Scripture: Numbers 11:1 Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 But the people cried out to Moses; and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. 3 So that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned against them. 4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
Observation: Those complaining are described here as “The rabble among them…”. This means such persons were a minority among the vast number of God’s people, but the few soon had effect on the many. Their gratitude to God for freeing them from slavery in Egypt gave way to wailing and moaning about the food situation. And despite their horrific existence under the whip of the Egyptians, people began to reminisce about the good old days in Egypt, “We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing…”.
Application: How fickle are God’s people. Considering the unbelievable signs and wonders God brought about to free his people from Egyptian bondage, they set about complaining. About the food. Really? I can understand why God would be angry about this, can’t you? But of course, ancient people aren’t the only fickle ones are they? Nope.
We have been conditioned by a consumer culture to want “more”. Our free market economy practically depends on it. Yet one of the secrets of the life of faith is learning to “be content with whatever I have” as Paul describes in his letter to the Philippians,
“11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)
There are people living in spectacular abundance who complain about what they don’t have. There are people living in abject poverty who live at peace and content with almost nothing.
Being content is an internal fruit of the Spirit given as a gift of God’s grace, not a consequence of our external circumstances.
What do you often find yourself complaining about? What does your complaining say about you? What would it look like for you to be genuinely content just as you are?
Prayer: Lord, the truth is, most of us are a little spoiled. It’s our human nature to complain about things large and small. And there are certainly times when things are not right and we need to do something about them. But too often our complaints are petty, exposing in us a spirit of entitlement or greed. Give us grace to be content in all circumstances, for this is part of what it means to live in your Kingdom on earth. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.