“And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.”
The children of Israel were guilty, on numerous occasions, of displeasing the Lord. In this example, “when the people complained, it displeased the LORD.” Their complaining angered God. They complained about the general difficulty of the journey, the presence of giants in Canaan, the lack of food or water, the absence of Moses when he was away seeking God, etc. Complaining sometimes brought God’s chastening hand against His people. Most people would not consider complaining to be a serious sin, but when “the LORD heard it; . . . his anger was kindled.”
We all have, at some time or another, been guilty of complaining. Why would complaining so displease the Lord? For one thing, those who are complaining have usually been blinded to the wonderful things that God has done or is doing. God had delivered these people from their Egyptian slavery and given them hope and promise for the future, but those realities were momentarily forgotten. Having forgotten God’s great blessings, they focused on their present lack, and the result was complaining.
Complaining also indicates a lack of contentment with God and His will. From a prison where Paul was rejoicing, he wrote that we are to be content with the basic necessities of life. Not only is complaining an expression of personal discontent, it also helps to spread discontentment. Complaining discourages others and affects their attitudes and spiritual growth. Just as a grateful spirit can be contagious, a grumbling spirit can be infectious.
Complaining demonstrates a lack of trust in God. God is trustworthy and He wants us to trust Him. He consistently met the needs of these Israelites by providing them with manna and water out of the rock, and by destroying their enemies.
To complain is to forget all the ways God has guided and provided in the past and to assume that He has somehow become incapable of supplying now. Complaining is a serious sin and must be taken seriously. It displeased the Lord then, and we can be sure that it displeases Him now. Let us purpose to develop and maintain a positive attitude, free from complaining.