Day 61: Complaining in the desert

Numbers 11:4-35 Much of this chapter contains material also found in the Book of Exodus (cf. Ex 16; 18:13-26). The seventy elders, the priesthood of Aaron, and the Levitical priesthood are types (TYPOLOGY!!) of the one priesthood of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. As the Prayer of Consecration for the Ordination of a Bishop reads in part:

“God...from the beginning,

Foreordained a nation of the just,

Born of Abraham;

He established rulers and priests

And did not leave his sanctuary without ministers”

(Rite of Ordination of a Bishop, no. 47)

(CCC 1541)

Deuteronomy 10:14-16 The All-powerful God chose to give everyone a capacity to share in his everlasting life by freely responding to his love. This was especially the case with his Chosen People and, later, with the baptized faithful of his Church. Circumcise...your heart: Circumcision involves the surgical removal of the male foreskin, which was a sign of commitment to the Old Covenant. This act is a type (TYPOLOGY!!) of a purification of the heart and the quest for holiness taught by Christ. In Christian tradition, the image of circumcision is often related to the SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM by which we are made children of God. (CCC 218)

Ch 10:18 As the recipient of fullness of Revelation and the teachings of the Apostles, the Church today continues to transmit the Deposit of Faith, instructing the faithful in the way to salvation and holiness (CCC 2419)

Psalm 33 This hymn of praise tells of God’s glory reflected in his creation. God is the Lord of history and thus exercises his providence over human affairs. His lordship is articulated again in the verses about his dominion over the stormy sea. Rough waters are a symbol of chaos and evil, so God’s control of the seas bears witness to his OMNIPOTENCE. (Cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, August 8, 2001)

By the word...of his mouth: In this verse some of the Church Fathers interpreted “word” and “breath” as indicative of the Son and the Holy Spirit. St. Irenaeus used this psalm as an example of how all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are equally involved and responsible in the creation of the universe as is inferred earlier in the Old Testament. Elsewhere in Scripture we find references to the divine Persons of the Trinity, as in the “breath” in the creation narrative in Genesis and the prominence of the “Word” in the prologue of John’s Gospel. The Church prays this psalm at Mass on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Year B. (CCC 292, 316, 703)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

  • In Exodus 16, Israel had cried out in hunger, and God miraculously fed them with manna.

  • Now after a year of eating nothing but manna, Israel complains, “O that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Nm 11:4-6). (Hey!! What about the baklava??)

  • In the gift of manna, which Exodus 16:31 described as tasting like “wafers made with honey,” (I dunno, kinda sounds like baklava to me 😋)Israel received a foretaste of the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey.

  • Now, however, Israel despises the manna and refuses to see it as a promise of what lies ahead.

  • Instead, they long for what lies behind.

  • Rejecting God’s provision, they pine for the food of Egypt.

  • God’s original provision of manna was in response to Israel’s complaint of hunger.

  • In contrast, this new complaint is not out of hunger or need but rather out of a disordered desire for what they have left behind and a failure to hope in what the manna signified, the blessing of the fruitful land of God’s promise.

  • Not able to hope in what is yet unseen, Israel walks by what they know.

  • This route is a return to bondage and a rejection of all God is doing for them.

  • Not surprisingly, God’s anger is sparked by Israel’s ingratitude.

  • Rejecting the gift of manna, the people crave meat.

  • God responds, and a great wind blows, bringing an abundance of quails (Nm 11:31).

  • But in the midst of their meal, a “very great plague” breaks out.

  • The very mention of a plague recalls God’s mighty wonders against the hard-hearted Egyptians.

  • How can Israel, God’s firstborn son, now experience such things?

  • The answer is simple: when Israel crossed the Red Sea, God promised that if Israel obeyed him, he would not afflict them with plagues as he had the Egyptians, “for I am the Lord, your healer” (Ex 15:26).

  • Israel is acting like the Egyptians and, as a result, plagues are now turned upon them—and there is nowhere to hide in the wilderness.

  • Moses, understandably, begins to buckle under the weight of Israel’s ingratitude.

  • He begs God for assistance, and God promises to pour out his Spirit upon seventy elders of Israel who will help Moses in the task of leading the people.

  • This tradition is the origin of the custom in Jesus’ day of having a senate of seventy leaders over the Jews, known as the Sanhedrin (which means “the seventy”). (OOOOH so that’s where that name came from! 😁)

  • This is the group before which Jesus will be tried. (Ohhhh the irony….😒)

  • More importantly for Numbers, Moses comments that he wishes all the people of Israel could receive God’s Spirit, just as these seventy do.

  • All the tragedies and failures of Israel in this story serve to underscore what Moses perceives: Israel needs God’s Holy Spirit to follow God.

  • That gift will be a long time coming.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

  • Numbers 11 is a big chapter

  • The Exodus is the WATERSHED EVENT in the history of the people of Israel

  • Being released from slavery in Egypt and heading out into the wilderness

  • The Israelites are complaining and rebelling

  • They aren’t just complaining like in the Book of Psalms

  • They aren’t just complaining like in the Book of Lamentations

  • This is a different kind of complaining

  • It’s similar to a child asking his/her parent “Please can I have this? Why can’t we go wherever?”


  • Think about this

  • The people of Israel are being fed EVERY SINGLE DAY

  • Yes, it is manna for breakfast, lunch, and dinner manna manna manna

  • How did the Israelites respond to this?

  • “Would that we were back in Egypt”

  • “When we were slaves we got to eat fish for free”

  • No they didn’t, they were slaves

  • The food they got to eat in Egypt was AT THE PRICE OF THEIR FREEDOM

  • They were a NON-PEOPLE in the midst of the Egyptians

  • And now, here they are, GOD’S PEOPLE AND FREE and are getting fed every single day

  • And they are basically saying that they WISH THEY WERE STILL SLAVES!!

  • How much is that like us?

  • If I become Catholic, will I be happy?

  • If I go to Confession, will I feel better?

  • If I give my life to Christ, will things go well for me?

  • These things are all great, we all want to be happy, feel better, and have things go well for us

  • NONE OF THOSE THINGS have EVER been the Promise of those who BELONG TO THE LORD

  • Health and Wealth have NEVER BEEN THE PROMISE of those who belong to Jesus Christ (nice try, prosperity gospel!!)

  • Jesus says, “Come after me if you want to be my disciple, you have to DENY YOURSELF, TAKE UP YOUR CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME.”



  • You’ll have life and you’ll be able to BELONG TO THE LORD AND BE HIS



  • But take heart

  • Jesus has overcome the world

  • We still sometimes say we were happier when we could eat garlic and onions and melons and leeks (AND BAKLAVA!!)

  • We can trade our FREEDOM for ANYTHING

  • We can trade our FREEDOM for COMFORT

  • We can trade our FREEDOM for BAKLAVA!!!

  • Moses is able to share the burden with the 70 ELDERS

  • The elders receive the Holy Spirit that has come upon Moses

  • The young man and Joshua come to Moses and receive the Holy Spirit and begin to prophesy

  • Moses’ response was “Would that EVERY ONE OF THE LORD’S PEOPLE WERE PROPHETS”

  • And here we are

  • When you are baptized, you are anointed a PRIEST, PROPHET, and KING/QUEEN

  • You are a KINGDOM PRIEST


  • You are a KING/QUEEN

  • This means at your Baptism, God sends the Holy Spirit to anoint you

  • We have to ask ourselves, “Am I exercising my blessing, my anointing of being a PROPHET OF THE LORD?”

  • Deuteronomy is Moses summing up the story so far in the Desert Wanderings

  • Today he tells the story of the second set of tables of the Commandments


  • “Many many times, the Lord has set his heart IN LOVE upon your fathers and chosen their descendants after them. You above all peoples. He has set his heart in love upon you.”

  • This is the word God speaks over each one of us today

  • God has set his HEART IN LOVE UPON YOU

  • That’s why these Commandments exist and have been given to us

  • That’s why you and I and everyone here have been invited into being part of this Bible in a Year Podcast


  • It is through the Jewish people that God has been able to bless the entire world

  • That’s you

  • That’s me

  • God has expanded that blessing from his Chosen People, the Israelites to ALL OF US

  • This is why we keep the Commandments

  • This is why we pray

  • This is why we are opening our hearts and our minds to his Word today






  • GOD has set his heart IN LOVE UPON YOU

  • Let’s pray for each other

  • Pray for Fr Mike

  • Have some baklava 😋😋😋

Prayer by Fr Mike: “Father in Heaven, we thank you and we give you praise. We know that in the challenges of life, you are there. And the challenges where we rely upon our own strength and on our own wisdom, you call us ever more deeply and ever more resolutely to rely upon your strength and to rely upon your wisdom. Yes, God, you ask us to use our own. The strength we have and the wisdom we have, you have given them to us as gifts and yet, you know that on our own we are bound to fail. And so, you offer us your strength. You offer us your wisdom. And you give it to us for free. It is your gift of grace. And so this day we accept your gift. This day we accept the gift of your strength and your wisdom. We ask that you please transform our hearts and help us. Set us free from what binds us and give us the power to lift up those around us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”