Moses the Complainer

Right after sinning, the thing we humans must like to do most is complain.  All of us do it and we do it for several reasons.  We complain because the world in general or someone is specific is not giving us the attention we deserve.  We are after all, special (I mean, maybe not you, but I sure am) and we deserve the best.  The best seat, the best service, the best food, the easiest path.  We deserve to be catered to, pampered and, in general, treated like royalty on every occasion.

But there are sub-reasons for complaining.  Sometimes, because we are so special, we complain when we are scared and by golly the world, or God, owes us an answer for our fear.  Often, because we are so special, we complain because it surely couldn’t be our fault, it was the other person that made me do that bad thing, surely not me.  Or we complain simply to get attention.  But whatever the reason, the root cause of complaining is our specialness.

Complaining is rampant in scripture and is as old as creation itself.  Don’t believe me?  Have a look at Genesis 3:12-13.  Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and when God found them Adam said that the woman God had given him, gave him the fruit to eat (so naturally he had to eat it).  So the first recorded complaint was against God.  It was his fault Adam had eaten the fruit because God had given him the woman.  Can you imagine the cheek of someone complaining about the way God chooses to organize his creation.  Hmmm.  Unfortunately I can not only imagine it all too well,  I’ve been there and done that.  I suspect you have too.

Eve’s complaint is just a classic, used with great effect down the years since she first spoke the line, “The Devil made me do it.”  Here’s Flip Wilson’ s take on that one (and don’t say you’re too young to remember Flip and Geraldine).

What complaints can you think about in scripture?  Who else complained, what did they complain about and, ultimately, who was their complaint against?

And Moses’ record comes complete with complaints.  At the burning bush he complained, after having had a direct encounter with the Lord God, creator of the Universe and all in it, that:  1)  nobody would believe God had sent him, 2) that he was unable to speak well and when God answered those two complaints Moses just said he wasn’t interested in the job.  In Genesis 4:13 Moses says,”O my Lord, please send anyone else whom you wish to send!”  What was the basis of Moses’ complaints here?  It looks to me like he was afraid (a prime reason we complain).  God had to get mad at Moses to get him to accept the commission.  What must God do to or for us to get us moving for Him?

In Genesis 5:22 Moses complains again, he says,”…Lord,  why have you caused trouble for this people? Why did you ever send me? From the time I went to speak to Pharaoh in your name, he has caused trouble for this people, and you have certainly not rescued them!”  Wow.  Suppose you were the boss and an employee came to you complaining like that?  What would your reaction be?  What would God have been justified to do here?  What did he do?  Have you ever complained to God like that?

Finally, the worst complaint Moses made (perhaps) is found in Numbers 11.  The people wanted better food (note they had enough to eat but were dissatisfied with the quality), and complained long and loud to Moses.  Moses in turn complains to God:

Why have you afflicted  your servant? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of this entire people on me?  Did I conceive this entire people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, Carry them in your arms, as a foster father bears a nursing child, to the land which you swore to their fathers? From where shall I get meat to give to this entire people, for they cry to me, Give us meat, that we may eat!  I am not able to bear this entire people alone, because it is too heavy for me! But if you are going to deal with me like this, then kill me immediately. If I have found favor in your sight then do not let me see my trouble.

I have a niece who tends toward the overly dramatic (swoons, eye rolls, deep sighs, etc).  When she was a young girl we took a family outing to a lake, rented a pontoon boat and spent the day exploring and swimming.  At one point we put in near an island where there was an eagles’ nest and several of us (including my niece)  swam ashore.  All but my niece returned to the boat but because the current was moving the boat too close to the shore it was necessary to maneuver the boat while my niece was swimming out.  Seeing the boat move she cried out in despair, “I can’t swim that far, just go ahead and leave me here to drown, I might as well die right here.”  This is now a family saying used whenever anyone anyone is behaving in an overly dramatic fashion.

Moses reacted the same way as my niece.  My niece knew we weren’t going to leave her; the mere idea is ridiculous, every bit as ridiculous as Moses’ complaint.  Had he not seen what God both could and would do?  He had more basis to believe that God would provide an answer than to believe he would not.  And yet….

Was Moses justified in his complaint?  Strangely in this case, if he were complaining to a human boss I might say he had a point, but is his complaint against God legitimate?  And how about us?  What are we blaming God for?  What are we complaining about?  Are we justified or just petulant and spoiled?