How much money, approval, status, success, or power would it take to satisfy us? For most of us, the answer is, “Just a little bit more!” No matter what we’re pursuing, we find that we cannot have our appetite sated. Desire becomes craving, and by it we are consumed.
Psalm 78 follows this sad spiritual trajectory. We, like Israel, don’t begin with outright rebellion against God. We first succumb to spiritual amnesia. The Israelites had just witnessed miracle after miracle as they fled Egypt: supernatural plagues from which they were spared, the Red Sea parting in front of them, water from a rock, and bread from heaven. God was providing for them and protecting them, and He was promising to lead them to a good place. They certainly had the experiences with which to develop confidence in God, that He was good and that He was powerful. They had every reason He would provide for their needs.
But as we might expect, the definition of “need” became a little cloudy in the wilderness. Sure, we’ve got manna, but how about some meat? So began a cycle of forgetfulness, doubt, rebellion, and demands.
How can we avoid this cycle? How can we ensure that our prayer requests don’t turn into hostile demands of God? Thanksgiving is a necessary prelude to the “give us this day” portion of the Lord’s Prayer. The act of giving thanks can sometimes clarify whether our requests are expressions of need or of greedy desires. Additionally, thanksgiving constantly draws us back to the realities of God’s faithfulness to us, and this is our anchor when fear and doubt assail us.
Sometimes God relents and gives in to our demands, with tragic results. The Israelites got their meat, but they died at Kibroth Hattaavah, a place known as “graves of craving.” It was their selfishness that buried them.