Is the Lord's Arm Too Short?

by LA UBF   08/25/2004     0 reads


Is The Lord’s Arm Too Short?

Numbers 11:1-35

Key Verse 11:23


In verses 1-3 by sending fire the Lord disapproved the people complaining about their hardships. This indicates that the Lord sent “hardships” for their own good. What good do hardships do for them? What does this episode teach us about the right attitude towards the hardships coming our way in our life’s journey in the Lord?


Consider the Lord’s strong disapproval of the people complaining about their food called “manna” in verses 4-10. Deuteronomy 8:3 says that by giving them manna alone for a prolonged period of time, the Lord God put the Israelites on a special training program. And the Israelites complained and the Lord disapproved. What does this incident show us about: 1) the Israelites; and 2) the Lord? What spiritual lessons can we learn for our spiritual growth in the Lord? 


In verses 11-17 Moses shared his burden as a shepherd, and the Lord relieved him of the burden. What wisdom does Moses’ cry teach us in shepherding over the flock of God? How did the Lord resolve the problem Moses presented? 


Verses 18-20 describe the words of the Lord Moses was to serve upon the people complaining. Why did the Lord ask them to “consecrate” themselves when the Lord was about to give the “meat” as a “punishment” (so to speak) for rejecting the Lord? 


Read verses 21-23 and think about Moses’ question and the Lord’s answer to the question. What message is the Lord trying to convey by asking Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” 


Think about the conversation between Joshua and Moses in verses 24-30. What can we learn from Moses’ reply in verse 29?


Look at verses 31-35. “Kibroth Hattaavah” means “graves of craving”. What spiritual lesson(s) does this place teach us in our life’s journey to His kingdom?





Numbers 11:1-35

Key Verse 11:23  

The LORD answered Moses, "Is the LORD'S arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you."

Today we would like to think about the great thanks topics we have in the Lord. The title for today's message, "Is the Lord's Arm Too Short?” indicates that the Lord God is powerful enough to fulfill the thanks topics we have in Jesus. 

First, let us give thanks to God for all of the hardships we may encounter (1-3)

Look at verses 1-3. "Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them." 

Here the Lord shows his disapproval of the people’s complaining about their hardships by sending fire as punishment. The Lord God is good. According to Jesus, God is the only one who is truly good. (Mark 10:18) Since God is good all of the time, everything that comes from God is also good. This is also the case with hardships. The Israelites had a lot of hardships. Imagine more than 2 million people traveling together through hot deserts. I know it is not easy for several brothers to live together in an apartment. But imagine millions of people having a common life not in a comfortable apartment in a civilized city like Downey, but in small tents put up in the wilderness—and not for one or two days, or for months, but decades! They had no cell phones, no refrigerators, no showers, no 99 cents stores, no community parks (where they could play soccer), no Starbucks, not anything. Surely they had lots of hardships. 

Still, the Lord God led them through the desert. Why? Simple logic says that the Lord God gave them hardships for their own good. What good are hardships? There are tons of Bible passages answering this question. Hebrews 12:7-11 is one of them. Let us open the Bible and read it altogether. In this passage one word stands out: “holiness” (Heb 12:10). Holiness refers to God's intrinsic nature, particularly his moral and spiritual character. 

This observation tells us that hardships are designed to produce a godly character. From this we learn that when we run into one difficulty or another, we had better think about God’s good purpose, that is, to produce a godly character in us, and give thanks to God for the hardships we have. 

Second, thank God for manna (4-11)

The next thanks topic we can think of in the Lord is thanks for the word of God which is our life. In verses 4-11, we see the Israelites complaining about the manna. The Lord was angry for their complaint. Deuteronomy 8:3 says that by giving them only manna for forty long years, the Lord God wanted to train the Israelites, so that they would rise to the level of the blessed state of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Yet the Israelites complained about manna. The Lord disapproved. 

This incident tells us that the Israelites were still mundane. They were still earthbound. They forgot the purpose for which the Lord God pulled them out of Egypt. 

Of course not all of us complain about the word of God. But when trouble comes because of the word of God, we are apt to complain about the word of God. 

Personally, on many occasions I hate to write the Sunday message every week. Writing the message itself is not a problem. The problem is the conflict I run into as I struggle to write a message. Each time I sit down before God’s word and try to write something, God’s word reveals my sinful nature. It shows how fallen I have become. So I am tempted to close the Bible and do something else. The same goes true with the duty to eat God’s word daily. True, I have been doing Daily Bread for the last 30 plus years. Yet each time I wake up in the morning, there is the temptation that I do something else rather than come to the word of God and eat it. As I considered my problem, I realized once again that it is not easy for me to confront my sin problem daily. Furthermore, I hate to deal with my sinful nature squarely because of my pride. 

As I studied Deuteronomy 8:3, I learned that this problem of pride is common to all fallen men, for Deuteronomy 8:3 reads, "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." Manna came from above. It did not grow on plants like rice plant that grow out of ground. The point of this training then is to train us to rely on God, not on something or someone else. And God so trains us to help us to be truly living, for when we go by our own ideas, we are bound to perish. Let us therefore give thanks to God for daily bread training.  

Nowadays we have Daily Bread passages from the book of Galatians. Today's key verse is from Galatians 2:16a which reads, "Know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ." The theme and purpose of the book of Galatians is the freedom we have in Jesus Christ, freedom from the power of sin and death! What a blessed theme and purpose!! I do not know how you have been doing lately. Does anything bother you? Then think about doing Daily Bread, weeping and wailing. God will bless you to go out singing. 

Third, thank God for the troubles that come from serving sheep (11-17)

When we are in the Lord, we are to live not only as sheep but as shepherds. Paul expresses the same call by saying in Hebrews 5:12, "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers.” He also says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." And Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15)

At first Moses did not know this will of God. Moses lived to be 120 years old. The first 40 years he lived in Egypt as a royal prince. The next 40 years, he lived as a shepherd tending the sheep that belonged to his father in law. By the time he became 80, the Lord God called him saying, "Moses, Moses, go back to Egypt, and say to Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go.’" But Moses did not know God's will to use him as a shepherd. So he said, “Who, me? Are you talking to me? No. I am not qualified. Send someone else." But God persuaded him to go to Egypt and lead the people out.

But it was not easy to live as a shepherd for the flock. In the first place, the Israelites were steeped in a slave’s mentality. You know salves are good at doing one thing: complaining. And who likes to be a shepherd for those who complain, complain, and complain, people who complained from Monday to Monday, morning till evening, the new year to year end, and in this way, they complained for forty long years. Yet, he was called to be a shepherd for them. 

How did Moses do as a shepherd? He bitterly complained to God about the complaining sheep. Let us read verses 11-15. Here Moses asked six questions in a row. Then he said, "Lord, please put me to death right now." 

When you think about it, however, it is thanks to these troublesome sheep that Moses came to be known as one of the greatest leaders in human history. It is thanks to these professional complainers that Moses came to know God better. How come? Well, in the course of serving the sheep, Moses ran into human limitations. Then he had no choice but to come to God and cry out to God. In this way, even against his will he came to have opportunities to have fellowship with the Lord. As he spent time with the Lord, he came to learn from God. He then matured to God's level. This is how even after he reached the age of 120 years, he could maintain his youthful vigor, so that although he was 120 years old, he remained as vigorous as a 12 years boy. 

If I say, “Let us give thanks to God for the troubles that come out of troublesome sheep,” one may be tempted to say, “Oh, I don’t have any sheep.” If indeed you don’t have any sheep to take care of don’t forget this: you yourself are the most troublesome sheep. And you are supposed to shepherd over yourself that is your sheep, for the Bible says, "Be on your guard." (1Co 16:13) 

Here is one more reason for us to be thankful for the sheep the Lord has put under our care, that is, to remember that not all sheep are all that bad. Rather, upon further consideration, we can quickly realize that each person the Lord God has put under our care has tons of beauties. Furthermore, from God's point of view, despite themselves, when God's Spirit rests on them, each of them is ready to rise to a shepherd's level. It is precisely for this reason that as Moses cried out to God for the difficulties that came from the so-called troublesome sheep, the Lord God asked Moses to bring seventy elders. Moses obeyed. The Lord took the Spirit that was on Moses, and put the Spirit on them. They then all prophesied. They became staff members working for Moses (16-17). 

Let me ask you a question. Does any of your sheep give you trouble? Consider the possibility that you are exaggerating your problem, for a professional complainer is very likely to be a good candidate for a powerful shepherd.

Fourth, thank God for freedom from the life of slavery (18-20)

Verses 18-20 describe the word the Lord instructed Moses to deliver to the complainers. Look at verses 18-20. "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?"'"  

This passage, especially the command to consecrate, is kind of strange because the Lord God asked them to consecrate themselves when the Lord was about to give them the meat as a sort of punishment for rejecting him. Why did God ask them to "consecrate"? We find an answer to this question by the very word "consecrate". The word “consecrate” has the meaning of dedication. Let us combine this word with such expressions from the passage as, "you have rejected the Lord," and "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" These expressions indicate that the Lord desired them to stick to the original purpose, that is, freedom from slavery, to worship of God the Father. Here, as we look at verses 18-20 carefully, it is not difficult to see that the Lord God was more upset by the Israelites rejecting him than by their request for chicken teriyaki. 

We can understand the Lord's sentiment by considering what Jesus said to the crowds who came to him for free meal services in John 6. Jesus fed the crowds of people numbering 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. Then they wanted to make Jesus a king by force. Jesus left them for a solitary place. But they all ran after Jesus. On finding Jesus they asked him, "Rabbi, don't play hide and seek. When did you come here?" Then Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." Jesus wants a fellowship. He wants a relationship! 

Likewise, God desires that we be in a relationship with him. Why? He desires us to be in a relationship with him, not because he is hungry for our attention, but because he wants us to be set free from what is limited, such as material things.  Speaking of this freedom the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Let us give thanks to God for this freedom we have in Jesus. 

Fifth, thank God for his power to provide for all of the needs we have in life (21-23)

One of the reasons why people keep complaining about virtually everything, and thereby fail to render glory to God, especially in times of difficulties, is because they do not fully trust in God who can provide us with all the things we need for life.  

Even a man of God, as great as Moses, had the same problem. But God loved Moses, so that in order to grow him to be a great shepherd after Jesus' example, the Lord God taught Moses one powerful truth about the Lord. Let us read altogether verses 21-23. 

“But Moses said, ‘Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, “I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!” Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?’ The LORD answered Moses, ‘Is the LORD'S arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’” 

On our return home from serving the French speaking countries' Bible conference, Shepherd Neal and I experienced the power of God's provision firsthand. As we were attending the conference that took place in Paris, many people said, "Wow, you are going to Paris, huh?" But to us, it was really a series of battles. Before, during, and after the conference, we went through battle after battle. And the conference was very taxing. But, as we finished a prayer meeting at the airport in Paris and checked into the airplane, the Lord God surprised us by giving us first class seats. We paid for coach class, the cheapest seats, but the Lord ignored the tickets and gave us first class seats. So for about 12 hours, the flight attendants attended us first class. All the services were first class. And I am still wondering why the Lord put us in first class. My conclusion is that the Lord's arm is never too short.

Sixth, thank God for the call to teach God's word to all nations (24-30)

Let us then think about the conversation between Joshua and Moses in verses 24-30. Let us read this passage responsively. Here, what Moses replied in verse 29 is significant: "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" When we add the two to the 70 who had received the gift of prophecy, the total number becomes 72. 72 is 6 multiplied by 12. Six people came from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. This then indicates that the seventy-two represented the Israelites as a whole. What they became, that is, prophets like Moses, is the fulfillment of God's purpose in calling the Israelites that is to establish them as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6). The title "kingdom of priests and a holy nation," as austere as it may sound, in fact, simply means a shepherd nation, or simply, a Bible teaching nation

The name of Moses' fourth book is Numbers. But the Israelites were not merely numbers. Likewise, the body of the Christians saved by Jesus' grace is not just a bunch of numbers. Each person represents a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. He or she carries God's name and is called to teach God's word to all peoples on earth. Moses understood this purpose when he said, "I wish that all the LORD'S people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!" May the Lord bless us to have God's words, and grow to be Spirit-filled Bible teachers. 

Seventh, thank God for making us in his image (31-35)

Look at verses 31-35. Here Kibroth Hattaavah means "graves of craving". What is bad is not the craving per se but craving the wrong objects. In 1 Peter 2:2 the Apostle Peter said, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation..." But the Israelites craved what is fleshly. One becomes what one seeks. What is lowly is bound to perish. As one seeks what is perishing, one will necessarily end up perishing. Then those who craved for what was lowly all perished. The power of the grave then swallowed them up. This remands us of the way God created us. In Genesis 2:7, God created us to be not only a flesh being but also a spiritual being. This indicates that when we ignore our spiritual needs and indulge ourselves in what is fleshly, we will end up becoming like all those who went down to the grave. 

In conclusion, the Lord God asked Moses “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” Numbers 11 teaches us seven thanks topics. Each of these thanks topics is too glorious and lofty for us to go for. But as we have faith in God whose arm is not short, we are confident that as we keep giving thanks to God for these thanks topics and go for them, God will make these thanks topics come true in our lives.  

One word: Is the Lord's arm too short? 



Is The Lord’s Arm Too Short?

Numbers 11:1-35

Key Verse 11:23

This passage teaches us that we  better be thankful to the Lord for the way the Lord came up with for our salvation, so that in thankfulness we would accept and go for the Lord’s way of salvation, that is, faith in the Lord and all this faith represents. 

The key characteristic of the Lord’s way of salvation is spirituality. It is couched in Jesus’ word in John 6:63 which reads, “The Spirit gives life; flesh counts for nothing.” 


In verses 1-3 the Lord showed His disapproval of the people’s complaining about their hardships by sending fire as a punishment.  The Lord had sent “hardships” for their own good.  What good are hardships?  What does this episode teach about the right attitude we should maintain toward hardships in our life in the Lord?

** 1) They offer us the opportunity to experience the Lord’s life-saving work.

Exodus 18:8, “Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them.”

2) They provide us with the opportunity to build a godly character, for hardship endured (or persevered) is the mother of godly character. 

Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” 

David is a good example; it was through enduring hardships that David became a man after God’s hart. For this reason, Psalm 132:1 says, “O LORD, remember David and all the hardships he endured.” 

** We need to be thankful to God for them, knowing that hardships are God’s blessings in disguise. For this reason Paul says that we must be thankful in all circumstances.


Consider the Lord’s strong anger at the people for complaining about the manna in verses 4-10.  Deuteronomy 8:3 says that by giving them only manna for such a long time, the Lord God wanted to train the Israelites.  The Israelites complained and the Lord disapproved.  What does this incident show us about: 1) the Israelites; and 2) the Lord?  What lessons can we learn for our spiritual growth in the Lord? 

** They were still worldly. A lot of Egypt was inside of them. They were not compatible with the life in the Promised Land (which is symbolic of God’s kingdom.)

** The Lord loves his children so much that he put them through a training program, taking the pain of having to see his children “suffering” to overcome their sinful nature. 

** We need to eat God’s word daily, so that His word would purify our earthbound desires, and help us to overcome our fleshly desires, attaining to God’s spirituality. 


In verses 11-17, Moses spoke to the Lord about the burden of being a shepherd for all the people, and the Lord relieved him of the burden.  What wisdom does Moses’ cry teach us in shepherding over the flock of God?  How did the Lord resolve the problem Moses presented?

** Moses’ complaints are different from the complaints of the people, in that he poured out his trouble before the Lord asking for the Lord’s help in prayer, indicating that each time we run into one trouble or another because of the call to shepherd over the flock of God, we need to come to God for his help in prayer.

** Established staff members who would share the burden. Notice that those who are qualified to become the members of the staff are limited to those who are endowed with the “same” spirit as the one that was on Moses! So do not establish those who are of “different” spirit, for certainly they will cause divisions, and mislead the flock of God away from the Lord.


Verses 18-20 describe the word of the Lord that Moses was to deliver to the complainers.  Why did the Lord ask them to consecrate themselves when the Lord was about to give the meat as a sort of “punishment” for rejecting Him? 

** It was to help them to learn a lesson from their failure. The idea is that if you are going to fail, fail in the Lord’s presence, so that after hitting the brick wall you would come back to your senses and grow up.


Read verses 21-23.  Think about Moses’ question and the Lord’s answer.  What message is the Lord trying to convey by asking Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” 

** The Lord is not like a human being, so he does not have any arms. Yet he used the word “arm”, for it is symbolic of the Lord’s abilities to reach out for what we need and get it for us. The expression “too short” indicates that the Lord’s arm is “long” enough to grab what we need for life.


Think about the conversation between Joshua and Moses in verses 24-30.  What can we learn from Moses’ reply in verse 29?

** He loved the flock of God. Love seeks the highest good of others. Love also shares all that is good, including power.


Look at verses 31-35.  Kibroth Hattaavah means “graves of craving.”  What spiritual lesson does this teach us as we journey to God’s kingdom?

** Craving (for what is of worldly, for Egyptian food is symbolic of sinful pleasures of this world) leads man to graves, not to the Kingdom of God.