Exodus 15:22-27, 16:1-12
Don’t you remember?
Most people remember the story of how God saved the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. But do you remember how much they complained while he did it?
Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water.Exodus 15:22 NLT
Three days after seeing the entire Egyptian army get swallowed up and drowned in the Red Sea–which they had just marched through safely–the Israelites got thirsty.
Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded.Exodus 15:24 NLT
After finding only bitter water, Moses turned to God, who freshened the water up for them. Problem solved!
But it was still too early to shutter the complaint department. Less than one month later, they were at it again.
They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.Exodus 16:1-2 NLT
This time, they were hungry.
“If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”Exodus 16:3 NLT
So God gave them Manna every morning–kind of a honey-sweet flaky substance that could be baked into bread–and coveys of quail to kill and roast each evening. Problem solved!
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”Exodus 16:11-12 NLT
Why did the Israelites complain? Well, yes, they complained because they were hungry and thirsty. But there was more to it than that: they complained because they forgot who was taking care of them.
Then Moses added, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the Lord, not against us.”Exodus 16:8 NLT
Moses reminded them who was in charge–God. The Israelites had forgotten that He was the one who freed them from Egypt and that he was the one taking care of them. And this was only one month after it all happened!
How often are you like them? When your mom puts down a plate of food that’s not on your approved list, do you remember that she loves you and has cared for you since birth? When your friend says something that hurts your feelings, do you remember how they stuck up for you that time last summer?
What about when you obey God and step out in faith, only to be met with unexpected obstacles or setbacks? Do you remember that he never promised an easy time? Do you remember that he is in charge, and that he loves you? Do you remember all the blessings you have?
Before you start complaining, start remembering.
Questions for Group Discussion
- Why do you think the Israelites complained so much? Was it a cultural thing, a spiritual thing? What?
- Do you know someone who complains noticeably more than others? Why do you think they do that?
- When have you been called out for complaining? How can you keep from being a complainer?
Challenge: Complaint Department
You can do anything for a day, right?
This is a really simple challenge: all you have to do is wear a sign, hat or T-shirt that says “Complaint Department”, with the companion text “Tell me your problems, please”, and then actually stand by and listen to people’s complaints…for one day.
- Don’t try to solve anybody’s problems. Just listen.
- Offer advice only if asked for it.
- Write each complaint in a list.
At the end of the day, look at your list. How legitimate do the complaints seem, compared to how they were presented? Are the situations as serious as their owners made them sound? What does this say about your own complaints?