You’ve heard this, right? Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.
That’s the message of Numbers 11. Sometimes God says yes. We, of course, think that our lives would be just wonderful if God said yes to everything we wanted. But I believe that, more often than not, God blesses us by saying no. His blessings come in the form of keeping His children from things they think they want — things that He knows will not be good for them. Things that might even be destructive for them.
On the other hand, God will not keep harmful things from us forever if we demand them. This, we know, is true in the ultimate sense. If we demand to live a life apart from God, a life unto ourselves, a life of sin, God will eventually give us up to those desires. (That’s what Romans, chapter 1 is all about.) And even as a temporary measure, I think sometimes God says yes to things that we demand in order to help us understand that what we think we want just might kill us.
In this chapter, the Israelites are a pretty good picture of basic human nature, aren’t they? Human nature always wants more. It always wants what it doesn’t have. It is never satisfied. As Paul said in Philippians 4:12, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Contentment is definitely not something that comes naturally to us! We have to learn how to be content. And the Israelites in Numbers 11 were anything but content.
But there is a problem in our discontentment. There is a law of diminishing returns in our universe that says perversion leads to decreased reward. What does that mean? The more we crave something (and something we ought not to crave), the less it is going to satisfy us. That means, we have to get more every time in order to reap the same reward. This, incidentally, is why unchecked sexual perversion ends up heading down all sorts of dark alleys. Every time satisfaction is sought, it takes more and more to arrive at the same point. It is a law of diminishing returns.
That’s why God seems to deal so harshly with lust. When lust is involved, our expectations are always greater than the reality we end up with. That’s why the human nature (so controlled by lust) is never satisfied. And God was trying to teach the Israelites (and us) that blindly following after one’s cravings leads to grave consequences. If we don’t let Him be the One who satisfies us, we will never be satisfied. We will always be chasing after an elusive high, a fleeting ecstasy.
And if that lust ultimately goes unchecked in our lives, God is in danger of losing us altogether. And He doesn’t want that. That’s why He sometimes says yes. One thing we can know for sure about God: He is interested in our best good. He knows what is in our best interest, and He is dedicated to helping us find true fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives. We can trust Him to do the right thing by us — whether that means saying no, or whether that means saying yes.
Perhaps we would do well to follow the example of Jesus, who didn’t ask God a yes-or-no question when it came to His moment of crisis. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was honest with the Father about what He wanted: "If it’s possible, let’s do this another way." But then, He surrendered the decision into the hands of the One He trusted: "Nevertheless, don’t do as I want, but as You see is best."