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 (v.4).
Many years ago, I was counseling at a Christian camp when the program staff began to struggle. Why? Some of the counselors didn’t appreciate the way the director was leading, so they started to complain. As the complaints spread, more people joined in. By the end of the week, the staff had become polarized and the whole camp had been affected by the tempestuous situation.
When we have to live or work with negative and complaining people, it can be draining and downright toxic. That’s part of why God called the people of ancient Israel on their complaining ways (Numbers 14:27). But a bigger reason was that His people were rejecting His leadership—they were rejecting Him.
So how did the complaining begin? Numbers 11:4 gives us a clue. “The foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt.” Soon “the people of Israel also began to complain.” The Israelites had been infected by the words of some foreigners who were merely tagging along on the journey—people whose rotten attitudes were spoiling the whole bunch! Even the leadership was getting worn down. Moses, tired of fielding the people’s complaints, basically told God: Please end my life and put me out of this misery! (v.15).
Ultimately, God lost patience with His whining, nontrusting, disobedient people and forced them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years (14:34). That’s some stiff punishment!
As we consider this account, it’s important to recognize the effect that complaining, ungrateful people can have on us (1 Corinthians 1:33). Be careful whose words you take to heart. If people close to you aren’t edifying and motivating you with the truth of God and His goodness, it may be time to leave the rabble behind.
Read 1 John 1:1 to see why it’s possible to be affected by the words of those who claim to be believers in Jesus.
Why is complaining such an abomination to God? How have you been affected by negative, complaining people? What can you do about it?