YHVH is a good Father to us. He not only gave us instructions on how to live, but also practical examples through the lives of other people who went before us. It started with Adam and Eve in the garden. Through their lives, and those who followed after them, we learn what YHVH likes and what is not acceptable to Him. Through narrative, He teaches us.
The Exodus from Egypt and the Israelite’s journey through the wilderness is an especially good example of this.
1 Corinthians 10:6–11
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try YHVH, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
These examples were written down for our instruction. Are we practicing this? What is your attitude like? Do you have a negative, complaining attitude, a toxic virus you spread wherever you go? Or do you see the positive in everything? It is a choice, you know. Think about this as we see what we can learn from the Israelites.
We shall start with Number 14:22. Here YHVH has had enough.
22 “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice,
The pivotal point in this verse is “yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice” YHVH has had enough of these people who would not listen to Him. He has performed signs and wonders and delivered them from slavery, hunger and thirst to name a few. As a parent, you may have experienced some frustration if your child just won’t listen. Imagine what it must have been like for YHVH.
The question is: was this a literal ten times or was it a rhetorical number? This could be a Hebrew idiom, as used in Job 19:3, meaning many times. It could also be a literal ten times. The point is, YHVH was and still is very patient.
The Israelites tested YHVH, yet He remained patient. However, after many times, YHVH had enough. He was ready to destroy the Israelites (Num 14:12), yet he did not, because Moses pleaded with Him. He did cause them to wander through the wilderness for forty years. Those who grumbled were destined to die in the wilderness, while their children, they were so concerned about, would enter the land.
We first need to understand what it means to test YHVH.
How did they test YHVH?
We find the answer in Exodus 17.
7 He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested YHVH, saying, “Is YHVH among us, or not?”
After everything YHVH has done, all the wonders and His deliverance, every time they experienced hardship, they doubt whether YHVH is able to deliver or help them. That is what it means to test YHVH. They did not trust YHVH could deliver them. So, the root of their grumbling was unbelief.
Let’s look at these ten times to see what we can learn about it.
Those ten times
1. Increased workload
After Moses went to Pharaoh for the first time, he increased the Israelite’s work.
18 “So go now and work; for you will be given no straw, yet you must deliver the quota of bricks.”
The people complained
21 They said to them, “May YHVH look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
YHVH performed wonders and delivered them from this slavery.
2. The enemy behind them
After YHVH delivered the Israelites with great signs and wonders, they stood in front of the reed sea with Pharao’s chariots approaching.
9 Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.
The people complained
11 Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?
YHVH, miraculously made a way for them through the sea and they passed through unharmed. The Egyptian army drowned.
3. The water is bitter
Then they came to a place with bitter water.
23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah.
The people grumbled
24 So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
YHVH made the water sweet.
They were hungry and started complaining.
2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by YHVH’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
YHVH gave them manna
4 Then YHVH said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.
They were thirsty and YHVH gave them water.
1 Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of YHVH, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test YHVH?”
6. Moses took too long
Moses went up the mountain to YHVH.
1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
Moses took too long in the people’s estimation. The golden calf was made and worshipped. YHVH was extremely angry with them.
This made me think of how often we, while waiting on YHVH, get impatient and start making our own plans. Plans that may be contrary to His will for us…
7. General complaining
They started complaining about all their hardships and YHVH heard it and became angry.
1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of YHVH; and when YHVH heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of YHVH burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
They were having a regular pity party. We do this too. Some days when one thing goes wrong, we choose to think about all the other things that has gone wrong. We start generalizing and just feel very depressed and sorry for ourselves.
8. Had enough of manna
4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?
The manna tasted like cakes baked with oil (Num 11:8). Sounds tasty, but the Israelites wanted something different. They wanted meat.
We are also like this, we tend to favor variation. This tendency is what sometimes causes us to complain.
We recently listened to an audio book with the kids about a Kenyan boy whose community was struck with a famine. They eventually only had one meal a day consisting of a kind of watery porridge. The kids sometimes tried to steal each others portion, they were so desperately hungry. Once the boy and his friend lied to get the hide of a goat, then boiled and ate it. They didn’t complain about their food, they were grateful for that little portion that kept them alive. They were seeing others less privileged dying from hunger.
Our problem is, we are spoiled. We don’t realize how good we have it and we become ungrateful and complain. Test this by serving your family the same meal every evening for a week…
9. Miriam and Aaron grumble against Moses
Miriam and Aaron grumble against Moses.
2 and they said, “Has YHVH indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And YHVH heard it.
YHVH called all three to the tent of meeting. YHVH was angry with them and caused Miriam to be leprous. Moses prayed for mercy and YHVH limited the leprosy to seven days.
From this we learn that even when we grumble against those in authority over us, we grumble against YHVH.
10. The bad report
The last straw was when the twelve spies returned, ten of them with a bad report.
YHVH told Moses to send out twelve spies to see what the land was like. This was a test, and Israel failed miserably. The grumbling started in their tents and was voiced the next day against Moses and Aaron.
2 All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!
We know what the outcome of this was. They failed the test. This generation was not ready to receive their inheritance. Forty years would be required to equip the next generation to take possession of the land.
This is a warning for us. We may also be complaining ourselves out of our inheritance. This is a scary thought. It is time to consider our ways before YHVH. Are we complainers? Let’s look at the definition of the word complain.
express dissatisfaction or annoyance about something.
“local authorities complained that they lacked sufficient resources”
synonyms: protest, grumble, moan, whine, bleat, carp, cavil, lodge a complaint, make a complaint, make a fuss;
object to, speak out against, rail at, oppose, lament, bewail;
criticize, find fault with, run down, inveigh against;
Informal whinge, kick up a fuss, kick up a stink, bellyache, beef, grouch, grouse, bitch, sound off, go on about, pick holes in;
informalgripe, grizzle, chunter, create, be on at someone;2
We tend to think that complaining is just voicing our dissatisfaction, but when we read the synonyms, we learn that it includes criticizing, opposing, and finding fault with others. When we consider the Messianic movement, we see a culture of criticism, opposition and finding fault with others. I don’t see YHVH being pleased with this.
Or how about when we ladies criticize our husbands? YHVH has placed our husbands in a position of authority over us. I am not going to go into what this does and does not mean. The point is, we are not to criticize them or what they do, especially not in such a way that we undermine their authority in front of our children or others.
Looking at the antonyms, we can also learn a lot.
Antonyms for complain
Accept, agree, aid, approve, compliment, concur, consent, laud, please, praise, soothe, assent, be happy, defend, delight, endorse, exonerate, give in, gloat, go along, protect, ratify, retreat, sanction, support, surrender, applaud, be content, commend3
Maybe we can focus more on accepting, complimenting, praise and supporting others. Did you know that when we complain we may actually also be rejecting YHVH’s will for our lives.
Rejecting YHVH’s will for our lives
Every time we complain, we are discontent with something YHVH allowed in our lives. If we believe YHVH is in control of everything, which He is, we must concede that it includes every detail of our lives. We do have choices and sometimes make bad ones which have negative consequences, but YHVH is aware of this too. He causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him.
28 And we know that Elohim causes all things to work together for good to those who love Elohim, to those who are called according to His purpose.
I am not saying that our bad choices are good. We are to live set apart lives according to YHVH’s instruction. When we fall and turn back to Him, He can even use that for good.
What are we to do?
Have you noticed that complaining was Israels default behavior. Is that yours too? YHVH strongly dislikes grumbling, but likes humility and obedience. Unfortunately, for most of us, grumbling is a way of life. We have a set idea of how our lives should be and if it doesn’t go that exact way, we grumble. Have you considered what we actually say when we grumble? We usually grumble about something we have, so when we do, we are actually saying that what we have is not good enough. For example, when we grumble about the food we have in front of us, we forget that having food is already a blessing. Some people don’t have food and would do anything for what we complain about. It is like that with most things. We need to consider this and change.
Our starting point is to find out if we are complainers. You may be surprised, complaining may have become your default behavior as well. If it is the case, we next need to analyze why we complain. It might be a good idea to start writing it down and find out what triggered it. The first step to change is identification. After we have identified why we complain, we need to change our perspective. We can change our perspective by focussing on our blessings or what we have instead of what we lack.
The Israelites, for example, when they were thirsty, could have remembered what YHVH had done for them and then based on that asked Him to miraculously provide water. Instead, they just focussed on their lack and complained about it. A different point of view would have changed their attitude from being fearful that they are going to die of thirst, to having faith that YHVH would once again deliver them like all the other times. We can’t fear and have faith at the same time.
We can apply the same principles we discussed in the article Speak truth to yourself and create a new habit. A habit of focussing on the positive in every situation.
Here are some scriptures to help us on our way. Memorize this, make it part of your arsenal against the enemy. This is what we are to do instead of complaining. We are to approach YHVH with a humble attitude, giving thanks for what we have and what He has done for us.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to Elohim. 7 And the peace of Elohim, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Y’shua.
The word anxious can be translated as “brood.” That is what we tend to do when things don’t go our way. We start brooding about it. After that, we start voicing it as complaints. So, once again we have to stop this while it is still in our mind.
Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, say this verse to yourself. You would be amazed to see how it strengthens your faith and change your perspective.
YHVH is in control and what comes across our path, He knows of and allows. We are, therefore, to give thanks in every situation.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
18 in everything give thanks; for this is Elohim’s will for you in Messiah Y’shua.
20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Master Y’shua Messiah to Elohim, even the Father;
We are to give thanks in everything and always.
A three day challenge
Set yourself a challenge to not complain for three days, then when you have achieved that, extend it with three more days until you reach 21 days. It takes 21 days to form a new habit. It will change your life!
Don’t give up when you fail, try harder. Remember, you can do all things through Him who strengthens you.
13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
I strongly recommend you to read the article “ Complaining affects your family”here is a link http://familyencouragement.com/2015/03/11/complaining-affects-your-family/
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus.
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