Complain, Complain

I have exciting news. A new season of “Alone” has just been released on Netflix. This addicting show follows ten highly trained survivalists who are literally dropped in the wilderness to see which one can survive the longest. They record their experiences on Go Pros and cameras on selfie-sticks. You will watch them navigate the cold, the lack of food, the need to build a shelter, the lack of tools and equipment … it is amazing to watch. Every episode is filled with human ingenuity and courage beyond measure.

One of the persistent themes is hunger and the body’s need to consume as many calories as the body burns in these harsh conditions. They attempt to fish, snare small game, hunt larger game, and forage edible plants and berries. In the process, the viewer learns a lot about nutrition via the side bar explanations that are edited in. Absolutely fascinating! Be sure to have a peanut butter sandwich on hand if you decide to watch it.

Food and water are essential to life. God created and designed our bodies to consume calories and expend calories. When we don’t consume enough, our bodies suffer greatly, not to mention the fact that we become “hangry.” (“Hangry” is the combination of hungry and angry. This describes me perfectly.)

Moses had his hands full of hangry people when he led them out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land:

Numbers 11 (Common English Bible)

Complaint over the lack of meat

The riffraff among them had a strong craving. Even the Israelites cried again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our lives are wasting away. There is nothing but manna in front of us.”

It amuses me that the Common English Bible begins this passage with calling the non-Israelites “riffraff.” The New King James Version says it this way: Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving. We read in Exodus 12:8 that there was a component of non-Hebrew slaves and other refugees fleeing Egypt that had assimilated into the exodus. This mixed multitude was the first to complain. They would have loved social media.

They were not on a spiritual journey like the Israelites, so we might assume that their journey was more about leaving a horrific situation than being delivered through a miracle and arriving in a land that God had established for them. In any case, they felt hunger first and began a chorus of complaint that was soon harmonized by the Israelites.

It might seem unfathomable to us that having just escaped harsh slavery, deprivation, and abuse, they would long for the “free” cucumbers and garlic of their enslavers. But it points to a common human condition that we share with our spiritual ancestors. The minute things start to become challenging, we can become amnesiacs and forget how bad things can really be. We can romanticize the past and overlook the reality of its starkness. Were the “good old days” really that good, or does memory add color and animation to its drabness?

The manna was like coriander seed and its color was like resin. The people would roam around and collect it and grind it with millstones or pound it in a mortar. Then they would boil it in pots and make it into cakes. It tasted like cakes baked in olive oil. When the dew fell on the camp during the night, the manna would fall with it.

I don’t know about you, but cakes baked in olive oil sound pretty good!

Moses’ complaint about leadership

10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

God doesn’t need our pity or empathy, but it stings a little to read that “The Lord was outraged.” Then Moses heaped more coals on the situation by adding to the complaints of his people and giving God an ultimatum: “if you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me.” Here was the Creator of the universe giving the people land, cakes, freedom, milk, and honey, and all they can do is complain!

But aren’t we like that, too? How many times have you wanted to complain against God when things go wrong? How quickly do you forget all of his many blessings when a challenge arises?

We are just like the Israelites. We treat God like a giant vending machine that deserves a solid kick on the side if it fails to deliver our Doritos.

And as we can see by this passage, complaining can be contagious. Do you complain too much? Are others around you affected by your complaining? Are you being brought low by someone else’s constant venting?

So here is your challenge for today: when you feel tempted to complain, JUST STOP. Don’t let the riffraff pull you in. Just stop expressing it out loud and see what happens. Thank God for what you have instead. Do you think you can make it a day without complaining? I bet you can. Count your blessings instead.

Old Bird by Michelle Robertson

Would that….

Do you ever get weary of people who simply refuse to bend to your point of view? Are you flat worn out with those who show blatant disregard for your political perspective? How about the ones who are on the opposite side of your stand on everything that is happening in America right now? Tired of it?

Oh, would that everybody might think just like me!

You are in good company. Consider Moses. His task was to lead his people out of slavery to a free and promised land. He was handed a set of behavioral guidelines that were intended to be nothing less than a blessing of protection to the community. Had the people simply bent to his perspective, taken the stand that he took, and shown respect and regard for the ways he was leading them, they all would have gotten along and even prospered.

But no.

People are people are people, and there will always be division, polarization of thought, obstinance, and downright pig-headedness. The freedom they received the moment they emerged from Pharaoh’s tyranny went straight to their heads, and straight through their hearts. The end result was disobedience.

Numbers 11:24-30 (The Message)

24-25 So Moses went out and told the people what God had said. He called together seventy of the leaders and had them stand around the Tent. God came down in a cloud and spoke to Moses and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy leaders. When the Spirit rested on them they prophesied. But they didn’t continue; it was a onetime event.

26 Meanwhile two men, Eldad and Medad, had stayed in the camp. They were listed as leaders but they didn’t leave camp to go to the Tent. Still, the Spirit also rested on them and they prophesied in the camp.

God sent his Spirit from Moses to the others in order for their leadership to be spirit-filled and shared. Shared leadership that is unified should be the goal of every organization, administration, church, ecclesiastical body, and institution. When leadership and vision are shared, the entire structure is strengthened. One message emerges, unifying the community in purpose and mission.

27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!”

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ right-hand man since his youth, said, “Moses, master! Stop them!”

The two who were given the gift of prophesy from God had not been with the original seventy. This instantly became an us-verses-them situation for some. But Moses saw it differently. Moses was keenly aware that the Spirit came from God, and its power was not predicated on who the recipients were or where they were located.

29 But Moses said, “Are you jealous for me? Would that all God’s people were prophets. Would that God would put his Spirit on all of them.”

Would that all God’s people were prophets.

Would that all people might have the Spirit and thereby be unified.

Would that all leaders would lead.

Would that all Christians would speak against injustice and inequality with one voice.

Would that…

But people are people are people.

And so we pray and actively seek God and his Spirit to come upon us as we gather and wait. When people who are called by God’s name humble themselves and pray, God will heal our land.

May we act justly, love mercy, walk humbly, and be healed.

We need another Pentecost.

Mountain Serenity by Scott Brown