THE DISEASE OF DISCONTENT
Lord, keep me from a complaining spirit.
Read NUMBERS 11:1–15
Fire From the Lord
11 Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the Lord and the fire died down. 3 So that place was called Taberah,[a] because fire from the Lord had burned among them.
Quail From the Lord
4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”
7 The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8 The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a hand mill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into loaves. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. 9 When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.
10 Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents. The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
a Numbers 11:3 Taberah means burning.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition” (Jeremiah Burroughs, 1599–1646).
Those who sailed with the pilgrim fathers from the United Kingdom to establish themselves in America faced many dangers on the way. Fierce Atlantic storms were a constant threat to their frail vessels, but the threat of on-board disease was a greater risk. With so many people in such close proximity, serious illnesses could spread quickly and seriously threaten the beleaguered passengers.
As we pick up the story of the children of Israel on their journey, we find something else that devastates a traveling community: not dysentery, but discontent; not cholera, but complaining—and they spread just as quickly! What starts with some of the people on the outskirts of the camp (1) spreads to the mixed multitude who are traveling with the Israelites (4) and to the rest of the children of Israel soon after. Such is the power of this spiritual virus that even Moses succumbs. The people complain about the constant diet of manna (6). They long for meat (4) and (with selective memory) they yearn for the buffet of bondage in Egypt (5). Moses then moans about his appointment as leader (11) and the burden connected with meeting the people’s needs (12–14). By the end of verse 15 he even longs for death!
The fact that the apostle Paul seems to have this incident in mind when he warns the Corinthians about their misguided desires, coupled with the fierceness of the Lord’s anger here in Numbers 11 (1,10), suggests that we are to learn from this incident. When we complain against God’s provision, we complain against God himself! If, like Moses, we are discontented with our marching orders, we are not trusting in God’s almighty arm (23). Today, we need to be obedient to Paul’s command to the Philippians: do all things without complaining and disputing.
What will I do to safeguard my contentment today?
Lord, we rest in the provision which You have provided for us and we no longer yearn for what You have forbidden.