C.H. Spurgeon said, “…discontent and murmuring are as natural to man as thorns are to the soil.” As I grew up, I was able to help my parents with their garden. Every year, we would till up the soil and put our seeds into the rows we had created. We would make sure that the patch of ground had enough sunlight and sufficient water for the plants. There was much work that went into the planting of a garden. However, with as much work as we had to put in to make sure our plants grew, there was one thing we never had to cultivate- weeds. Rather, these came up naturally. And just as weeds are natural to the soil, so complaining is natural to the heart of man.
Throughout the book of Numbers, we see the children of Israel complaining. In spite of all the good things God had done for them, complaining was still the natural response of the people. In Numbers 11:1 the Bible says, “And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord.” The Lord responded to the complaints of the people in righteous anger by consuming those that complained. This first group of complainers was in “the uttermost parts of the camp.” However, there was a second group of complainers in chapter 11, verses 4-9. This second group was in the midst of the camp. The Bible refers to this second group as “the mixt multitude.” This group was made up of unbelievers that had come out of Egypt with the Israelites. During the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings, this group proved to be a continual source of grief to the Israelites. This group was discontent. They longed for the food of Egypt while despising the manna that God had provided. This group of complainers displeased God and brought God’s wrath upon themselves. Their complaining was so prevalent that it eventually began to infect the Israelites around them. Their complaining was like a contagious disease that spread rapidly through the camp. Before long, the children of Israel were longing for Egypt once again.
It is easy for us to look at the Israelites and to shake our heads in utter disbelief at how ungrateful and discontent the people of God were. But do we not fall into the same pattern of complaining so easily? Unless the grace of contentment is cultivated in our heart, complaining will only come naturally from our lips. Complaining is like a contagious disease that can infect homes and churches. One person begins, and then another, and before long everyone is complaining. God tells us in 1 Corinthians that the judgments that fell upon the complaining Israelites were “written for our admonition.” They provide us examples that we can learn from. May we put off the sin of complaining and put on the grace of contentment before God. For in so doing, we glorify God and bring peace to our homes and churches.