I’m sure that our cat is convinced that the speed at which her food bowl appears is directly proportional to the volume of her shrieks. She’s not the only one with that simplistic worldview. Humans quickly learn that grumbling and creating a fuss gets attention.
During Israel’s journey from Egypt to Sinai the people experienced extreme thirst. They went for three days with no water. The first oasis looked lush, but the water was bitter. After grumbling at Moses, God showed him a tree, and it made the pool drinkable when Moses threw it in. It was a simple lesson about the care of God: Either God provides for His people, or He shows them what to do. However, Israel did not learn the lesson.
A few weeks later, the people packed their tents, journeyed on into the wilderness, and became hungry. They reverted to their earlier strategy—grumbling to Moses and Aaron. Once again, God provided for them by raining down manna and quail.
Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?” (Exodus16:6-7)
Moses and Aaron asked an interesting question. How and why do humans learn to grumble and complain to parents and authority figures? No, there isn’t a gene, but presumably the behavior begins with the first post-natal hunger pangs. But Moses and Aaron were right to ask. Why blame our leaders for things they are not responsible for? And why expect other people to solve problems that only God can solve? If God were visible perhaps we would lash out at Him. Then again, we might think better of it!
Our spiritual nearsightedness and short memories result in grumbling. It is easier for us to take a problem to a leader or a parent than to go direct to God. Yet our leaders and parents are limited in what they can do to provide or protect. God alone can meet our deepest and direst needs. Parents and leaders only succeed in their roles when they redirect our petitions to God as Moses and Aaron did. Spiritual maturity involves learning to go straight to God.
The wonderful thing about God is that although He wants us to learn our lessons and come to trust Him more directly, He still responds to our grumbling demands. But let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that grumbling and complaining work. Instead, let’s learn the lesson of His faithfulness and abundance. Imagine what God could do with a people who took every need to Him, in faith that He cares and is able to meet that need.
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