Numbers 14: 26-38††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††April 20, 2008



1)   A modern challenge: A pastor in Kansas City gave what seemed to be an impossible challenge to his congregation----to go for 21 days without complaining (the amount of time experts say it takes to develop a new habit). Special bracelets were distributed to the congregation as reminders of living complaint-free lives. A movement was started and millions of bracelets have been distributed all over the world.

2)   An ancient tragedy: Although exodus of the Israelis was initiated by God, the actual journey was never an easy one. To lead some 2 million people through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai to receive the Commandments and to enter Canaan called Promised Land was much less promising. One thing that characterized the process was the constant complaints by the Israelis again and again every step of the way. Numbers 14 was the final judgment God pronounced on these complain-for-everything people: they all would die in the wilderness, not allowed to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 14:29-30)



1)   Itís an aged old problem: Complaining is not something of the modern world it is as old as human history. Satan suggested to Eve that God was not fair to forbid her and Adam from eating the forbidden fruit. Without using words Eve expressed her complaint by action: ate what God said she shouldnít eat. When Cainís sacrifice was not accepted by God because he didnít do things right, Cain also expressed his complaint in action: he murdered his brother Abel. Complaints are protests by words or actions. It has been part of human history as well as individuals. I havenít met anyone who could tell me he has never complained.

2)   Most are pointless:Most complaints are pointless or irrational. Eve didnít have anything to complain against God: God was so generous to provide so many kinds of fruit for her and Adam. God only set limits on one of so many trees that they should not eat its fruit. Many people complain the same way: they ignore the many they have just to complain that one thing they donít. Cain was even worse. God told him the right way to live his life but he didnít want to do what was right. Instead he complained against God and his brother and eventually killed his brother.

3)   They are irritating: If you are familiar with the exodus story, the biggest thing that irritated God and Moses so much was the fact that the Israelis complained so much every step of the journey. In the books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, there were more than 20 places that recorded their complaints. Ignoring the fact that God had rescued them from the terrible treatment of the slave masters, poverty, persecution and the oppression in Egypt, they complained so much that triggered Godís wrath to pronounce His judgment in plagues and death. (Numbers 14:11-12, 29-30)

4)   Some are self-inflicted: Sometimes we complain on things we caused them to happen. Sarah complained to Abraham that Hagar despised her because Hagar had conceived and she could not. Sara forgot that it was she who suggested to Abraham to take Hagar as his second wife, to have a child so Sara could be built up (her name and reputation). If anyone complains that Israelis are under constant bombardment by the Arabs, we need to remember that Sarah had started this mess. She had mistreated Hagar so badly that Hagar fled to the wilderness where God pronounced His blessings on her son Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabs. (Genesis 16:1-13) Just as a car commercial says it well: ďYou asked for it, you got it.Ē Instead of complaining against others, you better examine yourself first.


ROOTS OF COMPLAINTS: Where do complaints come from?

1)   They come from bitter hearts: Almost all complaints come from bitter, unhappy, disgruntled hearts. Bitter and unhappy feelings of being unfairly mistreated generate complaints. Bitterness in the heart is the cause of many problems of life. Thatís why Paul encouraged Christians to get rid of bitterness from their hearts. ďGet rid of all bitterness and rage and angerÖĒ (Eph. 4:31) James 3:14 says, ďIf you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.Ē

2)   They come from distorted mind: Regardless of whatever complaint one may have, most of them come from a distorted, bias and unfair mind. Either we complain about our motherís cooking, the grades our teachers give us, the way our friends treated us or the unfair tax system in the nation, we donít know all the facts and reasons why things happen that way. Almost all complaints are very personal and subjective and bias and mostly unfair assessments. We have a distorted mind to see and evaluate the things we complain about, thatís why most of our complaints are irrelevant or inaccurate.

3)   They come from selfish intent: Most of our complaints, if not all, are from selfish intent or purpose. We never complain for the benefits of others. Employees complain about their wages or benefits they see as not fair or not enough. The middle child complains about the unfair attentions given to other siblings by his parents. Citizens complain too much tax, too few benefits from the government and the list goes on and on. We only focus on our well being and wants when we complain. Selfishness is the most divisive cause of many conflicts personal and/or others.

4)   They come from discontentment: Human desire has a problem: it is never enough no matter how much is already there. This is true in many areas of life: wealth, happiness, power, control, name and fame, just to list a few. The more is better belief has no end in sight. People complain not have enough in certain thing. Others complain they donít have all things they want. People who complain of not having enough disregard what they already have. They are never happy with their possessions but always look for more of the same or other things they still donít have. A discontented heart is never a happy heart. Paul warned those who never have enough, ďFor the love of money (or anything else) is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many kinds of grief.Ē (1 Timothy 6:10)



1)   Complain: a bad habit: As I mention earlier, there are over 20 times in the Pentateuch that the Israelis were good to complain. When they reached the wilderness, they complained about their need for water and food. When God gave them water from rocks and manna as food, they complained that they wanted meat. When God led them close to the Promised Land on the other side of the Jordan River, they complained about the giants in Jericho. When they were in Egypt, labored so hard under the cruelty of slave master, they cried to God for deliverance. Now that God led them out of the land of slavery, they complained and wanted to go back to Egypt and die there. (14:1-2)Complaining is a bad habit. People who are good in complaining will complain no matter where, what, who and how life is about. They can always find something to complain about.

2)   Complain: a contagious virus: If you are too close to people who complain all the time on everything, you will pick up their mindset and learn from them and start to complain like them. In the case of manna, it started with the rabble among the Israelis, then spread to all the Israelis. (11:4)Here in chapter 13 and 14, it all started with the bad reports of 10 of the 12 spies Moses sent to survey the land soon the whole people raised their voices and wept loud, grumbled and complained to Moses why did God lead them to die in the wilderness. Be very careful whom you follow in a crowd. Be even more careful in following those who complain everything.

3)   Complain: terrible consequence: All complaints bear consequences, especially those brought against God. In this case, God pronounced His judgment: everyone at the age of 20 and older who jointed in the complaining will die in the wilderness. They will not have the blessings of entering the Promised Land. They will wonder in the wilderness for 40 years until they all died as the punishment of their sins. Not many people believe that complaining is a sin but God says it is (14:33) and those who sin will suffer serious punish-ment. Be very careful next time you are close to complain.

4)   Complain: you donít have to: As bad and contagious as it is, you donít have to complain like others if you are strong in your faith in the Almighty God. Caleb and Joshua were among the spies, they saw what the other 10 spies saw but they did not follow the crowd to bring scare reports to people and caused them to complain. Instead, they stood their ground and encouraged the people to be strong and brave to conquer Jericho. God spared their lives and rewarded them with many blessings including position of leadership and land. Donít follow the crowd when the crowd is heading the wrong ways. Be strong to take a stand like Caleb and Joshua did. (13:30; 14:6-9)



1)    Put a stop to complain: We donít need a pastor or anyone to tell us that complaining is a bad habit. We also donít need a bracelet to remind us of that. Just look at the Bible and everyday life and we will understand that complaining gets nothing good from it. When things donít go the way they should or not your way, find a positive, civilized way to voice your opinion. Complaining, especially behind peopleís back, is not going to get anywhere.

2)    Begin with attitude: The attitude of complaining is mostly negative and negative attitude is poisonous at best and destructive at worst. We live in such a chaotic world and certainly there are many things we can complain about. But just think of the consequences of doing that, both to people and to God and you can see that we need to change our attitude and approach in expressing our opinion. Be positive, be direct, be gentle and be honest. Dip deep to the truths and facts before you open your mouth.

3)    Wait for God: There are things in life we donít like and donít know. But that doesnít mean our complaint will make them better. Trust God and His wisdom and timing. Wait for an answer from Him who is in control of everything including things in our lives. Remember Godís way is always the better way. Put your faith in Him and wait for His answers.