The Israelites Complain
1One day the Israelites started complaining about their troubles. The Lord heard them and became so angry that he destroyed the outer edges of their camp with fire.
2When the people begged Moses to help, he prayed, and the fire went out. 3They named the place “Burning,” because in his anger the Lord had set their camp on fire.
The People Grumble
4One day some foreigners among the Israelites became greedy for food, and even the Israelites themselves began moaning, “We don't have any meat! 5In Egypt we could eat all the fish we wanted, and there were cucumbers, melons, all kinds of onions, and garlic. 6But we're starving out here, and the only food we have is this manna.”
7 The manna was like small whitish seeds 8-9 and tasted like something baked with sweet olive oil. It appeared at night with the dew. In the morning the people would collect the manna, grind or crush it into flour, then boil it and make it into thin wafers.
10The Israelites stood around their tents complaining. Moses heard them and was upset that they had made the Lord angry. 11He prayed:
I am your servant, Lord, so why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this? You've made me responsible for all these people, 12but they're not my children. You told me to nurse them along and to carry them to the land you promised their ancestors. 13They keep whining for meat, but where can I get meat for them? 14This job is too much for me. How can I take care of all these people by myself? 15If this is the way you're going to treat me, just kill me now and end my miserable life!
It’s not always easy working and living life with a community of people. It’s even more difficult when you lead such a group. As a parent, supervisor, or team member, there are times when ungrateful attitudes, unreasonable expectations, sense of entitlement or complaints can really frustrate us.
Moses experienced this frustration multiple times during his journey with the children of Israel. The Israelites started “complaining about their troubles.” The Lord was angry, set their camp on fire and Moses prayed for the people. God graciously stopped the fire but then a number of “foreigners” among them began to complain about what they lacked. Soon the Israelites joined in. They wanted the meat, fruit and vegetables they so enjoyed back in Egypt. The manna God supplied just didn’t measure up. How often have we complained to God in a similar manner? We gripe about what we lack, how we were better off as slaves, implying that God is not good because he has provided substandard provisions.
All of this was enough to make Moses angry (v 10) and so he prays. But his prayer has a tone similar to the complaints of those with whom he is frustrated. He asks God what he has done to “deserve” this burdensome job of being “responsible for all these people” (v11). He dislikes their “whining” and feels totally inadequate to satisfy their demands for meat. Moses implies that God is not treating him very well. If this is the way it is going to be, then God should just end his “miserable life” now. Moses sounds a bit like he is “whining” too, doesn’t he? Yet it is hard to judge him too harshly, for how many times has my frustration with negative people led me to the same “whining” I so despised?
Dear Lord, provider and sustainer of life, provider of every good and perfect gift, please forgive my complaining and lack of faith in your goodness. Please help me not to become the very thing I despise in others but to model a faith that believes the best about your provision. This I pray in Jesus’ name, the most perfect of all provisions, Amen.