Question… are we allowed to complain to God? Can we gripe about our misery? Can we ask for good things we do not have? Can we tell God: ‘I don’t want this anymore.. enough is enough?’ In Numbers 11, there were two kinds of complaints. How did God respond to them?
1) Complaints of the people
1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.
4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
2) Complaint of Moses
10 Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, each man at the doorway of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, and Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You been so hard on Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all this people on me? 12 Was it I who conceived all this people? Was it I who brought them forth, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries a nursing infant, to the land which You swore to their fathers’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ 14 I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. 15 So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”
How did God reply Moses? He provided 70 assistants to bear the burden with him. He told Moses that He would give the people meat to eat until it comes out of their nostrils. v.16-23
Why did God get angry at the people’s complaint but He responded to Moses’ complaint in grace and mercy?
1) v. 4 The people were greedy. When they complained they had no water, God provided them water from the rock. When they complained that they had no food to eat, God sent manna. After an abundance of manna, they got tired of it and wanted something else.
2) v. 5 They remembered the good old days in Egypt, the abundance of food, etc. Were they really good? They forgot they were slaves to the Egyptians. They forgot they had to make bricks without straw. They didn’t remember when they were crying out from the hard labor enforced on them by the Egyptians, God sent Moses to free them from slavery.
How often we complain to God because we’re not contented with what we have. We missed out the good things He did for us because we remember the ‘good old days’ – we choose to focus on the things we do not have and forget the good things that He did for us.
How about Moses? What can we learn from Moses’ complaints?
v. 10 Moses was right in the middle of the conflict – the people with their complaints and weeping on one side and God in great anger on the other. What a dilemma.
v.11-12 Moses knew his place. He was God’s servant. He saw the situation as needing God’s favour. God placed on him a great burden – to take care of His people. His question implied: God, it was you who made these people, who called them forth from Egypt, you who made a promise to their fathers to bring them to the land of milk and honey.
v.13-14 Moses knew he cannot do it alone. It was beyond him to give the people what they wanted.
v.15 Moses cried: Lord, this is too difficult for me. Show mercy and kill me so I can be delivered from this ‘wretchedness’ – this misery of seeing weeping people and not being able to help them.
It is alright to cry out to God. When our heart is aligned with God’s purpose and we know our place with God, when we know what God has assigned to us and we know who our God is, we can tell God our pain, our grief, our weakness and helplessness. He listens. He understands. More than that He sends help. Moses asked how can 600,000 people have meat for a month until it came out of their nostrils? Slaughter all the flock and gather all the fish in the sea? v. 23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”
Quail covered the earth that the least they gathered ‘all day and all night’ was 11 bushels of quail! v. 31-32
Are you complaining to God too? Which kind is yours?
Time for self-evaluation.. Am I greedy? Am I forgetful? Do I take for granted the good things God gives me? Do I focus on the things that I do not have? Do I know my place with God? Who is God to me? My genie – my wish his command? Or am I His servant? Am I complaining for myself? Or am I concerned for others?
Surely, the answers to all these determine whether I experience God’s anger or God’s grace and mercy. Is the Lord’s power limited? I shall see God’s word come true for me.