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 the hard labor enforced on them, and God sent Moses to free them from slavery.
Do I complain to God because I’m not contented with what I have? I missed and reminisced the ‘good old days.’ I choose to focus on the things I don’t have and take for granted those I do.
How about Moses? How did he respond?
v. 10 Moses was amid the conflict – the grumpy people on one side and angry God on the other. What a dilemma. He was not happy.
v.11-12 Moses knew his place. He was God’s servant. God placed on him a big job to care for His people. Moses needed God’s favor for the task. “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.” It’s all about God: His servant, His appointment, His call and His promise.
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’ – unable to help people get out of their misery.
It is alright to cry out to God. When our heart is aligned with God’s desire, when we know our place with God, who God is, His call and purpose, 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 replied: “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.” Quail covered the earth such 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 selfish? Or am I concerned for others?
Surely, the answers to all these determine whether I experience God’s wrath or His grace and mercy. Is the Lord’s power limited? I shall see God’s word come true for me.