God sees everything. Proof of this is found in Numbers 7, where it is recorded the leaders of Israel all gave their offerings, one person representing each tribe. The detail is astounding—each offering is identical—and God noticed and inspired that each offering be recorded in each detail.
Another wonderful sequence of events is in the following chapters. The Levites are brought before the people and are consecrated before the LORD then Israel celebrates the first Passover since the Exodus, not to forget an explanation of how the cloud directed the movements of the Israelites.
While this is on my mind: we are getting ready to move again. Seems like we move a lot. But not as much as these people! Notice the text says that when the glory of the LORD went up, they moved! Sometimes they would be in one place for a few days, a couple of weeks, months or years! That last statement ought to make one think . . . does the writer know something everyone else does not, or is he writing in retrospect? Hmmmmmmm. I’m inclined to the latter. But we get ahead of ourselves.
One feature God installs into the life of His people is the use of the silver trumpets, to be used as alarms for different kinds of movement.
Chapter 11 is strange. Here is a record of the people complaining about food. Why? It is free. God is providing it. It is always there. They are complaining because there is only one kind of food—manna. Translated, “manna” means, “what is it.” In response to the complaining, God sends quail for meat, followed by a plague. What strikes me about this is I don’t think the people were worshipping God. If they were, there would be plenty to eat—remember how many of those sacrifices were to be eaten and shared? Go back to Leviticus and read about the Peace and Thanskgiving offerings if you don’t remember. Bottom line: if you wanted to eat, you would be in fellowship and at peace with God! AND He gave them grace-food besides! I venture it was not God’s fault they had something to complain about. Talk about “food for thought.” One more thing about complaining: Miriam and Aaron rebel by complaining and God punishes Miriam, but not without restoring her after Moses intercedes on her behalf.
What do you think God is trying to say about complaining? I notice that when Israel wants water, the Bible says they complain, not ask. When they don’t have food, they don’t ask, they complain. God records these people are not satisfied with HIM. This is important for what happens next: God tells Moses to choose spies to send into the land. Response? COMPLAINING—but the problem is not with the land. It is what they see in their own eyes. God wants to severely punishes (wipe out) the people, but Moses again intercedes and the people are to wander until the unbelieving generation dies off.
Can you see some travelers passing by and seeing a group of children playing in the wilderness?
“What are you doing out here?”
“Waiting for my parents to die.”
God speaks to Moses concerning giving an offering of Thanksgiving and another to deal with Unintentional sin, instructing the people to put a tassle on the their garment in order to remember the commandments of God. You mean people forget?! Well, yes! And they complain! This is why God wanted them to participate in THANKSGIVING!
But, as history records the change of world powers by marking those barbarians who come sweeping down from the north, someone complains. This time it is Korah who rebels against both God and Moses, so God destroys him along with Dathan and Abiram.
Dathan: poster-boy of complaining
Did they get the message? Not quite. The very next day, more Israelites rebel and God judges them too.
Spurgeon writes, "There are mumurers amongst Christians now, as there were in the camp of Israel of old. . . . A word with thee, O murmurer! Why shouldst thou murmer against the dispensations of thy heavenly father? Can He treat thee more hardly than thou deservest? Consider what a rebel thou wast once, but He has pardoned thee! Surely if He in His wisdom sees fit now to chasten thee, thou shouldst not complain. After all, art thou smitten as hardly as they sins deserve?"
Look at what God does to get this grumbling under control: he confirms the call of the priesthood and causes Aaron’s rod to bud! Then He reconfirms the sanctification and duties of the priests.
Oh, if you were looking for some words of wisdom about the best way to complain against God, or the biblical theology of complaining, here it is in a nutshell: “don’t”.
Give Thanks instead.
So let it be written, so let it be done. [Thanks, Dr. Beyer!]