Praying for What We Crave
I must say that I am fascinated by the readings in the Daily Office right now, Numbers in particular. God being irritated enough to give the people exactly what they whine for is an example of the ultimate parental satisfaction experience. Thoughts of “I TOLD YOU SO” keep ringing in my ears.
Yesterday’s reading leaves off with Moses just not understanding the words that God speaks. Supposedly they speak the same language but there is obviously no listening going on – at least not on the part of Moses. Too well, God listens. The people complain about the food; Moses complains about the burden of the people; God answers both complaints but with obvious irritation. Not only does Moses not note the irritation but he does what was always dangerous to do with my grandmother – he “’sputed” (disputed) God’s word – he doubts God’s ability. Woe be to him indeed.
So after God meets with Moses and the seventy elders appointed by God to help relieve Moses of some of the burden, these elders did their one time and one time only prophesying after God put some of the spirit on them. Meanwhile, two guys left in the camp who are obviously not elders but are also recipients of the spirit begin to prophesy. The reader is led to assume that this might become something normal in their lives. A young guy gets all up in arms about it and runs off to tell Joshua. Joshua is appalled that they are so audacious as to do this. Moses, with some of his burden relieved, is actually able to boldly proclaim to Joshua that he stop being jealous - it would be a good thing if more people are able to be prophets.
Back at the tent, perhaps God is further reminded by Joshua of the pettiness of these people chosen as the people of God. So the ruach goes out from God and brings forth thousands of those quails which “migrate across the Red Sea to Europe in the spring” (Exodus 16:13 footnotes in Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV). These fall two cubits deep all around the camp, “about a day’s journey on one side and a day’s journey on the other side”. Two cubits are about one yard. It takes the people all day and all night and all the next day to gather all the quail. The least that is gathered by any one person is ten homers. A homer is supposedly about six bushels.
That’s a whole lot of dead bird meat for any good carnivore. Just imagine…a full 24 hours of these birds partially baking there in the sun with flies and all manner of decomposition beginning. I imagine that a good case of food poisoning would seem like a plague to 600,000 people. Talk about coming out of people’s nostrils and becoming “loathsome”!
But there is still hope for the Israelites. It doesn’t seem as though all are struck with the “plague”…only those who had the “craving” die and are buried.
One can hope that the Israelites learn quickly.
Of course, we know that isn’t true, don’t we?
The “craving” still exists…clearly.
Hopefully God is the one not listening when we pray for what we crave.