The Sin of Complaining
30 May 2017 Year A
Do you know that person who is always complaining? Whether it is about change, or a policy, or a political position, or a problem they are dealing with. They only wish to spew negativity out into the world.
Here we see the Israelites complain because they blamed Moses and Aaron for the deaths of people who were disobedient to God. A rebellion had erupted over the legitimacy of Moses’ leadership.
“The next day the entire Israelite community complained about Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the Lord’s people!”” (Numbers 16:41, HCSB)
Can you imagine the kind of day Moses and Aaron were having at work?
“Hey, your God killed my friend. He was only trying to worship him in the way that he wanted. What’s wrong with you and your God? Doesn’t God care about His people?”
I’d think I would want to quit after hearing that criticism. So Moses and Aaron turn to God for help (Numbers 16:42-44).
“When the community assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting, and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the Lord’s glory appeared. Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord said to Moses,” (Numbers 16:42–44, HCSB)
God’s not happy with the way His people have been complaining about Him. God takes it personally (Numbers 16:45).
““Get away from this community so that I may consume them instantly.” But they fell facedown.” (Numbers 16:45, HCSB)
He’s angry at their grumbling. He’s upset that they won’t listen to Him. You’d be just as furious if you kept giving instruction to people and they never seem to listen to what you say. Instead of listening, they complain. That would make you irritated.
So I guess God’s got a point. He takes His anger out on His people by releasing a plague. One might say that starting a plague that kills people is an extreme way of punishing. Yet, the fact is that God has the right to do that.
Moses and Aaron both know that God cares for His people. Yet, He must also punish their sin. Therefore, the two leaders spring into action. They both see what is causing the plague and so they decide to intervene (Numbers 16:45-46).
““Get away from this community so that I may consume them instantly.” But they fell facedown. Then Moses told Aaron, “Take your firepan, place fire from the altar in it, and add incense. Go quickly to the community and make atonement for them, because wrath has come from the Lord; the plague has begun.”” (Numbers 16:45–46, HCSB)
Aaron makes atonement for the people’s sin – the sin of complaining (Numbers 16:47).
“So Aaron took his firepan as Moses had ordered, ran into the middle of the assembly, and saw that the plague had begun among the people. After he added incense, he made atonement for the people.” (Numbers 16:47, HCSB)
Aaron’s intercessory prayer halted the plague – it halted God’s continued judgment for sin (Numbers 16:48).
“He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was halted.” (Numbers 16:48, HCSB)
Yet, the sin rebellion and complaining exacted a toll on the community (Numbers 16:49).
“But those who died from the plague numbered 14,700, in addition to those who died because of the Korah incident.” (Numbers 16:49, HCSB)
Aaron and Moses return, but both sins left a devastating effect (Numbers 16:50).
“Aaron then returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, since the plague had been halted.” (Numbers 16:50, HCSB)
Unfortunately, it’s easy to complain. But it can have devastating effects on other people. It might not cause you to be infected by a plague or disease. But complaining cause others problems. It can strain relationships. It can hurt your leaders’ effectiveness or cause division that hurts the warmth of a community.
However, one can learn to stop complaining. It takes work to remind yourself that you don’t need to see the negative in everything. We have to go from being a complaining people to being a caring people – because that is what God calls us to be to as Christians.