Human beings are amazing creatures. We can be sacrificial, giving, caring, and creative. We can mirror some of the attributes of God such as love, mercy, and justice. We can harness electricity, predict the weather with a certain degree of accuracy, and send rockets into space.
And yet, if you look at humans, think about what messes us up. Think about what happens to us that just turns us inside-out. People who are otherwise smart, often wise, people who know the consequences of bad choices, willingly make bad choices. You know it will cost you. You know it is going to do you damage. You know, when you are willing to actually think, that the reward is not going to be as great as promised, but you jump in anyway.
This all reminds me of something we see in the book of Numbers. In fact, if you ever want to see folly of humanity, and if you want to get a glimpse as to what messes us up, take a peek at what I am, at least this morning, calling the onion rebellion.
For background, the people of Israel have lived their entire lives as slaves in Egypt. They have been forced to work against their will under the whips of brutal task-masters. The Egyptians even attempted to put to death the male children born to the Israelites in order to slow down their population growth. This people cried out to God for mercy, and God delivered them.
As you know, the Lord led the people up out of Egypt in a miraculous salvation. They crossed the Red Sea, saw the Egyptians crushed by the waves, and began a trek in the desert back to their homeland.
As the Israelites walked in the desert, God did more miracles. God provided for the people supernaturally food to eat every day. God provided water for the people to drink. God provided supernatural, visible guidance to lead the people to where he wanted them to camp. God took care of all their needs.
Numbers 11:4-6 – 4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
And here is what happened. The people got tired of the healthy, supernaturally provided, perfect food that the lord gave them. They suddenly began to think longingly of their slavery. They wanted the fish, the leeks, and the onions. And so they began to grumble and complain, dishonoring God out of their desire for onions.
What does this make you think of these people? God is there. They should know he is doing amazing things to care for them. They should know that he is giving them what they actually need. He is making sure that they get where they are going. This is an uncomfortable couple of months, to be sure, but it is surely not as bad as slavery.
But all the rabble can think of is, “We want onions!” They are letting a drive, a simple desire, an unimportant flavor lead them to destruction. They are willing to turn their back on God, to disparage his holy name, to damage their actual lives because they want a new taste in their mouths and they just cannot wait for the promises of the Lord to be fulfilled.
And as we want to look down on these people for their folly, we have to ask where we face our own onion rebellion. Where do you turn your back on God for the fulfillment of drives and desires that are actually not worth it? WE do this in so many ways.
Food is one example. We know what is healthy and safe to eat. We know what eating too much unhealthy food does to us. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, back problems, poor self-image, all these can be contributed to by our making foolish choices regarding what we eat. We know this. WE have seen the science. We have had the teachers tell us this in school And yet, when we have a craving, what do many people do? Many throw wisdom and insight out the window and wreck their health for something that gives a brief moment of pleasure.
How about in marriages? Think of the destructive things people do, things they know are wrong, hoping for a flash of pleasure. A husband gives into the temptation to watch porn on the Internet. A wife gives into the pleasure of flirting with a coworker. Neither one, if you sat them down in an honest conversation, would tell you that they really, thoughtfully, truthfully believe that their actions are going to lead to good. They know that their pleasures, their drives, their hungers actually lead them to pain. But they give in anyway.
Friends, Let’s not be onion rebellion kind of people. Let us seek the Lord and plead with him for the ability to take hold of our desires and our drives. There are things that might give us temporary pleasure and lead to our hurt. There are things that might give us temporary pleasure, but lead to our damnation. Pray. Ask God to help you have the strength to say no to your desire for things that mean nothing in the eternal scheme of things. Do not turn your back on God because you want a sexual rush, a moment of telling someone off, the good opinion of someone you barely know, a bit more money, or the taste of food for just a moment. Do not be like the people who walk away from God because they miss the onions in Egypt.