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Jamie Johnson
18 November 2021

Be Careful What You Wish For

We all have desires. Some are good. Some are not. We think we know what is best, but there is that saying: "Be careful what you wish for." Sometimes, we are given what we need. Yet, we complain and wish for something else. And what we think will be better ends up being worse. There's wisdom in this saying: The grass isn't greener on the other side; the grass is greenest where you water it. That's true if the water is good. And there is wisdom in the saying "Be careful what you wish for."

The ancient Israelites followed the same pattern, thinking they knew what was best when it wasn't. God gave them what they needed day by day: manna. It was just enough food for each day. Yet, they complained. And they wished for the things of Egypt after God delivered them from Egypt. They wished for meat.

We are the same way. We become what I call othermores. We wish for other. We wish for more. How often do we long for the things of the world when God has provided what we need for each day?

The account of the Israelites complaining is found in Numbers 11:4-6, 10-15 (NIV):

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost -- also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"

Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the Lord, "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, 'Give us meat to eat!' I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me--if I have found favor in your eyes--and do not let me face my own ruin."

Eventually, God gave them what they wanted, but not in a spoiling or enabling way. He did so to teach them a lesson. This occurs in Numbers 11:18-20, 31-34 (NIV) where God says the following:

"Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, "If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!" Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month--until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it--because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?"'"

Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day's walk in any direction. All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

It's worth nothing that Kibroth Hattaavah means graves of craving (source:

Two cubits deep all around the camp for a day's walk?! That's roughly 3-feet deep of quail for about 20 to 25 miles! They wanted meat! They got it! And they received the conseuqences thereof. The craving of the Israelites resulted in dire consequences. What were the consequences? God being angry, a distressed Moses, loathing the very quail they desired, plague, even death. No wonder the place was called Kibroth Hattaavah.

The Bible addresses such behavior as seen with the Israelites (and us) in both Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 (NASB):

"There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.

God didn't have this appear just once in Proverbs, but twice -- within 2 chapters of one another! This sentiment is echoed in the New Testament in Romans 6:23 (NASB):

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There's the hard truth about sin and death -- about man going his own way and not God's way -- but there is hope also in Jesus Christ.

Earlier in Romans, it shows the result of depravity on a fallen culture due to people giving in to what the culture (i.e., the world) wishes of them. Consider Romans 1:18-32 (NASB):

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

We see this all today. As the culture has wished for something other than God, man has incurred God's wrath due to the idolatry. The culture wished for something other than the created order in regards to sexuality or in regards to God-instituted marriage, and man has enaged in lewdness and perversionm and has been given over to depravity. And left to himself, man continually wallows in further unrighteousness and depravity. Our culture has been given over because people have been wishing for godlessness.

Several times in that passage, we see "God gave them over..." In the Greek, the word is παρέδωκεν ("paredōken"), meaning "gave up" and in the context of the verse, it says, "gave up them" (source: Bible Hub) -- kind of like "gave them up." That is quite a conseuqence.

Godlessness has consequences. Be careful what you wish for. Jeremiah 17:9 (NASB) says the following:

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

We need to know that our hearts are deceitful. They are fickle and they fool us. This doesn't mean we cannot desire or wish, but to keep the truth in mind to govern us as we do so. Our hearts are deceitful. God knows what's best. Left to ourselves, think of how wishing could play a role in stealing, covetousness or adultery or other sinfulness resulting in destruction. Wishing, left unchecked, can become idolatry and the root of all sorts of sin.

Maybe you've wished for good things that have become idols. Maybe you've wished for bad things and are facing the consequences. Yet, there is hope. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NASB) captures some of the aforementioned unrighteousness but offers hope:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Did you see that phrase? "Such were some of you." Were. The hope is in Jesus Christ who washes us from all unrighteousness. In Him, there is transformation to righteousness despite our errant wishes. Is your grass planted in and watered with truth? In John 7:37-38 (NASB), the Sciptures say the following:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'"

Be careful what you wish for. It's time to stop idolizing temporal things like the Israelites did, and place faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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