Have you ever wondered why companies don’t have a “Gratitude Department?” Tells us a lot about ourselves doesn’t it!
One Word –
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. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah,a]”>[burning] because the fire of the LORD burned among them. Numbers 11:1-3
Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 11, 12, 13; Matthew 28
Big Idea –
Let’s begin with a reminder, and something I hope we can agree on.
First, the book of Numbers tells the story of Israel’s journey though the wilderness (Jewish scriptures call the book of Numbers Bamidbar “In the wilderness…”). They are not in the wilderness by chance; they are in the wilderness  because God led them there, and  they remained in the wilderness because of their disobedience.
Next, I hope we can agree that complaining is a human condition that affects us all at one time or another. Numbers 11 tells again of how the people of Israel are trying God’s patience with their grumbling and complaining; this is now the eighth time they have done so. And yet they are not the only one’s to complain. Show me any group of people and before long someone will begin to complain about something. The unfortunate reality is this, just like Israel God’s chosen people within the church complain too.
In these three verses we are not told what their specific complaint is. It is possible that it is related to the gambling that follows about wanting meat to eat. Yet I think the fact that no specific complaint is mentioned is significant, because whatever their complaint it was “in the hearing of the LORD.“ Regardless of what you and I might criticize or fret about, our grumbling is not just with those we share our woes; God hears our protesting too. And one thing this story teaches us cannot be overemphasized; whatever our complaint might be, it ultimately is against the LORD.
When the people complained God’s “anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.“. I know the scriptures teach us that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8), but have we forgotten that “God is a consuming fire” as well (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29)?
I think it is significant that the fire of the LORD consumed those in the “outlying parts of the camp.“ The arrangement of Israel’s camp sheds much light upon this (and not just from the fire). The tabernacle was located at the center of the camp; this is where God’s presence dwelt among His people. But where did the fire of God burn against those who where expressing their frustration and unhappiness? Those who complain the most were on the outskirts of the camp; they were the furthest from entering into the presence of God where they could come to know His heart.
So if I find myself complaining I need to remember these two things. First, God hears my grumbling, and two, every word of complaint takes me further away from enjoying the presence of God.
Oh, it could be that my complaining also moves me closer to the consuming fire of the LORD’S judgment as well. Worth thinking about the next time I’m tempted to complain.
I need to continue to learn the secret of contentment with thanksgiving, rather than express my frustrations.
Yes to Yield –
LORD Jesus, forgive me for my shortsighted complaints; I’m so thankful that You bore my punishment upon the cross extending grace to me even when I my words express bitter discontent. I don’t want to move away from Your presence, but I want to draw near to You and know Your heart. Holy Spirit teach me contentment so I might draw near to God with a heart of true thanksgiving.