There is a passage in Numbers 11 that I just love; A Willow Creek “Summit” speaker by the name of Jeff Manion brought this to life for me in a talk I heard a few years ago. You can see it here if you have 40 minutes to spare (it’s worth it).
In danger of starving to death, the Israelites are in the desert after fleeing from Egypt, so the Lord provides the people with “manna” (which means ‘what is this!?‘) to eat. They have been surviving on it for so long that they have quite literally had enough of it!
They complain to Moses, craving for other food, and especially for meat. “If only we had meat to eat!” they say in verse 4. And they begin to look back at their old life in Egypt (as mistreated slaves) as a time of provision and blessing.
They complain to Moses who then has, well… a pretty frank exchange with God. Long story short, God loses patience and decides, (heavily paraphrased) “OK – they want meat – then meat they shall have… in fact they will eat nothing but meat for a whole month until it is coming out of their nostrils!” (Check out verse 20)
Moses hears this and his reaction is very human – that’s simply impossible – we couldn’t possibly even get that much meat… how could they possibly feed over a million people on nothing but meat for a month in the middle of the desert??
God’s answer to Moses is something that we would do well to remember when faced with challenges that appear to be beyond human strength and resources. We would do well to remember it when we are called to something that seems beyond us. We would do well to remember it when we buy into the lie of hopelessness and despair… when we look at our weaknesses and failings and see only decline and the inexorable dimming of wasted dreams.
The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”
All to often our own ambitions for the God and Church we serve are limited by what we believe to be possible in our own strength. I have no ambition to eat meat for a month – and that, of course, was never God’s ambition for His people. His ambition was that they should learn to trust in Him, and only in Him; that He would be their God and they would be His people.
When we learn to trust in Him and to serve Him without question, and align ourselves with His purposes, His arm will never prove too short. This is when our mere human ambition is supplanted by the truly cosmic ambition of the Creator of everything. Despair is turned to hope, weakness into strength and dreams are awakened. His arm is mighty and His reach has no end.