There were a number of verses that spoke to me in today’s reading.
And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.(Numbers 11:1 ESV)
I know God hears my prayers – the words carefully chosen to express the desires of my heart and the supplication for the needs of others. I’m so glad for that. But I somehow did not realize that He also hears my complaints! I am so not glad for that. They were not meant for Your ears, Lord! When I complain/vent/whatever the words I choose are far from encouraging and certainly not carefully chosen. Even if I do not speak of it to anyone else and just nurture it inside of me, God hears it and it makes Him angry. Doesn’t that just break your heart and make you tremble at the same time?
Is it just the complaining though? Moses complained to the Lord about the people, too. You can hear the exasperation in his voice when he says “I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (Numbers 11:14-15 ESV) There’s nothing like those Lord, take me (or them) now prayers, right? Yet the Lord continued to speak to him whereas in verse 1, He was very angry with the people.
What is the difference?
Maybe the key is in verse 20b “…because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’”” (Numbers 11:20 ESV). At first I thought that maybe complaining is the same as rejecting the LORD but there’s more to it than that. I think it’s a heart issue as well. Whereas Moses was doing his best to obey God’s will and was speaking out of the heaviness of his heart, the people wanted to go back to their old life and not be part of God’s plan for the futurethe. They were speaking our of their discontentment.
Aha. Maybe that’s the answer. They really preferred the old life in Egypt. They lamented that the food cost them nothing. (Numbers 11:5) Nothing? They were slaves. It cost them everything! Why would someone prefer that over God’s plan? Could it be that God’s plan required a lot of effort for them – faith that there will be manna and water even when they are in the middle of the desert. In Egypt even though they were slaves, everything was provided for them – the leeks, the onions. We can relate, right? Well, maybe not the leeks-and-onions part but the faith-takes-effort part, especially to a visual person like me. When we don’t see the source of the provision and the Promised Land is afar off, we sometimes grumble about our lot and become discontented. “It’s too much work.” “I can’t do it anymore.” “Nothing is happening.” “I wish I could…” Maybe that’s when rejecting the Lord comes in the picture. When we refuse to walk in His path and prefer to go back to what we knew.
Fortunately for us there’s this verse: And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”
(Numbers 11:23 ESV) Is the Lord’s hand shortened? (I love that part.) No, it’s not! God can do anything! He can reach anyone no matter how far down they are in the pit or how far they have veered off the path.
Father, thank you for Your mercy. Thank you that You are always willing to forgive us when we sin. We repent of the our sin of discontentment and lack of trust in You. Please forgive us for always wanting to see before we believe when faith requires just the opposite. Help us in our unbelief, Father and help us not to grumble and complain too much. We know that You have a perfect plan for us. We certainly do not want to reject You! Help us to walk with You and not be tempted to go back. Thank you that Your hand is not short. It is ready to reach out and rescue us – all we need to do is grasp it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
[Reading from Blue Letter Bible – Chronological Plan]