Summary: Complaining in self-pity is a practice that hurts the heart of God, influences others to do the same, and results in God’s judgment.

God’s Contempt Of Complaint

Text: Num.11: 1-3

Intro: Complaining is an activity all of us have participated in at one time or another. Most of us utter complaints without even thinking about it. It seems almost natural to vocalize our displeasure when things don’t quite turn out as we think they should.

To watch the evening news gives one the idea that complaint has become the national pastime. It seems that the largest portion of the news is devoted to the discussion of who is upset with whom or what. The reason the newscaster has to throw in a story with a happy ending at the end of the newscast is to avert nationwide depression, due to all the negative news.

The Bible has much to say about the practice of complaining. The Scriptures tell us not only what people complain about, but also how it affects others, and how God responds to it. We may not take our complaining seriously, but God does.

Numbers chapter 11 gives us a good idea of just how serious is the sin of complaining. When it is all boiled down, complaining is an accusation against God. Complaining accuses God of unjust treatment.

It is my prayer today that we might become sensitive to this sin in our lives, and begin to practice the exhortation of First Thessalonians 5: 18, which says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” If not dealt with, complaining can become a spiritual toxin in our Christian life. “One of the adversary’s most useful schemes is to keep Christians focusing on their problems rather than on God’s provision” (John R. Cionca, The Victors: Overcoming Toxins That Poison the Believer, published by Accent Publications, Inc., Denver, Colorado; pg. 33).

Theme: God has contempt for complaint because:


Num.11: 1 “And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.”

NOTE: [1] The type of complaining we’re dealing with here isn’t merely the recognition of obvious problems. Cionca explains:

The Hebrew word for complained, anan means, “to mourn.” Their complaining was a whining that stemmed from self-pity (Ibid, pg. 34).

[2] The Israelites’ complaining “displeased the Lord.” The idea there is that God was exceedingly grieved and hurt by the complaints of the people. Our complaining grieves and hurts the heart of God.

[3] Another thought found in this word is that of sadness, sorrow, or being troubled.

[4] Yet another idea involved in the word “displeased” is that of evil favoredness. In other words, complaining stirs God’s righteous indignation.

A. The People Complained About What They Didn’t Have.

Num.11: 4b “…and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?”

B. The People Complained About What They Used To Have.

Num.11: 5 “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic:”

NOTE: [1] Egypt is a type of the lost condition of the sinner. These Israelites were complaining that the old life was better than what they had now. Some Christians, when finding themselves under pressure, sometimes make the statement, “I never had this many problems before I got saved!”

[2] The Israelites’ choice of words, when describing what they used to eat in Egypt, seems a little ironic. They said, “…we did eat in Egypt freely…” (v. 5b). They seemed to have conveniently forgotten about the fact that they were in bondage in Egypt. It’s hard to imagine these people actually regretting having left a state of bondage simply because it meant a little self-denial on their part.

C. The People Complained About What They Had.

Num.11: 6 “But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.”

NOTE: [1] One translation of this verse puts it this way: “But now our appetites are gone, and day after day we have nothing to eat but this manna” (NLT). Wasn’t it a crying shame? All they had to eat was the heavenly food sent down to them from the very hand of God. But God’s supply was old hat now. They wanted something new and exciting. This is often the same idea expressed by Christians of our day. Church isn’t exciting enough. The Word of God isn’t enough. They want to be entertained as well.

[2] The statement that “there is nothing at all, besides this manna” was a gross exaggeration (v. 6). Though the Israelites could not have used their flocks brought out of Egypt on a daily basis without depleting them, they did get to eat meat at special religious ceremonies.

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