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Feeling out of your depth?

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Description: Moses was out of his depth and challenged God, demanding to know what he had done to be so afflicted. God’s answer was to do the impossible.

If you have, you’re in good company. Even the great Moses felt that everything was too much for him. He became overwhelmed.


Rampaging discontent

For the Israelites, the issue was food. They weren’t going hungry; they were simply fed up with a diet of God-provided manna. They wanted meat. Having come together as a ‘rabble’ they went round spreading discontent until Moses could hear ‘the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents.’ (Numbers 11.10).


Moses challenges God

Perhaps not surprisingly given how distraught he was, Moses challenged God, asking, ‘What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?’ (Numbers 11.11) God stepped in with a solution, telling Moses to summon seventy of Israel’s elders to share the load.

God then promised to give meat to the people - not just for a day or two; for a month – but Moses couldn’t hide his doubts. Completely out of his depth, he felt as if God had made an unfulfillable promise. Despite all he had personally witnessed, it seemed utterly impossible for God to provide meat (in the desert) for 600,000 men plus women and children for a day, let alone a month. In his overwhelmed state, he questioned God’s power. God’s reaction? He told Moses to wait and see.

More quail than they could eat

After the seventy elders had been summoned and sorted, God caused a wind to drive quail in from the sea. These birds normally migrate northwards but were blown in huge numbers to the Israelite camp. In fact, ‘huge numbers’ fails to do justice to the quantity that arrived. According to Numbers 11.31-32, God ‘scattered them up to two cubits (about 90 cm, 3 feet) deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction.’ So many quail were sent that ‘All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers.’ – about 1.6 metric tons.

Moses heeds his lesson

Moses had learnt a lesson. God had once again irrefutably demonstrated his mastery over creation, but he’d not forgotten the people’s endless complaints, forgetfulness or lack of trust. Those who had greedily tucked into the meat were inflicted with a severe plague and many died. This judgement may seem harsh, but these people had been craving other food, making comparisons with life in Egypt and continually whining. In effect, they were throwing all that God had done for them straight back into his face. Not only were rejecting him themselves, they were spreading discontent and undermining belief in all that God had promised.


So what does this tell us?

One thing above all else: nothing is impossible for God. So when we’re feeling out of our depth, maybe God has put us there for a reason. Maybe he wants us to be utterly honest about the way we feel – develop our relationship with him. Maybe he puts us into hopeless situations precisely because we need to learn to trust him better. Food for thought, perhaps.





Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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