Numbers 11:4-6 “Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, ‘Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’”
Do you realize that one of the things that most angers the Lord is when believers complain? We have a picture of it in the verses above as Israel complained during their wilderness journeys. Although God had miraculously delivered them from slavery in Egypt, although He had delivered them from Pharaoh’s army in the miracle of the Red Sea, although He had demonstrated His constant presence with them in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud during the day, although He gave them water from rocks and rained down manna from heaven for their food, they complained about their circumstances time after time. And then God judged them for it. He destroyed some of them by fire from heaven and others by a plague in the midst of their feasting on the meat that they craved and that He had provided. He gave them what they wanted, but that was not a good thing. Rather than be thankful for what God had done in their lives, they constantly complained for things He had not done, things that, in their view, could have been so much better. In the process they were rebelling against their Savior. They were rejecting the wisdom of His providential care, and lusting after other things than what God had provided for them.
So, what does this say to you and me? What does Israel’s complaining have to do with us? Well, we are told in 1 Corinthians 10 that “these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil like they did . . . We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.” You see, Israel’s manna from heaven that was provided by God to sustain their lives with physical nourishment is a shadow of Christ and His Word, which have been provided to us to give us life and meet all of our needs spiritually. Whenever we, as believers, doubt God’s Word in the face of our circumstances, no matter what they are, we are doing exactly the same thing as Israel, who complained about what God had given them. Whenever we doubt what God has said to us, whenever we complain and thus demonstrate that we think that what He has said is insufficient for the situations we face, we are rebelling against the Good Shepherd who has promised that He will supply us at all times with everything we need. Whenever we complain about our circumstances, we are actually rebelling against the Sovereign Lord who rules in the affairs of men. Whenever we lust for things that He has forbidden or that are clearly not ours, whenever we covet what others have, we violate the tenth commandment, and set ourselves up for self-inflicted pain. Whenever we continually long for that which God has ordained that we be without, we risk stirring up the Lord’s wrath and being given over to our desires, which is the most severe penalty of all (Romans 1:26-27).
So, are you discontented about something at this moment? Do you find yourself complaining about things you have that you’d like to be without or things you don’t have that you wish you had? Is your attitude, “Yes, I know God said this or that, but . . . “and you think that what comes after the “but” is better, then you are falling into the same error of ancient Israel, and failing to heed the examples God has given us about such folly in His Word.
As we are told in Philippians 4:14-16), one of the greatest ways we can stand out from those in the world who are without Christ is to be obedient to the command to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the Word of life . . . ” May God help us to “shine as lights” in this dark world by one of the most basic works of faith, i.e., the refusal to complain but rather to live a life of gratitude no matter the circumstances of life in which we might find ourselves.