Devotional

The Consequences of Complaining

I had a bit of a melt down this weekend. Considering all that God has done for us over the past year, it shouldn’t have even entered my mind. But I guess I forgot. I gave in to worry and let fear and doubt take over. I forgot to count my blessings and I began complaining.

After all, God has provided over and over in ways we never imagined. He has been good beyond measure during difficult times. He blessed us with people and provisions before we knew we even needed them!

God provided financially in big ways. Friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers sent money and gift cards. Our bills got paid, our kids were able to continue their music lessons, and we were able to buy school books for the year.

He provided much needed jobs at just the right time. He gave me a job in retail right before all restaurants and retail stores shut down. While I found myself once again without a job, God provided me with a better paying job and a better schedule! How could I so quickly forget?

Some of the biggest blessings God gave us were friends and family who stood by us through the good, bad, and the ugly. They loved us, supported us, prayed for us, shared scripture and words of comfort and hope. They met practical needs without hesitation.

God provided new friends when old ones abandoned us –New friends who were willing to give us a chance.

God graciously led us to a wonderful church family who took us in when we were broken and hurting. They accepted us and loved us in spite of the baggage we brought along.

Once again, how could I forget the blessings of God already?

In His Time

God provided for us, but not always on our timetable. Many things he gave us were provided at the last minute in our opinion. Our farmhouse, for example, seemed like it would never be a reality. Yet God allowed us to wait on Him to provide exactly what we needed in addition to a lot of what we wanted. It was a great exercise in trust and patience.

God has provided so beautifully in amazing ways over and over again, yet I melted down. I became worried and anxious and emotional. Why? Because I need a full time job. Really? Did I think it was too hard for God?

How could I have forgotten all that God has provided over the past year? Why did I allow myself to wallow in self-pity, when I know God has proven himself faithful to me over and over.

As I scolded myself, I remembered that I am not the only one who has ever fallen into this cycle. Even God’s chosen people fell into a habit of worry, complaining, and unbelief when times got tough.

The Children of Israel

The book of Exodus gives us the account of the children of Israel, who lived in a cycle of asking for God’s deliverance, receiving it, then complaining about their next problem.

The Israelites lived in the land of Egypt. They had moved to that land during the famine of Joseph’s time, and they stayed for 430 years. As long as Joseph lived in the land and as long as there were leaders who remembered Joseph, the children of Israel lived in peace. They prospered and multiplied and became powerful. After Joseph died and a new king rose to power who did not know Joseph, their lives began to change. The new king became afraid of the children of Israel, who had grown into quite a large population. The kings enslaved the Israelites as a way to keep them from becoming too powerful.

In the midst of their oppression, God raised up Moses to face Pharaoh and to lead his people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. This wasn’t an easy task as Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he refused to let God’s people go. God had to give him a little motivation by sending a series of plagues to persuade him. After enduring frogs, lice, boils, hail, and more, Pharaoh’s heart was still hard. It was only after God killed the first born in every family that Pharaoh gave in and agreed to let the Israelites go.

God led His people out of Egypt and into the wilderness. He miraculously gave them a pillar of cloud to lead them during the day and a pillar of fire to guide them by night.

The Israelites were barely out of Egypt when Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his chariots after the Israelites. Finding themselves trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea, the children of Israel began to complain. They accused Moses of leading them out of Egypt and into the wilderness to die. How quickly they forgot what God had done for them!

Moses encouraged the people with these words in Exodus 14:13-14, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”

God again miraculously delivered his people by removing his angel as well as the pillar of cloud from in front of them and setting them between the Israelites and the Egyptians for protection.

Parting of the Red Sea

Then one of our favorite Sunday School stories takes place! God tells Moses to stretch out his rod over the water, and the waters parted. The children of Israel were able to cross the sea on dry ground.

The Egyptian army pursued after the Israelites into the Red Sea. God caused their wheels to fall off, sent them into a state of confusion, and then told Moses to stretch out his rod once again over the sea, causing the waters to go back into place and destroying the entire Egyptian army. God again protected His people in a miraculous way!

Exodus 14:31 tell us, “And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.”

Then in chapter 15 they sang a beautiful song of praise to the Lord for his deliverance. They recounted the details of what happened, sang of God’s might, and power and deliverance. It was a wonderful praise service! Surely they would place their full confidence and trust in God after this, right?

The Children Murmur

Three days! It took three days for them to forget what God had done! Three days into the wilderness and they couldn’t find water. They came to a town, but the waters were bitter and they couldn’t drink them. So the people complained to Moses. Moses talked to God and God showed him a tree which he threw into the water and the water became sweet and drinkable. God performed another unusual, but powerful miracle to provide for His people!

They journeyed on a little more and the people began to complain again! This time they were lacking food. They complained to Moses and Aaron saying, “Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)

God laid out his miraculous plan to send manna from heaven each morning for them to gather and eat for that day. He continued to do this faithfully every day for their entire wilderness journey. Now they would believe and not doubt and complain, right?

Well, as they continued to travel in the wilderness, they came to a another place where they couldn’t find water. Forgetting how God had provided the previous time, they complained again and accused Moses of leading them out of Egypt to kill them. God provided this time by instructing Moses to strike a rock with his rod, and water came out for them to drink.

The Golden Calf

God led Moses up onto Mt. Sinai to speak to him and give him the ten commandments as well as other instructions for life and worship. God revealed himself to the people through fire, smoke, thunderings and lightnings. Pretty impressive, I would say!

But Moses was gone a long time — longer than the people were comfortable with. And they began to murmur. They complained that Moses had led them out of Egypt. Now they didn’t know what had happened to him. They began to despair and demanded that Aaron make gods for them to lead them the rest of the way. Aaron gave in under the pressure and did what the people asked. He made a golden calf which they worshiped.

When Moses came down from the mountain and found the people worshipping the golden calf, he was angry. He threw down the tablets that God had written on. He demanded a commitment from those who were on the Lord’s side. Those who opposed the Lord were to be killed. It was a harsh punishment.

Canaan

The children of Israel’s journey eventually led them to the Land of Canaan, the Promised Land. The Lord told Moses to send 12 men into the land to search it out. They were to observe what it was like and to determine what they were up against in taking the land. When the men returned, 10 of them gave a bad report, stating their fear of the giants that lived there. The people again complained that Moses had led them out of Egypt only to let them die in the wilderness. This time they planned to set up a new leader and return to Egypt. Only Joshua and Caleb returned with a good report and with confidence that the Lord would help them conquer the land.

God’s patience finally wore out and his judgment reigned down on the people. After all God had done to deliver and provide for them, they still murmured and complained and failed to trust the Lord. God punished the 10 evil spies by killing them with a plague. He punished the rest of the Israelites age 20 and over by causing them to wander in the wilderness for the next 40 years and not allowing them to enter into the Promised Land.

Even after all of this and the harsh punishment upon Israel, there was more! They entered the desert of Zin and found no water again. The children of Israel continued their tradition of accusing Moses of leading them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. This time God told Moses to speak to the rock so it would provide water. In his anger, Moses failed to obey and struck the rock twice instead. Water came out and the people drank. However, God punished Aaron and Moses for their disobedience and told them they were not allowed to lead the people into the Promised Land.

What a sad state that Moses, Aaron and all the Israelites found themselves in because of their unbelief and rebellion!

The children of Israel never seemed to learn from their mistakes. They fell into a pattern that they couldn’t seem to get out of. When the people found themselves in need, they lacked faith, complained, received a blessing from God, then were rebuked and sometimes punished. They reached the point of missing the biggest blessing of all – seeing the Promised Land.

Lessons for Me

So what can I learn from the children of Israel?

  1. I see that lacking faith, worrying, stressing, and complaining are a part of our sin nature. Even the children of Israel, who saw first-hand some amazing miracles, quickly forgot what God had done for them.
  2. I am thankful that God forgives and gives us second chances. He demonstrated this when the Israelites complained over and over, yet God continued to bless and provide for them.
  3. I understand that God does have a limit. I could miss a blessing by continuing to forget his blessings, doubting Him, and complaining.

Practical application

Psalm 77:11 is David’s testimony. It says, “I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember your wonders of old.” David comforted and encouraged himself by remembering what God had done in the past, not only in his own life, but for the Israelites as a people. I can comfort and encourage myself by remembering what God has done in my own life, and that would be sufficient. However, I can see what he has done for others throughout history and remember what a great and powerful God we serve! I can praise him for providing in the past and remain confident that he will continue to provide for the future!

Wife, mom, grandma, and country girl. I am living by faith and encouraging others to do the same. I integrate faith, family and country living.

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