Being a school nurse to several hundred middle-schoolers, I sometimes feel like “the little old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.” Sometimes they grace my office with horrific things like hangnails, and chapped lips, and trampoline injuries from three days ago. Other times there are more significant issues to be dealt with, parents to be contacted, an occasional ambulance. Or an arm around the shoulder to dry a tear (hormones flow freely) or a high five on a test score. It’s just all part of being the person in the building in charge of the bandaids and Tylenol. (The DEA, however, frowns upon stocking Valium for faculty and staff.)
So I do appreciate Moses’ leadership in the Old Testament. He had to have pretty big shoulders for that bunch, but in this account, those shoulders evidently had begun to sag a bit, and they were just getting started on the their very long journey.
“Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed. ‘We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.’”
Moses’ reaction is quite telling. I’m going to quote his full impressive rant here:
“Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the LORD, ‘Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!’”
Okay, so that had to help bring down his blood pressure a few notches.
What follows in the story is God’s response to the people’s grumbling and His servant’s emotional and physical exhaustion. Interestingly, Yahweh is not at all upset with Moses’ complaint, but is more than a little put out by the masses. So what’s the difference? Isn’t complaining still complaining?
In the first case, the people were being foolishly influenced and deluded by the “foreign rabble” into thinking how good they had it in their former life in Egypt. The analogy for today is pretty obvious: I can unwittingly allow my eyes to look back into previous ways of thinking, doing, living, which were actually part of slavery. Okay, maybe there had been some parts that were appealing…for a while. But slavery is still slavery. Their problem wasn’t a lack of meat, it was a lack of relational trust in the God who had brought them out of that slavery! The Hebrews, now on their way to the Promised Land (where there would be much more than mere meat), were thinking about turning back. Any whining that puts us in danger of THAT is a big no-no.
Moses, on the other hand, had no thoughts of turning around; nope, just kill me and put me out of my misery from these imbeciles, but reneg on my commitment to You, Lord? Not an option. There is absolutely no hint of Moses even peeking over his shoulder at his former life. And not only did God patiently listen to Moses’ whole paragraph of woe, He also provided relief for His servant, (just not in a way that was altogether pleasing to the complainers…)
Take home lesson is that God expects my commitment to Him personally, but beyond that, He can handle my honesty, which means He knows whether I need an ambulance, or just a bandaid. And is always, always present to dry my tears.
Numbers 11:4,5; Numbers 11:10-14 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.