Have you ever begged your parents for a pet like a dog or a cat? If you have, did they try to warn you about all the work that goes into having a pet? They probably warned you about how difficult it would be to feed and water, and especially how hard it would be to keep clean. If you are like most children your age, none of those warnings bothered, you and you wanted the pet anyway. But after the newness wore off, and you were spending lots of time and hard work taking care of your pet, then what did you do? Did you want to take the pet back? Did you blame the situation on your parents for buying you the pet? Or did you patiently do the work, and learn to love your pet and value your parent’s advice?
In the Bible, we read about a group of people who wanted something very badly. The Israelites wanted to be free. They were forced to be slaves in the land of Egypt. For many years, they prayed and cried out to God to free them from their slavery. God heard their prayers, and sent Moses and Aaron to bring them out of Egypt. The Israelites were very happy to be free. But their freedom was not as easy as they thought it would be. After God freed the Israelites, they began to murmur and complain against God and Moses. They began to blame God for setting them free. Their griping and grumbling got them in a lot of trouble.
In Exodus 16, the Israelites started to get hungry after God freed them from Egypt. They began to moan and complain, saying that they wished God had let them die in Egypt—at least they had food as Pharaoh’s slaves. God heard their cries, and gave them a substance called manna. Manna was similar to a seed called coriander, and tasted like wafers made with honey. God gave them this bread from heaven for forty years while they lived in the wilderness. But after a while, the Israelites got tired of eating manna. Instead of giving God thanks and praise for feeding them, the Israelites murmured against God because they had to eat manna everyday. They whined, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt…but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Numbers 11:4-5).
The Israelites were getting to eat good food every day, yet they still wanted more. Because of their griping, God became very angry and caused a huge wind to blow quail near the camp. There were so many quail that they covered the ground outside the camp. The Israelites found the quail and began to gather them, but God sent a plague and killed many of them for disobeying Him and for murmuring and complaining.
On another occasion, the children of Israel spoke against God and Moses, blaming them for setting them free from Egypt. “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” cried the people (Numbers 21:5). If they had thought about all the manna, quail, and water that God gave them in the past, then they would have known they were not going to die. But they kept mumbling and complaining. So, God sent poisonous snakes among the people that bit them and killed many of them.
After looking at God’s reaction to murmuring and complaining, we might think He was too hard on the Israelites. But the Israelites were questioning God’s power and His promises to help them. Even in the New Testament, we read that we should, “do all things without murmuring and disputing” (Philippians 2:14). We also read that God dealt with the Israelites as He did in order to show us today how seriously God views griping and complaining (1 Corinthians 10:9-10).
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that He was tortured and punished for sins that He did not even commit. Yet, never once did He murmur and complain against God. Also, the apostle Paul was beaten and stoned for preaching the Gospel, but he said that he had learned to be content no matter what was happening to him. Instead of complaining about the things we do not have, we should be thankful to God, like Jesus and Paul, for the many wonderful things we do have. And always remember what happened to the grumbling, mumbling, griping, complaining Israelites.