Grumbling and Doubt

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

Today’s Readings
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?

Ever Present Help

Psalm 46.1
God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.

Reflection: Ever Present Help
By John Tillman

The “ever-present” help that most people are used to, is the technology platforms we have attached to our hands and wrists.

These platforms were designed for profit. That profitability hinges on addiction and ubiquity. To continue their financial growth curve, the most powerful corporations ever to exist on the planet must make their products increasingly addictive and ingrained in our day to day life. Technology, it seems, is a jealous god.

In an article for the New Yorker, Jia Tolentino wrote about the difficulties of putting down one’s phone, when it is filled with technologies that, from the start, were designed to keep us from doing so:

“Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, has called the platform a “social-validation feedback loop” built around “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Tristan Harris, who worked as a “design ethicist” at Google, has said that smartphones are engineered to be addictive.

Technology promises freedom of movement and ease of work, but, more often than not technology chains our hands to a borderless, invasive, all-encompassing workday that never ends. Workers clock in, but they can’t clock out.

Technology promises emotional fulfillment and freedom of expression, but often we find ourselves chained to the emotional highs and lows of reactions, comments, and likes on social media. All of this is numbing to the connection and community that we truly need.

The technology that we have designed to help us connect has had disastrous, unexpected consequences. Our world is one of shattered relationships and loneliness despite more “connectedness” than ever.

We aren’t the first to think this. In a recent interview with Kris Boyd on Think, author, Jenny Odell, discussed how 400 years before the time of Christ, Epicurus started a garden school outside the city because he thought life in the Greek empire was becoming too hectic and people were disconnected from what was important.

The solution of cultivation, retreat, and pursuit of community is one we can apply toward our spiritual pursuits. Walking in a park is the key metaphor we use to refer to exploring God’s word, and cultivation is how we picture the growth of the seed of the gospel in our lives.

Technology is capable of aiding us in these things. May we use technology to tie God’s Word on our hands and integrate it into our lives. The Park Forum is dedicated to encouraging this kind of usage. For in connection to the gospel, we find freedom, fulfillment, and community that technology can’t deliver.

Prayer: The Request for Presence
I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, that I may keep your statutes. — Psalm 119.145

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Numbers 10 (Listen – 4:11) 
Psalm 46-47 (Listen – 2:15)

Today’s Readings
Numbers 11 (Listen – 5:22) Psalm 48 (Listen – 1:28)
Numbers 12 (Listen – 2:12) Psalm 49 (Listen – 2:10)

Thank You!
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Read more about Where Our Hearts Are
Our devices can be tools to lead us to God’s heart, not away from it. This ministry’s mission believes in that. But there is danger.

Read more about A Restoring Sabbath
Think and pray about ways in which you can abstain from technology’s addictive elements, while still using its powerful tools to spur your spiritual growth.