Summary: Full lives. Full social calendars. Full houses. But if we are honest, most of us are also full of famine! Why?
Pt. 1 - The Plague of Plenty
I. Text: Numbers 10:11-13; 11:1-9
In the second year, on the twentieth day of the second month, the Cloud went up from over The Dwelling of The Testimony. At that the People of Israel set out on their travels from the Wilderness of Sinai until the Cloud finally settled in the Wilderness of Paran. They began their march at the command of God through Moses.
The people fell to grumbling over their hard life. God heard (we forget that God hears don't we?). When he heard his anger flared; then fire blazed up and burned the outer boundaries of the camp. The people cried out for help to Moses; Moses prayed to God and the fire died down. They named the place Taberah (Blaze) because fire from God had blazed up against them. The riffraff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, “Why can’t we have meat? We ate fish in Egypt—and got it free!—to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.” Manna was a seedlike substance with a shiny appearance like resin. The people went around collecting it and ground it between stones or pounded it fine in a mortar. Then they boiled it in a pot and shaped it into cakes. It tasted like a delicacy cooked in olive oil. When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna was right there with it.
For those of us who live in America the idea of plague is almost foreign (especially for those of us who are a little younger). However, our national history has been marked by plagues. There have been plagues of sickness - chicken pocks and measles. Plagues of violence - civil war and civil rights. Also financial plagues . . . The Great Depression interestingly enough was called "plague of plenty" because that was the problem, there was a mass production of both agriculture and factory goods. With mass production, there comes a decrease in demand. No demand means no need for production, and that means unemployment which led to the financial collapse. So, we have plagues in our history but for most of us not in our memory.
Today, I want to boldly and bluntly tell you that we are experiencing a famine. This famine is harder to recognize or even challenge because it isn't as tangible (no ribs are showing) or as easily identifiable but I believe it is real and prevalent nonetheless. I submit to you that as a movement - Christianity - we are in the midst of a famine. That would be bad enough if it were just reserved for certain segments or pockets of this movement. However, I want to tell you that I believe the famine has come to roost and taken up root in Passion. This is a famine of a spiritual nature. Symptoms are there if you know where to look . . . from this side of the lights you see it in the glazed over eyes, lack of passion, participation or anticipation for worship, lack of concern, lack of action, lack of obedience to the Word, lack of any discipline when it comes to study, treating gathering, as commanded by Scripture, as optional and low on the priority list. All signs of a famine. I can feel it. I can see it. Before I am accused of being a prophet of doom let me stop here and share this tidbit of good news . . . I also believe the famine is in its early stages and we can take steps inside this body and personally to stop it. We can take steps to stop the long term terrifying implications of it. We will talk about how to do that in the coming weeks. All of that to say that I believe we are experiencing a famine as a direct result of a plague. This plague has given birth to the famine we are now experiencing. Much like the financial fall in our national history we are experiencing a spiritual depression due to the plague of plenty.
We certainly aren't the first to fall prey to this plague. I read to you an account of the same plague in action. The Children of Israel after 400 years of slave labor, that continued to become more and more brutal, find themselves free. Granted their freedom has resulted in an extended time in the wilderness. It is funny how many of us start this journey thinking it will only and always be a walk into paradise. Now, in just over two years, wilderness travel has made them forget the 400 years of bondage and we come to Numbers 11 and the people begin their complaint with a lie. They lie to themselves. We had all the fish, melons, garlic, leeks in Egypt and we got them for FREE. That is a lie! They didn't get it for free. It came at the expensive of being slaves. Feeling the burn of the whip on their backs. Building houses and palaces that didn't belong to them. That is the first step to famine - we convince ourselves that the old days were better than they were. We allow memories to become more powerful than the moments we are blessed to experience now. We miss the gift and greatness of what we are now hearing, seeing, tasting, and living in because we glamorize our past. So the result is we take today for granted. Notice what Scripture says ... the Israelites were privileged to eat angel food cake every day. A delicacy at every meal. Donuts for breakfast, donuts for lunch, donuts for dinner and they complain. Why? The plague of plenty. They had sufficient supply. They didn't have to work for it. They didn't have to tend it. They didn't have to water it. They didn't have do anything. The plague of plenty caused them to experience a famine.