses that on the next day He will give the Israelites real meat to eat, just as they had requested (vv. 18-20). Under normal circumstances, this would have been enough for Moses, but in his traumatized state, he was not thinking clearly and again gave voice to his doubts:

The people I am with number six hundred thousand foot soldiers, and You have said, ‘I will give them meat that they may eat a whole month.’ Will the flocks and the herds be slaughtered for them, to satisfy them? Or will all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to satisfy them? (vv. 21-22).

Moses had overlooked the Lord saying, “Therefore THE LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat” (v. 18, emphasis added).   

God’s Long Arm
Again, we must take note of the Lord’s patience with Moses. Though Moses gripes, his is not in the same league as his fellow Israelites. They griped out of faithlessness, fear, and bitterness; Moses griped in the frailty of his humanness. God loved His dedicated servant and understood the affliction of his heart at that specific time.

Yet, He needed to remind Moses that the God of Israel was no man – a created being with failings, frailties, and limited abilities. Nor would the God of Israel allow His beloved servant to reduce Him to the level on humanity.

In part chastisement, but more in affirmation of His awesome power, He tells Moses: “Is the hand of the Lord shortened? Now you will see if My word will happen to you or not.” That first part can be rephrased as “Is the Lord’s power limited?”

God doesn’t wait for a reply. Moses knows the answer, but just needed a reminder that though human flesh fails – and fails often – God never does. His “arm” reaches from Heaven all the way down to Earth. Nothing can hinder Him from accomplishing His will, and unlike puny humanity, God never wearies, stresses out, or weakens. He said He would feed the Israelites, and that’s exactly what He did, though severe punishment followed (vv. 31-34).  

A Great Lesson
Believers today need to remember that though we grow weary and fearful, God does not (Isaiah 40:28). The events on Earth cannot “shorten” His arm, and He will fulfill every promise He has made to us.

Numbers Chapter 11 is a powerful validation of this blessed truth!