Complaints and Opposition

Wednesday: Moses’ Complaint: Numbers 12:3

Numbers 12:3 In this week’s studies, we learn important lessons about how Moses dealt with complaints from the people and opposition from his own family.
Moses’ Complaint

Starting in verses 10 and following of Numbers 11, we come to something that is not a very attractive moment in Moses’ life. Moses gives vent to his frustration in a long, angry prayer. It’s surprising to find it here, because in the very next chapter he is going to be described as the meekest man who ever lived. Meek? Yes, he really was. But here in this prayer he really expresses his frustration as he is complaining bitterly to God:

Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, “Give us meat to eat!” I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin. (Num. 11:11-15) 

Now we may find complaint with that prayer. We might say, quite rightly, “That’s no way to talk to God!” After all, Moses is complaining to God about the people’s complaining. It’s not the kind of prayer a Presbyterian would pray, at least in church on Sunday morning.

But God doesn’t criticize him. God understands exactly what Moses is going through. Moses really is trying to carry the burden of all those people on his shoulder. You ask any pastor how easy it is to deal with a church of a hundred, and he will tell you there are lots of problems there. There are always problems, even with those who follow God, and here’s Moses trying to deal with two million of them. No wonder he felt a burden and said to the Lord, “I can’t handle this anymore, I would rather die. As a matter of fact, if you like me, take me home to glory right now.” 

Now it does remind you of other people in the Bible, doesn’t it? It makes you think of Elijah out under the broom tree, telling the Lord that he’s had enough and would rather the Lord take his life, and that he is no better than his ancestors. What he meant was that he was no stronger than anybody else. He was just a human being and can’t handle this. He’s done the best he can, and had been driven out and was being hunted down to be killed. Now what did God do? He gave him a helper, Elisha. What does the Lord do with Moses? He gives Moses helpers. 

When the burden seems too great, come to God with it, because God understands our burdens. He takes our burdens upon himself. Jesus Christ lived here and knew the kind of burdens that you and I bear. If you have a burden, you just take it to God and what you’ll find is that He will provide helpers, if you are not able to bear it. Sometimes we are able, and He wants us to be strengthened by the kind of things we go through. But if it really is an intolerable burden producing this kind of frustration, God will provide a helper.

This is what He does. He provides seventy elders and He sends His spirit upon them so that they begin to prophesy. And then not only does He do that, He provides quail—the meat for which the people are asking. At first, Moses doubts that God can do that. He asks how God can provide so much meat. It’s like the disciples when they were with Jesus, and the people were listening to His teaching all day. It came time for dinner and they had five loaves and a couple of little fish. They asked, “…but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9). They had no appreciation of the ability of the Lord Jesus Christ to multiply the loaves and the fish. 

Moses, it seems, in spite of his great faith and his leadership ability, really is questioning whether God can provide the quail. Well, God does. The only thing is that it turns out to be a judgment on the people because God is angry with them for their complaining. And so they get what they want. But not only do they get what they want, they get more of what they want than they want. And the Lord sent a plague upon them. 

Study Questions
  • In Moses’ frustration, what does he say in his prayer to the Lord?
  • How does the Lord answer Moses’ prayer?

Application: Are you dealing with a heavy burden and are despairing of how long you can carry it? Take your burden to the Lord and leave it with Him. Ask Him to help you by providing what you need for relief.

Key Point: When the burden seems too great, come to God with it, because God understands our burdens. He takes our burdens upon himself.

For Further Study: Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Dealing with Opposition, Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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