Scripture Focus: Numbers 11.23
21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”
23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”
Reflection: Grumbling and Doubt
By John Tillman
Even the most blessed people can find something to complain about. Some people receiving a miraculous gift will complain about the wrapping paper.
The Israelites in the desert are certainly these kinds of people. For generations, they had cried out to God to deliver them from slavery. Then, with bellies full of miraculous manna they longed for the rations they ate as slaves instead. They call into question the leadership of Moses and look back longingly at the lash of Pharaoh’s whips.
Miracles don’t guarantee faith. We can see God strike down our enemies, see him part the waters, and feed us with miracle bread, yet still grumble in our doubt and discontent.
Are we bored with our blessings? Are we complaining about the goodness we have experienced? How many miracles has God given us that we simply shrug our shoulders at and think, “I wish I could go back to yesterday.”
When people grumble about leaders (or about God), leaders often grumble to God about the people. Moses is at the end of his patience. Moses calls these followers a punishment from God. “What did I do to deserve these people?” Even great leaders grumble. Leaders are prone to doubt, discontentment, and grumbling just as much as followers.
Right after saying, “Is my arm too short to save you?”, we might expect God to flex his muscles by working a miracle or calling down a curse. However, God chooses a different kind of “flex” to show his strength. He sends Moses, the complaining leader, human help.
God takes part of his spirit and power and distributes it to the elders of the people. By spreading his spirit to the elders, God puts himself closer to the people’s whining, not farther away. God lightens the load of the grumbling leader. He doesn’t pile on guilt.
All of us lead and all of us follow. In either position, we may be prone to grumbling and doubt.
May we grumble in honest-hearted prayer like Moses. Not in stiff-necked denial like the people.
No matter how deep the hole we are grumbling at the bottom of, God’s arm is not too short to reach us and lift us out. When he does, may our hearts be ready to praise him and bless others.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me. — Psalm 66.14
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
Numbers 11 (Listen – 5:22)
Psalms 48 (Listen – 1:28)
Read more about Complaint to Commission
Complaining can turn into unspiritual grumbling but it can also initiate lament in our lives and communities.
Read more about Faith After the Storm
How many times do we go to Jesus in prayer, without faith but with bucket-fulls of complaints?