Words from the Weary Wilderness - Lenten Journey Day 20
Day Twenty - Thursday, March 24
When We Complain on the Weariest Wilderness Days
Read: Numbers 11:1-15
Complaining in the Desert
11 Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 But the people cried out to Moses; and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. 3 So that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned against them.
4 The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. 8 The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it.
10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child, to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors’? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. 15 If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favor in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.”
Today’s Word from the Weary Wilderness: So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? (Numbers 11:11)
Reflection: This passage gets me in touch not only with the complaints I hear, but the complaints I make. I am struggling with a terrible sinus infection as I write this, and I need only listen to myself to realize that I can be a complainer, too. “My head hurts! We need more Kleenex!” Moses heard complaints, and in this passage he also makes complaints to God. Sometimes our tendency is to send complaints “up the chain.” In the church we often laugh about the “Back to Egypt Committees” who just want things to be the way they used to be. We see from this passage in Numbers 11 how these groups have gotten their names. They remember the delicious fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic – but they forget that they were actually enslaved when they were eating those tasty foods. The past definitely has its delicious memories, but the future also has promise, too. As you move into your future, do you anticipate what God may do … or complain about the present uncomfortableness when there may be “nothing at all but this manna to look at?” (v.6) How is God providing? How is God speaking?
Prayer: God of the Wilderness, we hear complaints and we also complain. We complain to you, and you are gracious enough to listen and powerful to speak. Speak to us as you spoke to the Israelites, and remind us that our journeys on this earth are to a land which you have promised. Help us to be faithful as we follow the path you have laid out for us, and as we gratefully receive the nourishment you have provided for us. Amen.
Blessings of Peace and Health,
Rev. Beverly B. Coppley
& Chief Missional Strategist