Summary: The Israelites complained about God’s care even when God had performed many miracles to save them from slavery. Though richly blessed, we still have the tendency to complain, also.
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 “Complain, Complain, Complain”
Have you ever had one of those days? You know the type of day I mean. One of those days when three things break at home, the boss gives you a project that has an impossible deadline, and the kids have to be at three places at once. Those are the days when we question if we will be able to make it through alive, and fear that one stray, quirky occurrence might blow our world apart.
Moses was having one of those days in our reading for the day. He had successfully brought the Israelites out of Egypt and ended their slavery. The Israelites had cross the Red Sea on dry land, had fresh water provided for them from a rock, received the ten commandments, and had God’s presence evident to them in a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Every day they ate Manna, a food the miraculously appeared each morning—at that was the problem. They wanted meat.
We enter the story just as Moses is crying out to God. Moses dilemma and God’s answer to it teaches us a great deal about ourselves and how God operates in our lives.
Moses’ problem started with a group of people identified as a rabble. This was a small but vocal group of people that was able to influence the rest of the Israelite camp. The rabble was bored with Manna; they wanted something different. They wanted meat. The rabble kept complaining until they had all the people knocking at Moses’ door demanding that he provide them with meat.
This story is an example of group dynamics. Sociologists have long known that crowds take on the behavior of the lowest common denominator. In other words, they dumb down instead of rising up to more noble behavior. If one person throws a brick and breaks a window then the crowd will pick up bricks and break windows. If an individual appeals for sanity and a cooler head he or she will be shouted down.
Though it is difficult for Christians to have a positive influence in the world, it is even more difficult for the world NOT to have an adverse influence on Christians. We know that God has us in the palm of his hand. We know that all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. We believe that God wants the very best for us, and because of what Jesus Christ died on the Cross we live lives of faith, hope and love.
If this is true, then why have we picked up the anxiety and fear of the world? Why do we worry that our lives will never be the same? Why do we doubt God’s love for us? Why have our praises been turned into complaints? Like the Israelites, we have let the rabble influence us.
We are challenged to keep our eyes on the miracles that surround us, and to be aware of the blessings that God pours into our lives. Our focus is on what we have been given rather than what we don’t have.
Moses complains to the Lord and tells him that unless something changes, God should just kill him. Moses was certainly venting. Though the Lord knew the seriousness of the situation, he did not take Moses’ request seriously.
The Lord responds to Moses predicament by asking Moses to gather seventy elders together.
When we are over burdened, there are two possible courses of action. First, we can put down some of our burdens. We do need to practice saying, “No.” and only involving ourselves in activities that make our priority list. The other way to get rid of burdens is to share them. That’s what God wanted Moses to do.
One of the greatest changes that have taken place in the church over the last several decades is that church leaders are beginning to share the ministry of the church. The people in the pews are being referred to as “lay ministers,” and we understand that the only way that the mission and ministry of the Lord is going to be accomplished is to have all of us share in that ministry.
Our individual gifts and talents are not enough, however, to accomplish the task before us. This necessitates that we receive God’s power in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Moses gathered the elders together and the Spirit came upon them. The elders and Moses were empowered to minister to the needs of the people.
One of the central truths in our understanding of baptism is that at our baptism we were filled with the Holy Spirit. We believe this theologically, but we doubt it in practical, everyday situations. It is difficult enough to convince people that they have gifts and talents that God can use to his glory. It is even more difficult to persuade people that they have been filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered by God to accomplish the tasks that God has called them to do. It is always the other guy who has the talent and the Spirit.