The Lord plainly told His people that every blessing would come to them if they would keep His commandments, and be a peculiar people. He warned them through Moses in the wilderness, specifying that health would be the reward of obedience. The state of the mind has largely to do with the health of the body, and especially with the health of the digestive organs. As a general thing, the Lord did not provide His people with flesh meat in the desert, because He knew that the use of this diet would create disease and insubordination. In order to modify the disposition, and bring the higher powers of the mind into active exercise, He removed from them the flesh of dead animals. He gave them angels’ food, manna from heaven.
Rebellion and Its Punishment
God continued to feed the Hebrew host with the bread rained from heaven; but they were not satisfied. Their depraved appetites craved meat, which God in His wisdom had withheld, in a great measure, from them. . . . Satan, the author of disease and misery, will approach God’s people where he can have the greatest success. He has controlled the appetite in a great measure from the time of his successful experiment with Eve, in leading her to eat the forbidden fruit. He came with his temptations first to the mixed multitude, the believing Egyptians, and stirred them up to seditious murmurings. They would not be content with the healthful food which God had provided for them. Their depraved appetites craved a greater variety, especially flesh meats.
This murmuring soon infected nearly the whole body of the people. At first, God did not gratify their lustful appetites, but caused His judgments to come upon them, and consumed the most guilty by lightning from heaven. Yet this, instead of humbling them, only seemed to increase their murmurings. When Moses heard the people weeping in the door of their tents, and complaining throughout their families, he was displeased. He presented before the Lord the difficulties of his situation, and the unsubmissive spirit of the Israelites, and the position in which God had placed him to the people,—that of a nursing father, who should make the sufferings of the people his own. . . .
The Lord directed Moses to gather before him seventy of the elders, whom he knew to be the elders of the people. They were not to be those only in advanced years, but men of dignity, sound judgment, and experience, who were qualified to be judges, or officers. [Numbers 11:16–23, 31–33 quoted.]
In this instance the Lord gave the people that which was not for their best good, because they would have it. They would not submit to receive from the Lord those things which would prove for their good. They gave themselves up to seditious murmurings against Moses, and against the Lord, because they did not receive those things which would prove an injury to them. Their depraved appetites controlled them, and God gave them flesh meats, as they desired, and He let them suffer the results of gratifying their lustful appetites. Burning fevers cut down very large numbers of the people. Those who had been most guilty in their murmurings were slain as soon as they tasted the meat for which they had lusted. If they had submitted to have the Lord select their food for them, and had been thankful and satisfied for food which they could eat freely of without injury, they would not have lost the favor of God, and then been punished for their rebellious murmurings by great numbers of them being slain.
God’s Purpose for Israel
When God led the children of Israel out of Egypt, it was His purpose to establish them in the land of Canaan a pure, happy, healthy people. Let us look at the means by which He would accomplish this. He subjected them to a course of discipline, which, had it been cheerfully followed, would have resulted in good, both to themselves and to their posterity. He removed flesh food from them in a great measure. He had granted them flesh in answer to their clamors, just before reaching Sinai, but it was furnished for only one day. God might have provided flesh as easily as manna, but a restriction was placed upon the people for their good. It was His purpose to supply them with food better suited to their wants than the feverish diet to which many of them had been accustomed in Egypt. The perverted appetite was to be brought into a more healthy state, that they might enjoy the food originally provided for man,—the fruits of the earth, which God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden.
Had they been willing to deny appetite in obedience to His restrictions, feebleness and disease would have been unknown among them. Their descendants would have possessed physical and mental strength. They would have had clear perceptions of truth and duty, keen discrimination, and sound judgment. But they were unwilling to submit to God’s requirements, and they failed to reach the standard He had set for them, and to receive the blessings that might have been theirs. They murmured at God’s restrictions, and lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt. God let them have flesh, but it proved a curse to them.
An Ensample for Us
“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” [1 Corinthians 10:6, 11.]
The church in general . . . have not honored the light of health reform by carrying it out in their families. The sickness that has visited many families . . . need not have been, if they had followed the light God has given them. Like ancient Israel, they have disregarded the light, and could see no more necessity of restricting their appetite than did ancient Israel. The children of Israel would have flesh meats, and said, as many now say, We shall die without meat. God gave rebellious Israel flesh, but His curse was with it. Thousands of them died while the meat they desired was between their teeth. We have the example of ancient Israel, and the warning for us not to do as they did. Their history of unbelief and rebellion is left on record as a special warning that we should not follow their example of murmuring at God’s requirements. How can we pass on so indifferently, choosing our own course, following the sight of our own eyes, and departing farther and farther from God, as did the Hebrews? God cannot do great things for His people because of their hardness of heart and sinful unbelief.
God is no respecter of persons; but in every generation they that fear the Lord and work righteousness are accepted of Him; while those who are murmuring, unbelieving, and rebellious, will not have His favor or the blessings promised to those who love the truth and walk in it. Those who have the light and do not follow it, but disregard the requirements of God, will find that their blessings will be changed into curses, and their mercies into judgments. God would have us learn humility and obedience as we read the history of ancient Israel, who were His chosen and peculiar people, but who brought their own destruction by following their own ways.
Counsels on Diet and Foods, 375–379.