Water, Manna, & Quail | Devotion 3: Six weeks
Pastor Ryan Story
At this point in society, I am shocked that you cannot get a Ph.D. in complaining. If you spend any time on social media, all you see is people complaining about schools, police departments, roads, neighbors, and even weather. If you stand in line at a grocery store for more than five minutes, you can hear someone complaining from a distance. If the internet goes down, people are complaining. If schools call for a snow day, people are complaining. However, if schools remain open during snowy conditions, people are complaining. If someone’s church is too small, people are complaining. On the flip side, if churches are growing too fast, people are complaining. Ironically while I type this, I realized I am complaining about complainers!
The nation of Israel had a major issue; they complained about everything. The Israelites endured slavery for more than 400 years, and the moment they were free from Pharaoh is the moment God, Moses, and Aaron began to hear grumbling. Exodus 16:1-3 says, “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’” I am not perfect, and I complain and grumble about certain issues as well; however, I did some research to see how long it took the Israelites to turn against Moses and Aaron. By most scholars’ account, it took the Israelite six weeks to start grumbling! We are one chapter removed from the Israelites singing a song about how God used Moses to free them from Egypt. The Israelites are one chapter removed from hanging out in an oasis paradise with enough water, springs, and palm trees to comfortably encamp the entire nation. It took them six weeks to go from praising to grumbling! It took just six weeks!
Complaining is toxic to our relationships with our children, our friends, our spouses, our church, and even the poor teenage barista that got yelled at today because there was too little cream in their frappe. Above all of that, complaining is horribly damaging to our relationship with God. While God still blessed the nation of Israel and provided for them, it does not take away from the lack of trust the Israelites had in God and in the leadership that God placed over them.
So what do you complain about? Do you think that the mild inconvenience that you are complaining about is outside of God’s control and outside of God’s plan for your life? Yes, that traffic jam was an inconvenience, but maybe it was God giving you 30 minutes to listen to a sermon. That boss of yours might be a difficult person to work with, but I bet dollars to doughnuts you do not complain when you get that paycheck. The music may be too loud for your taste at a weekend gathering, but it helped to get a young 20-year-old connected with the church because of his love for music.
We complain because we do not always see the whole picture. Exodus 16:4 has an amazing phrase that has brought me comfort in the times I want to start complaining. It reads, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to..’” While it is important to know that God sent manna down from the sky, the really important thing is that God was doing something. The Israelites could only see from their perspective; they were so focused on the last six weeks they could not see that God was about to do something again. The Israelites were sure that parting the Red Sea was the only miracle; they could not see what God was about to do. So next time you begin to complain, think to yourself; what is God about to do with this?