There was a very limited menu in the home I grew up in and my kids were raised in the same kind of home. Meals were prepared, you sat down to eat and you ate what was served. Most meals were planned and prepared based on Dad’s favorites, available budget and Mom’s inspirations. As a kid, we never ate brussels sprouts, casseroles, or raw broccoli because my Dad did not like those; we did eat mashed potatoes, gravy, pot roast and roast chicken – big Dad favorites. In my home, I do most of the meal planning and always have, in general I did it the way my mom did, I cooked what my husband and I liked and what the budget would allow. I did try to include some kid favorites such as macaroni and cheese. My kids never had to eat brussels sprouts either but they were expected to eat whatever was cooked and served without complaining.
I didn’t have a lot of patience for complaints about the food choices then and I still don’t have a lot of patience with complaints or complainers; it is all too easy complain and once that train gets rolling it is very difficult to stop. The Israelites apparently complained loudly and often, there are numerous episodes of their complaining recorded in the Old Testament.
The book of Numbers, chapter 10 verse 33 tells us that the Israelites left the mount of the Lord and walked for three days, their first, organized march. They had spent a year camped in the desert and at the end of these first 3 days they set up camp; Numbers 11 records that they immediately start complaining!
They complain about the situation they are in,
“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord;”
And then they complain about what they are not eating,
“Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,”.
Next they complain about what they are eating,
“There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
Moses jumps on the “Complain Train” bemoaning the difficulty of leading these baby whiners,
“I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once,”
God’s anger is kindled greatly and He has a dramatic and swift response to this chorus of complaints:
- Warning – the Lord sends a fire that burns the outskirts of the camp. Certainly God could have burned it all, He chose to burn just some and the fire died out when Moses interceded in prayer. Has God given you a gentle warning? Are your complaints becoming tiresome to those around you?
- Mercy – God anoints 70 elders, men to assist Moses in listening to complaints and settling disputes. There were over 600,000 adult male Israelites at this time and an unknown number of women and children, a lot of complainers and problems. Have you considered that God may be holding back on allowing some bigger/worse problem your way?
- Provision – God sends quail and lots of it, 36 inches deep worth of quail. I have never eaten quail but I guess it would be a welcome change from manna. Most people are like me, I have everything I need to survive, maybe not exactly what I want but what I truly need. Does this describe your life? Am I, are you, grateful for what you do have?
- Punishment – Plague, possibly a result of all the quail, rotting since there was too much of it to collect, clean and cook. The people were so greedy the place was renamed Kibroth-Hattaavvah, Graves of Greediness. God is patient and long-suffering but He is also just, He will never protect us from experiencing the consequences of our choices.
I cannot be too hard on these Israelites because this sounds so like me at times. I complain because it is too hot or too cold, my feet hurt, I’m tired, I don’t like where I am, I want to be somewhere else, I have to dust the stuff I have, I can’t afford to buy more stuff, I wish I could afford a steak, I am sick of eating salads, brussels sprouts look and smell weird, my clothes are shrinking, I have no time to exercise, exercise is too difficult, and on and on and on it goes.
Complaints are an insult to God. Complaining sends the message that God’s gifts are just not good enough. Philippians 4:6 tells me that I am free to ask God for whatever I want but I need to ask humbly and receive whatever He sends with gratitude. This story makes me think of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She’s the greedy girl who wants everything she sees. She ignores Willy Wonka’s warning about his experimental chewing gum, grabs it and pops it into her mouth. She begins to turn a delightful shade of blue and inflates, turning into a huge round blueberry.
So be careful! You get what you get but when you get what you want it might make you sick but not to worry, no brussels sprouts served in this house!