Thursday, September 19, 2019
   
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

How to Turn Your Life Into a Disaster—The Consequence of Complaints, Part Two

Numbers 10-12

How do we turn our lives into disasters ? It’s a pretty negative story, but if we listen and learn from Numbers 11-12, we can see how Israel took the best of circumstances and, with a spirit of complaining, turned them into a disaster. What then can we learn from Israel’s example?

We can learn there is a better way to get ahead in life than complaining. By studying the life of Israel, we can also forecast our future success and failure.

In our last study we saw these tragic words: 11:1—"Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord. And when He heard them His anger was aroused."

What hardships were they complaining about?

The first complaint was general dissatisfaction—11:1-3. At first it's hard to see what the Israelites were upset about; they were generally unhappy with the conditions of their lives. As we study them, however, we see their general dissatisfaction as a matter of perspective… a matter of what they were looking for. Israel’s view of life reminds me of this quote: "What one approves another scorns and thus his nature each discloses. You find the rosebush full of thorns; I find the thornbush full of roses." What do you see? It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

We discovered last week that our scorning is no small matter, that some very negative consequences follow our negative responses. In our first look at Numbers 11-12, we saw how complaining only makes matters worse, angers God, burns things up, blinds our judgment… just the opposite of what praise does. It is no understatement, in fact, to say God takes our complaining very seriously.

 

Why?

In our last study, we found out that all our complaining is ultimately against Him/God—Numbers 11:1; Exodus 16:8. We are His children, under His care and provision, so complaining says we’re dissatisfied with God’s care. He reacts to those complaints with anger. Furthermore, it has been my observation from studying biographies and the book of Acts that never has there been one used of God who has been a negative thinker, a complainer. Not one!

 

If we want to be used by God and keep matters from getting worse, being destroyed, or consumed by God’s fire, it is very important we learn to turn stretching circumstances into praise.

 


The general dissatisfaction of the people was followed by specific reasons to be "down." Once we start feeling lousy and dissatisfied and begin to complain about things in general, eventually specific reasons to be discouraged will emerge .

The Second Complaint was specifically about supplies.

11:4-6—"The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites starting wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat. 5] We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6] But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’"

 

I’m going to make a number of observations you might be interested in, if you really want to turn your life into a disaster. If we do what the Israelites did here, we guarantee ourselves a disastrous life.

 

Here’s the first of several observations. The first one I have already alluded to:

Observation #1: General dissatisfaction becomes fertile ground for specific complaints, which in turn provide opportunities for outspoken critics to emerge.

 

Did you notice that as soon as people began to complain, the "rabble" came with a craving? The "rabble" evidently consisted of the Egyptians who had come out of Egypt with the children of Israel. No doubt they had seen the plagues inflicted upon their fellow Egyptians; maybe they had hidden behind blood-covered doors to escape the death angel. When the children of Israel left, they decided to hitchhike with them.

 

In any case, however, the rabble were not of one heart and one spirit with Israel, so when things got a little bit difficult and a general spirit of complaining emerged, immediately the "hitchhiking rabble" began to make some specific complaints.

 

Have you ever noticed something similar in your life? I have noticed when I’m down and begin to specifically verbalize my complaints, no sooner than I’ve made mention of the complaint someone will come along and confirm it. Soon there is a duet, and then a quartet, and pretty soon a whole choir of people can get caught up in the complaint. This "complaint multiplication" takes place today in many settings, just as it did with the children of Israel:

  • on the job site
  • in families
  • in schools
  • in various programs or activities in a local church
Sadly, this kind of "choir practice" can destroy or cause severe damage to so many people and organizations! Is there any way to fight against it? Yes! If being down can lead to specific complaints and a choir of complainers, the opposite can also be true.

Any faith-filled believer can potentially have a great impact on negative Christians if he/she sows seeds of praise in the midst of a complaining group. One person has the potential of changing a negative environment, if he responds by saying something like this: "Listen, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know that God is all powerful. I know He who has begun a good work will finish it. Therefore, I choose to trust Him and His work in this place. I see His hand everywhere; and I refuse to be negative, fearful, or faithless." This positive believer may well see a duet, then a quartet, and eventually a choir of people praising the Lord.

 

Of course, Joshua and Caleb tried this very tactic when they returned from their spy mission into the Promised Land and it didn’t work, so there is the possibility that even the best faith presentation will still go unheeded. Even if we are unable to squelch the negativity, we must still speak up because all praise and complaints are in the hearing of the Lord. Someday our positive praise (our willingness to fly with the eagles) will reap a reward, as it did for Joshua and Caleb after a delay!

Joshua and Caleb could have sided with the 10 negative spies, and would have died in the desert with all the other unbelievers. The lesson is obvious: speak up, people of faith, even at the risk of being rejected or booed.

Observation #2: Our complaints are often a distortion.

In other words, our complaints are blown out of proportion. If we look back at Numbers 11:4-6, we see a number of distortions.

The first distortion is found in v. 5b—"We ate in Egypt at no cost..." Baloney! They paid a very dear price for their food. They were slaves. Only the manna God fed them in the desert was free.

The second distortion occurs when they cried for meat to eat, but remembered it was fish they ate in Egypt. vv. 4b-5a—"...the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! 5] We remember the fish we ate in Egypt..."

 

The third distortion is in vv. 5-6—"...we have lost our appetite" (our strength—KJV). Verses 5-6 say: "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6] But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!"

Notice, the kinds of food they were longing for are hardly the kind that give strength. The Lord was bringing them out of a land of cucumbers, leeks, and garlic and bringing them into a land flowing with milk and honey. "Oh if we just had garlic to eat..." was a real distortion. You see, the problem wasn’t with what they used to eat, but with what God was giving to them to eat. On the way to the Promised Land, the Lord had been providing for them a substitute, a supplemental food called manna.

 

Do you know what manna means? The name comes from the first time they saw it. When they got up in the morning they looked at the ground and saw this stuff and asked, "What is it"? And that’s what manna means: "What is it"?

 

So up to this point they had eaten "What is it"? every day for 13 months. It isn’t much of a stretch to put ourselves in their place, is it? Think about it. How many ways can people cook manna before they get tired of it? I suppose they could poach it; fry it; barbecue it; boil it; stir fry it; grind it up to make pancakes, cupcakes, or pies, but after awhile they might run out of ideas. Can you imagine having "What is it" for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

 

It could have been tough to take, unless they were mature and remembered the "manna" was a miracle provision and without it, two million plus people would have died in the desert. The same is true for us—consistent, even monotonous provision can bring dissatisfaction or it can be a cause for praise. I’ve seen so many people miss God’s best because they didn’t appreciate the small miracles and tests that preceded the blessings God had in mind for them.

 

To prevent that, young families, enjoy your first wages. Students, appreciate and manage well the provision from your parents. Middle-aged and seniors, turn your monotonous provision into praise. Some of you might be tempted to despise your jobs, your homes, or your provision, because it isn’t all you want someday. If you do, however, you’ll miss the miracle of consistent provision.

If you ask for it, God will give you a spirit of praise for the consistent provision (your manna from God), and it will prepare you for the milk and honey He has in mind for you in the future. Look at vv. 7-9

"The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. 8] The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. 9] When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down."

 

Some have said that it was probably close to Grape Nuts. How about eating Grape Nuts for 13 months? Sadly, the Israelites missed the miracle of everyday provision and were crying, "we want meat."

The fourth distortion is found in v. 10a—their wailing.

"Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled."

This was no small expression of emotion these people were showing! These were grown people standing at the doorways of their tents and crying all over themselves… "...wailing." There is a principle here: Often our response to supposed injustice is far more severe than the issue itself. In fact, our response is a distortion. In other words, we get carried away and blow things clear out of proportion.

 

What is the outcome of our complaints, and what does God think about it? We see here our complaining makes God angry. May I state an obvious application of this incident? I’d like to emphasize, if you know something makes God angry, don’t do it!

Observation #3: Our complaints wear others down.

 

Notice what happened to Moses when he began to hear the complaints of others.

He was troubled and wondered what he did wrong. 11:10b-11—

"The Lord became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. 11] He asked the Lord, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?’"

 

Moses’ response is so typical; when others are down on us, it’s easy to imagine that God is down on us too, and we wonder what we have done to displease Him. I tried to put myself in Moses’ place. I asked myself what it would be like to have the problems of over two million people... handling all their difficulties and provisions. I think camping with a group of people for 13 months would get to anybody. I love the people of my church, but I would think God was mad at me, too, if we all had to camp together for 13 months! If I was Moses, I might have been outside the camp babbling like a mad man by this time, so I understand how Moses was troubled and wondered what he had done wrong.

 

He was down on the people.

11:12—"Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers"?

Moses didn't want to be their nurse or carry them anymore.

He just wanted out; he wanted to leave.

11:14—"I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15a] If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now 15b] if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin."

The Living Bible says, "If you love me...kill me." It’s amazing what happens to others when we begin to complain. The things we say have power; they have an impact on those around us. The New Testament admonition is to build one another up in the faith, but so often just the opposite is true.

So here we've seen the potential result of our complaining about others.We drive people from families, relationships, churches, jobs, even the ministry because of our complaints. Negative people are either surrounded by other negative and faithless people or are lonely, because no one else wants to be around them. Ask yourself if some are staying away from you because of your attitude. It’s a big price to pay to have a curmudgeon’s lifestyle, a negative perspective.

 

Is there something we can do about the onslaught of complaints? Yes! Looking back at Numbers, I want to ask a question that will lead us to some solutions. How do we fight discouraging words, especially if those words are tearing us down?

Observation #4: There are a number of specific things to do that Moses models for us!

This is really a helpful section; I encourage you to read Numbers 11 later.

What do we do when we hear discouraging words around us? Let me make a few observations from this section, even if it is an overview.

 

We should begin to pray—vv. 11-15.

 

Be honest with God; tell Him what is going on. You’ll notice Moses’ prayer was a little negative, but God was not burning Moses, because Moses had come to the right source. He was asking for advice, for help.

Gather the right people around us… people known to us—v. 16.

 

God told Moses at this point to bring 70 people to the tent of meeting.

16] The LORD said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you."

 

When we are facing discouraging times and surrounded by negativity, we should get together with some positive people; people who are praising God, who are thankful to the Lord Jesus for His work in their lives. We should surround ourselves with positive people who will stand with us, then share the load or concerns with those people.

Ask God to give them a portion of the Spirit and burden that’s upon us.

11:17—God said to Moses: 17] "I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone."

 

Scripture encourages us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. This is a great example of why we have small groups. We won’t stand alone, and others can help us carry our burdens. We should gather the right group of people around us and say to that person or persons, "I’m facing a very difficult time, and I’m going to ask the Spirit of God to reveal to you the difficulty I am having. Would you share this with me? Would you help me with this?"

 

Let God deal with the situation—11:18-23. We shouldn’t try to deal with trouble with our own wisdom and understanding. God is the One who has the solution to our problem. If we follow Moses' example, here’s how we can respond to our new partners. We aren’t totally passive as God works; we should do the following:

  • Give our family, friends, etc., the words of God, if the words of God apply to the situation. God had a specific word for Moses' people.

18] "Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat.’ And this is the Lord’s response: "The Lord heard you when you wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!’ Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19] You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20] but for a whole months—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?"

So if God has a specific word, then we should share that word.

  • Don’t be overwhelmed by the problem as God works in it—11:21-22. This happened with Moses in v. 21—"Here am I among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’" Then Moses weny on to say that they could kill all the flocks and even the fish in the sea and that wouldn’t be enough—v. 22. We must not be overwhelmed with the problem, looking at it from our perspective.

    It’s like the disciples who said, "Lord, here is a boy with five barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"—John 6:9.

  • Remember God’s arm is not short. v. 23a—"The Lord answered Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s arm too short’"? That’s a very important question we must all answer and believe. God’s arm can reach into any situation, and He is never too far away to reach us and bring us a solution/answer!

     

  • Trust that what God says, He will do. v. 23b—"You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you."

 

  • Do what God’s Word has told you/us to do—vv. 24-25. In other words, if you know what to do (even if it’s a small thing), do it as you let God continue to handle the problem—vv. 24-25.

     

  • Be glad when or if God raises up others besides yourself to handle the problem—11:24-30. (If we read vv. 24-30, that is what God does.) We tend to say, "Listen, this is my problem; I’m going to tackle it. I don’t need any help." We may even get territorial and mark out our turf. That’s pride. God may, in fact, bring someone into our lives and say, "Here’s your partner. He/she is going to help you to not only bear this problem, but to handle the problem for you." Boy, do I love it when that happens!

Observation #5: If complaining is the only way to get something, we won’t want it when we get it (vv. 31-33).

31]Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction.

32] All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the damp.

33] But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34] Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

Here is the poetic justice of God, "justice particularly fitting to the crime." Essentially God said: "You want meat? Okay, I’ll give you meat."

God uses various means to communicate His displeasure. In Numbers 11:1, He burned the perimeter of the camp when they wanted meat, but the camp obviously wasn’t completely burned. Now God grants their request, but in such a way that He allows them to carry it to an extreme.

In March through April, an annual migration of quail goes from Africa to Palestine, even to this day. What apparently happened in Numbers is that God caused the wind to come so these quail were three feet off the ground and heading toward the camp. Quite a sight, right? Earlier we saw these grown men wailing and crying, "...oh that we had meat." Now they were out for 36 straight hours batting down quail—v. 32.

How much did they get? 480 gallons each that was the least amount. Can you imagine 480 gallons of quail in your basement? (The smallest harvest was 60 bushels—10 homers.) God was saying to the people, "If you prefer to die in the desert than to go into the land of promise, then that is where you will die. I will give you your choice." The principle is pretty clear: God lets us punish ourselves with our greed and choices— 11:4-6,18-20,31-34; 14:2,28-31.

The people wanted meat in verse 4, and they got so much meat it made them sick. In verse 2, they said, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert!" What did they receive?

"...I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall"—vv. 28-31.

Observation #6. Greed multiplies surplus, but subtracts enjoyment.

Our greed might multiply into a surplus (goods/money/success), but we will subtract our enjoyment from all we receive. Please pay attention to the judgment of God, for He is intolerant of our overconsumption. He wants most of the birds to fly by, and for us to take just what we can use. But no, we have to knock them all down! God says, "If you take more than you need of my provision, you’re going to get a stomachache, and maybe you’re going to die… of overconsumption."

The suggestion seems to be that the meat was spoiled. This is really a parable of our culture. We crave more and more and more and in a sense, God has given us more and more and more. We’re the richest country in the world, but what are our riches doing to us? Certainly they can make us sick if we make success and getting more stuff our goal in life. There is a time to be content with what we have and stop our insatiable quest to have more and more.

So after this incident, what did they call a place where more had been obtained than was needed? They called it KIBROTH-HATTAAVAH, which means: "graves of craving"—v. 34.

 

For one more type of complaint, see the Appendix.

 

Conclusion

We face great challenges, tests and opportunities here at Hillcrest Chapel. How will we handle them? We need people like Joshua and Caleb who are willing to trust God and take on the challenges before us with faith! In general, let me address various groups in this church and every church:

  • If you are standing with this community of believers, you need to know I have been praying that God will plant in you seeds of faith and that you will experience His Spirit strengthen and embolden you.
  • If you are weak and struggling, you can still reach out in faith and experience extraordinary strength and healing coming into your life.
  • Complainers and negative people, please open your eyes and see what God wants to do in you.
  • People of praise and faith, thank you for being vocal in the expression of your heart.
  • Generous givers, even when things are less than ideal, thank you for your investment in us as a church. (Investing in Hillcrest Chapel is a good investment and will reap a great return.)

 

If as a church our actions are just the opposite of the complaining and faithless responses seen in the Book of Numbers, our potential is enormous. Let me share with you a positive and real life example of what could happen to us if we take on the challenges of our "promised land" of opportunity. This illustration will also be for us a very specific call for action.

I want to give you a summary of Operation Dynamo: The Achievement of Dunkirk.

 

On May 24, 1940, the retreating allied forces (the good guys) were trapped at Dunkirk, but inexplicably, the Germans ordered a halt.

 

Why the German forces just stopped, when they were on the verge of completely crushing the allied army, is a great mystery.

 

The reasoning behind this halt order has been much debated by historians. Some have argued Hitler did it on purpose, hoping that a show of leniency would encourage the British to make peace. Some have believed that with the Allies already beaten, Hitler could afford to turn his attentions on Paris. Others think that the Panzers had moved too far too quickly, so they had to stop to allow the rest of the army to regroup before the final push. The most likely explanation is that the wetland conditions around Dunkirk were not suitable for tanks.

 

Whatever the reasoning behind the decision, however, this delay allowed the Allies to establish a defensive perimeter around Dunkirk, giving them time to put Operation Dynamo into action and allowing them to escape what could have been a slaughter.

The allied troops had nowhere to go. They had the German army pursuing them and the English Channel before them, a scene very similar to what happened to the children of Israel when the Egyptian army was chasing them and the Red Sea was before them.

 

Operation Dynamo was the Allied army’s only hope and was masterminded by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsey. On May 22, he was given total control of the Allied evacuation and allocated about 30 vessels to transport supplies and rescue troops from the port of Dunkirk. It was hoped that about 45,000 soldiers could be saved, but when it was realized there were over 250,000 Allied soldiers awaiting rescue there, it was clear that the original plan would never be adequate.

 

Ramsey asked for more ships and subsequently began a search for ships that could carry a few men. The call for ships went across the English Channel to England, where they assembled a ramshackle fleet of around 700+ small ships, many never having been to sea before. They came from the rivers and coastal waters of England. Some were formally chartered in the name of the King; some were commandeered. There were river launches, old sailing and rowing lifeboats, yachts, pleasure steamers, fishing boats, working sailing barges and fireboats.

Even though these small boats were not built for war, they left for Dunkirk on May 27. Tugs accompanied some of the Little Ships across the Channel, but many of these small boats made three or more journeys on their own amid dive bombing and strafing by the (Germans') Luftwaffe. Unlit and unable to respond to naval signals by night, they risked being sunk by their own side.

 

When the little boats got to their destination, they discovered they were not only needed to ferry men across the channel, but also to negotiate the shallow waters, where no deep draught ships could approach and pluck the exhausted waiting troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. Of the 700 brave little craft, almost 100 sunk or perished in some manner, but 385,000 troops were ferried to the waiting ships or taken directly to England to fight another day.

Unfortunately, 40,000 men had to be left behind to be captured by the Germans. Those who didn’t die in that battle were taken to prisoner of war camps. Their story of torture and captivity is also a story that needs to be told, for it illustrates what might have happened to the entire war effort and also what was prevented by the small boat armada.

The total number of men pulled from Dunkirk in just eight days, however, was a miraculous achievement by anyone’s standards.

 

This story reminds me of our church at this strategic stage in our life. We have been given a tremendous opportunity to rescue people who are dying, or will die without Christ. What Hillcrest needs is any size boat that will float and carry people. We need people who will take a risk and join a massive rescue operation. We will not commandeer your boat; we want only willing volunteers, because we know if someone doesn’t want to rescue people, he will take off at the first sign of danger.

We should understand, however, the need is so great that unless we take the initiative and launch out in faith, not only will many perish (be lost in their sins), but Hillcrest as we know it will suffer great loss too. (The small boat launch not only saved soldiers, it saved England.) When some people are given such a challenge, like the children of Israel, they shrink back, complaining about the cost, the sacrifice, or the conditions of the crossing—the opportunity!

But I want us all to know, the children of Israel have taught us that if we don’t take the opportunity, avoid the risk and even complain, we may get what we want, but when we get it, we won’t like what we get. As a church collectively we need to launch some boats. We will need at least 400 tithing/giving boats, where people will give to meet the needs of the rescue. (This launch of giving boats will not just be about meeting our needs, it will be for the purpose of meeting the needs of others, too—others who will be rescued.)

  • We will need at least 400 boats that are filled with tithers; and these boats will give to meet the needs of the rescue. (This launch of tithers will not just be about meeting our needs, it will be for the purpose of meeting the needs of others, too—others who will be rescued.)
  • We will need more boats who have Legacy givers on board (building fundgivers). The giving will not just be for our own families, but for families not yet reached.
  • We will also need 1500+ boats with true worshipers as their captains; and these worshippers will not just enter into worship to meet their own spiritual needs, but will create a worship environment where according to the Psalm 40:3, "many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." In other words, many will be rescued from their condition and become followers of Jesus because of the devotion they see in us.
  • We need to launch many boats with teachers aboard; and these teachers will be committed in many venues where believers will be matured in their faith.
  • We are going to need 100 boat owners who are committed to leading new small groups; leaders who are committed to carrying the new people who will be coming to our church.
  • We have many more specific needs that we will talk about in the next 12 months, but let me say in general there is a need to launch 1,000 to 1,500 small, brave, faith-filled and non-complaining ministry boats from every attender of this church.

The qualification questions will be simple:

  • Is Jesus in your boat?
  • Will your boat float? (If it won’t float, let us help you repair or rebuild it.)
  • Will it carry people?
  • Are you willing to risk and have faith, so you will not only volunteer, but launch your boat?

 

I am calling us all to launch our boats and enter into the rescue. Will you work with me and this church to rescue a city, a county, a country, a world for Christ?

 

 

 

Application Questions for Individual or Small Groups:

 

  1. What is destructive about complaining?
  2. How does praise change our hearts/our perspective?
  3. How will our complaining or faith-filled action affect our church? (Be specific.)
  4. What do you think you might offer to the small boat armada of Hillcrest? Where do you have capacity to help people?
  5. Describe what you think people who don’t know Christ need today. (Your perspective is very revealing. What you see as a need may be a description of your capacity, your ministry, or at least how you can begin to pray.)
  6. If God told us that Hillcrest Chapel had the capacity to grow 1,000 people in the next 18 months if everyone launched their boats and helped rescue/mature people, what do you think you might do to help that rescue and growth operation?

 

Appendix:

 

Now the complaints continued in the book of Numbers, and finally a third set of complaints emerged. These are against spiritual leadership. In reality,

The Third Complaint is: Spiritual Jealousy—12:1-16.

 

Usually the spirit of complaining will eventually affect the leadership of the home, the job, the church, and the nation. As you read through chapter 12, Miriam and Aaron are not seen as complaining about food or general circumstances, but about the leadership, about who was in charge. The particular issue was Moses’ marriage to a Cushite, who could have been Arabian, or possibly an African. They were upset about this and used it as a kind of camouflage to hide behind what they really wanted.

 

The real issue is that they wanted some of the prominence and prestige of leadership, too. A paraphrase might be: "Does God only speak through Moses? How about us? We’re the same family, why don’t we get some of the recognition that is due us?" God called them to the tabernacle and basically said in chapter 12, that there were many prophets, "but there is only one Moses; I speak to him face-to-face."

At that point Miriam was stricken with leprosy and God vindicated Moses’ leadership.

 

Moses’ response shows us how to respond to a shove from another person—12:3-16.

 

  • Be very meek. If in fact we find someone shoving us at a point of leadership, there is a way to respond that takes all the pressure out of the situation. We are to be meek. By that I don’t mean weak or insipid, but keeping passions and emotions in control.
  • Let God vindicate you. Leave the matter to Him.
  • After God corrects the situation, immediately seek restoration with the person who has been shoving/pushing/challenging your leadership, if it is possible. That is, in fact, what happened here. When the leprosy came upon Miriam, Moses pleaded with God to save her and correct the situation.