As the story progresses God becomes furious with the Israelites for sinning and not believing in His wonderful works, more specifically He is angry with them for asking for meat when He has provided manna for them. Not only did God provide manna, but he “sent them food in abundance” and directed the winds in their favor, but the people continued to complain and ask for meat and urged Moses to request it from God. Eventually, God granted their desire. The Israelites’ desires were satisfied and they continued to do as their appetites led them. However, the aftermath of this was devastating and many in their camp were killed. Of course once the consequences were felt their hearts were turned. Israel sought God, repented, and once again remembered the works and wonders of God.
At first I was confused by this. Why would the Israelites’ question make God so angry? I cannot presume to know why God does things; however, I think there are some conclusions we can draw from the text and from the knowledge of why certain things anger us. God was furious with His people, who were not satisfied with manna. Manna was the food the angels ate; it was the perfect food and provided everything the Hebrew people needed nutritionally. God knew what His people needed and the manna satisfied that need, perfectly. Instead of finding satisfaction in that the Israelites accused God of not providing for them because they did not have meat. They were convinced their desire equaled their need.
God always gives us what we need. If our desires are different than what we have been given it does not automatically mean, we are lacking something. As human beings we have three parts and 2 Thessalonians 5:23 names those parts soul, spirit, and body. The desires that come from our fallen bodies and souls are only aligned with God’s desires to the extent that those parts have been sanctified. While as Christians we are entirely justified, sanctification is a process. These fallen desires are at best a distraction from God’s best and at worst, base and dehumanizing.
That is why education is about ordo amoris, ordering of the affections, and teaching our children to love what they ought. They ought to love manna, but we have a tendency to want quail, and, therefore, we end up wandering in the wilderness.
The Israelites assumed their desires accorded with their need. Every time the Israelites followed their desires it led them into captivity. In contrast, God’s desires always led to freedom. Access to that freedom came by way of being satisfied with manna, seeking, repenting, and remembering.
If we could love what we ought surely, it would lead us into freedom rather than the inevitable captivity of disordered desires. How do I know if I love the things I ought? In a sense, I don’t know, especially since I am fallen and the heart is deceitful above all things, but, we do have the word of God and the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. By seeking the Lord, repenting, and remembering we can move towards this freedom. So, how do I teach my children to love what they ought to love and what does this have to do with a spirit of inquiry?
The seeking part is the spirit of inquiry. In other words, the spirit of inquiry at the most fundamental level is a commitment to love what one ought to love, a commitment to discover the truth. This is the critical difference that sets apart Christian classical education. Without this spirit of inquiry real education cannot happen.
David Hicks, in his book Norms & Nobility, discusses three components to the spirit of inquiry that I believe correlate to the seeking, repenting, and remembering of the Israelites. These include general curiosity, imagination in forming hypotheses, and method in testing them. First, general curiosity is like seeking because being generally curious about something usually means one is not looking for a specific particular. The healthy seeker is open to what God and the Holy Spirit would like to show them. In other words, they are not making premature judgements right from the beginning, instead they let the natural flow of the inquiry reveal what it will. Second, imagination in forming hypotheses is like repentance because there is a “letting go” that must happen. Whatever our preconceived notions are of what the answer is or ought to be must be laid down. It is only after this humble act that we will be able truly to perceive with accuracy. We may find that our original idea was right and if so we will no doubt have a greater depth of insight into the idea. If it were not correct then we will have clearer direction as to which road to take to move towards the truth of the idea. Third, method in testing hypotheses is like remembering because both are tied tightly to action. Not just any kind of action, but fitting action that is a natural and harmonious outflow from the original questions and hypotheses, whether it is by reasoning, prayer, Bible study, more questions and discussion, observing, applying logic, further study in books, or some other more fitting action. Lastly, a spirit of inquiry is energized by logic and normative questions (The big ethical and aesthetic questions of life). These three components combined with the energizing factor gives form and accessibility to a spirit of inquiry.
As I considered my own process of embracing this, I noticed a couple actions and habits of mind that, when present, made it possible really to embrace a spirit of inquiry. First, I had to have a teachable spirit and be willing to repent. Second, I had to have faith in the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and in my children’s lives. I used to be afraid to ask questions. I thought by asking questions I was opening the door to sin and bondage. Therefore, I micromanaged everything. I was so sure I knew the direction it all needed to go. Confession time . . . I was wrong. If my goal is to know God more and I am seeking Him, there is no reason for me to be afraid that I will be led to a place of deception and sin. The Scripture assures us if we seek Him we will find Him. Repentance, faith, and a teachable spirit are the anecdote to any fear that may enter here. In order to come to love what we ought to love, it starts with seeking, repenting, and remembering. We must give ourselves and our students the freedom to go through this process. Tomorrow I will give some specific examples of this from real life. For now, I will leave you with this verse, which has given me tremendous comfort as I let go of micromanaging and turn to embrace a spirit of inquiry for myself and my children.
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
2 “Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
3 “Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David.
4 “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
A leader and commander for the peoples.
5 “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know,
And a nation which knows you not will run to you,
Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
12 “For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,
And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
And it will be a memorial to the Lord,
For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.” -Isaiah 55 NASB
The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
Classic Comparative Side-by-Side Bible: NIV and KJV and NASB and Amplified