Summary: why are humans never satisfied?
Take my words and speak through them, take our ears and hear through them, take our hearts & set them on fire with love for you. Amen.
Let’s set the scene: As the Israelites left Egypt, we would expect them to be overjoyed and relieved because their prayers for deliverance were finally answered, but instead we find an ungrateful and cynical nation. They complained to Moses:
“was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11)
So, God hears their complaining and splits the Red Sea and delivers them from the Egyptians to begin their journey to the Promised land.
But are they happy yet? NO!
You would think that the camp would be thrilled with their new-found freedom. They were leaving bitter bondage behind and were traveling toward the Promised land. But instead of rejoicing, we read that the Israelites were grumbling:
“if only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death”. (Exodus 16:3-4)
They were hungry. So, God provided them with manna. Manna, a sweet gum or resin type bread, appeared on the ground each day and they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. By evening what manna had not been eaten disappeared. In order to honor the Sabbath, the manna lasted for two days on the sixth day, because it was a holy rest day. So, they always had something to eat.
But were they happy? NO! They complained because there was not meat!
The Israelites continually reminisced about Egypt, as if it had been Paradise. How soon they forgot the brick pits, the task masters whip, how conveniently they forgot the cramps from the hard toil, and the blood, sweat and tears they shed slaving for Pharaoh. Like Lot's wife looking back toward Sodom, they looked back toward Egypt, as if it had held something good for them to miss. The more God's miraculous powers, protections, and provisions are made for them, the more ridiculous and loud their complaints were. With children so disrespectful and ungrateful as these, God might have rained down fire and brimstone, but instead He rains down sweet manna from heaven.
And yet, they grumbled:
They began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, 'If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6)
How foolhardy it was to look at the gifts from God with contempt. Manna was free. They didn't have to work for it. It wasn't hard to gather. It was sweet. It was versatile and could be used in a multitude of ways.
'Nothing but Manna!” (Numbers 11:6)
Once again, God listened to their grumblings and gave them what they wanted:
The Lord said to Moses, 'I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them at twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. (Exodus 16:11-13)
Were they EVER going to be happy with their lot?
Just what was it going to take to please these people?
You know, it seems we can always find something to complain about. There is always something to complain about, even when there isn't. We can find a grievance if we want to, no matter how unreasonable it is. We grumble and complain when it’s too hot, when it's too cold, we grumble when it rains, we complain when it snows. We complain when the weather has been too sunny for just a day longer than we would like it to be... and that is just about the weather!
I guess it has been that way since the creation of Adam and Eve and will be that way until the end of time. People have always been grumpy and complaining. King Solomon, one of the wisest men on earth, prophesized it in Ecclesiastes 1:9:
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”.
Indeed, we hear the same type of complaining in today’s Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:2-15).
This difficult parable attributed to Jesus only appears in Matthew. . . and there is probably a really good reason for this.
It addresses the greed of people who feel they deserve more than anyone else. Not a topic that most people want to hear about.