by Tad Lindley
Imagine that you had been a slave, that you had been frequently beaten by the overseers. Imagine that the government had sought out your sons and killed them as soon as they were born. Imagine that your parents had been slaves and your grandparents had been slaves. Imagine that your back breaking work every day went so that the people who owned you could live in nice houses. You would want out. You would probably pray to God for deliverance from your brutal owners.
It really happened
Just such a situation really happened. In fact it has happened many times across human history, but for right now, I want to focus on a specific case of slavery: the Egyptian enslavement of the Jewish people. Although they entered Egypt with a hero’s welcome, over the course of 400 years they had become enslaved. They were beaten, their sons were killed at birth, and they were tired of it.
God raised up a man named Moses. His life story is found in Exodus 1-3. In response to the cries of the Israelites, the Lord positioned Moses and his brother, Aaron, to stand up to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Through a series of ten plagues (Exodus 7-11), eventually Pharaoh agreed to let the Jewish people go. And so in one night, the Israelites gathered their belongings and walked out of slavery into freedom.
Their ex wanted them back
The problem was, when Pharaoh realized that he had just lost his entire slave labor force he decided to go after them to drag them back. Just when the armies of Pharaoh are about to capture the Israelites, the Lord opened up the Sea of Reeds before them and they walked across on dry ground. Then when the Egyptian army followed after, the water closed in and they were drowned (Exodus 14). Their ex wanted them back, but God miraculously saved them, and they were on their way across the Sinai peninsula back home to Israel.
The hunger problem
There were two problems that they faced in crossing the desert. One was water and the other was food. How would they get enough to feed as many as two million people? God worked in multiple ways to provide water, but he only had one food solution, manna. Manna was a food that coated the ground every morning and the people would leave their tents to go gather it (see Exodus 16 for more about manna). Manna was God’s chosen provision for the people. The problem was, the people got sick of it after a while.
A craving for cucumbers
The people started to think back to their past as slaves. Here is what they remembered, We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: but now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all beside this manna…” (Numbers 11:5-6) They completely forgot the days when the beatings were so bad. Mothers forgot about their boys being ripped from their arms and killed by the Egyptian soldiers. They forgot about being owned by other human beings. All they could think about was how good it used to be in Egypt when they had cucumbers.
King of Kings plays Burger King
So the King of Kings told them, go ahead and have it your way. If you don’t like the blessing of manna, I’ll let you eat meat. In fact, you can eat it until it comes out your nostrils (Numbers 11:19-20). And it came to pass that God provided them an overabundance of meat, and they were drying quails like ptarmigan. The people who had the craving for the cucumbers of Egypt got their meat, but they died of the bird flu right there, and that place was known thereafter as Kibrothhataavah, the Graves of Craving, because it was there that they buried the people who were killed by a craving for cucumbers.
Our own Egypt
How many of us have sinned ourselves so sick that we cried out to God for help? Maybe it was from a jail cell, or maybe it was in our own home. Sin had corrupted our lives to the point that we couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe we had gambled away the blessings that God had once given us. Perhaps we had drank up our marriage, or lost our children. It could have been an internet addiction, depression, or a haughty spirit. I could go on and on. But at some point we cried out to God for deliverance from the sin that had enslaved us, and he delivered us.
What cucumbers are you craving?
As crazy as it seems to us that the Israelites would forget about the beatings and the dead babies and focus on cucumbers, you and I will do the same thing. We will forget the hangovers, the humiliation of having our name in the paper, the shame of having our child walk in on us with a tourniquet on our arm and a syringe in our hand, we will forget about the lawyer bills and the pain of the divorce, we will forget about living with constant fear, always needing to medicate ourselves, and begin to miss the cucumbers.
Now I know it’s not cucumbers we think about, but we all have “cucumbers” from our past. “I remember back then how I could always fill in the blank whenever I wanted to.” “If I wasn’t serving God, next time I’m in Anchorage I could go to name the bar of your choice.” “If I hadn’t gotten my children back from OCS, man I could stay up until pick some early hour of the morning playing cards like in the old days.” “If I hadn’t gotten my wife/husband back, I could be on Facebook all night contacting pick the name of former girlfriends or boyfriends.”
We are really no different than the Israelites. Our sin wants us back, and the human side of us is all too ready to forget the reason that we cried out to God in the first place simply so that we can have one more taste of cucumber.
Don’t be killed by a craving for cucumbers. When temptation comes cry out to God again and pray that he will not let you forget how bad it truly was in Egypt.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.