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Israel’s Complaining

When the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled.
–Numbers 11:1

Parents and grandparents, remember when you took your kids on road trips? Thirty minutes into the trip, what do they do? “I’m hungry.” “I’m tired.” “I’m thirsty.” “I need to go to the bathroom.” They complain, complain, and complain. That was the Israelites as well. Three days into their journey to the Promised Land, they started to “complain of adversity” (Numbers 11:1). What adversity? Well, let’s be practical for a moment: moving two million people through the desert is not an easy thing to do.

But they needed to keep that adversity in perspective. Think about what they had experienced in the past year: They had seen God miraculously soften the heart of Pharaoh to let them go. They had seen God spare their firstborn because of the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. They had seen the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. They had seen God provide manna. They had seen God defeat the Amalekites. They had received God’s revelation from Mount Sinai. Yet instead of expressing gratitude to God for all He had done, they started focusing on the adversity.

How did God respond when the Israelites complained in the wilderness? “His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp” (11:1). God sent a fire that burned up not only some of the land but probably some of the possessions as well. “The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them” (11:2-3). The word “taberah” in Hebrew means “the place of burning.” The scorched earth was a visual reminder of how God deals with grumbling and a lack of gratitude. Now that should have brought repentance, right? If you saw the fire of God come down and consume everything around you, just maybe you would get the hint: you better stop the complaining. Not the Israelites. In verses 4-6, the people went right back to complaining again.

I want you to notice how God dealt with the sin of complaining. God did not say, “Oh, those Israelites–that is just the way they are.” Some people say, “Oh, that is just the way I am. I was a born complainer.” But God does not laugh it off at all. He does not tolerate complaining. God sent a devastating fire to the Israelite camp because He hates grumbling, and God has not changed. The writer of Hebrews said He is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (13:8). In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul said that all these things happened to the Israelites as an example of how God deals with us. God has not changed. He does not allow grumbling to go unanswered.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Cure For Complaining” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2013.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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