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.
(Bemidbar/Numbers 11:14-15; ESV)
Moses had had it. The people had had it. The people were sick and
tired of eating the same thing day after day. Manna, manna, manna.
Breakfast, lunch, supper; always manna. Even miraculous food can become
boring. And if you think you would be different, then you're lying (I
wonder if it's statements like that that cause people to unsubscribe-I'd
rather you email me first, telling me why you disagree, and then
unsubscribe if you still want to). Of course, I don't know how you or
anyone would behave in such a situation, but I find that the best way to
read the Bible is to put yourself in the shoes of the people in the
various stories. There is so much to be learned.
Back to the story. The people were not handling their boredom very
well and began to complain. The intensity of this really got to Moses to
the point that he claimed he couldn't take it anymore. As a result he
poured out his feelings to God, telling him that if this is how it was
going to be, he should get it over with and kill him immediately.
What do you think of that tantrum! This makes holding your breath
until you turn blue or throwing yourself on the floor, kicking and
screaming, look like nothing. And from a grown man no less! A leader-and
not just a leader, but one of the greatest leaders ever. Looks like a
breakdown or at least a meltdown to me.
At the beginning of this same chapter, there is what seems to be an
earlier incident of the people's complaining that made God angry,
resulting in fire destroying some of Israel's camp. After the food
complaining incident that we are looking at here, God eventually
provided meat to eat, but this miracle was accompanied by a plague-not
good. Clearly God was not pleased with the people's complaining.
But look how he handled Moses's fit. He lightens his leadership
responsibilities through the establishment of elders and then promises
the meat I just mentioned. There is no tone of disapproval on God's part
towards Moses at all. Why the difference?
First, complaining in and of itself isn't wrong. It's whom you're
complaining to that matters. Talking to people who can't do anything
about your predicament only foments frustration and anger. Venting might
feel good at the moment, but there is nothing constructive about
verbally blasting away in the presence of others who are not responsible
for your situation. In fact, it's actually destructive and increases
your discouragement, undermining your ability to properly deal with it
and at the same time drags others into the dark pit you are digging. On
top of that you are not giving those who have the power to make a
difference the opportunity to do so. Griping in this way is cowardly.
Instead of bringing the problem to light in a constructive fashion in
the context in which it belongs, complaining of this nature prevents the
complainer from having to take any responsibility themselves.
This is not what Moses did. He took his desperation directly to the
one responsible. Even though his words are extreme, he put himself in a
place where his problem could be effectively addressed. Unlike the
people who turned their backs on God as they complained to each other,
Moses's expression of hopelessness was an act of faith. His willingness
to be honest about where he was at before God enabled him to find the
help he so desperately needed.
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