They forgot the wilderness was not their home. About a year earlier, the Lord God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. For a year he sustained them before Mount Sinai, providing them with what they needed to survive. The journey had been difficult since leaving Egypt. They left in a rush, with little time to pack. They were chased by Pharaoh’s army. Now the journey was starting to get too long and too arduous.
Water and food for a convoy of no less than one million people did not come easily in the wilderness. Yet, God provided something amazing, a substance called manna. Far from being boring, manna was pleasing to the eyes. It could be used in a variety of recipes. It could be prepared deliciously into something that tasted of pastry made with fine oil. Though some scholars hypothesize that it was produced by natural means, the sheer quantity and clock-like regularity by which it came can only be explained as a mighty act of God. (Numbers 11:7-9)
Despite this wonderous provision of Manna, the Israelites began to grumble and complain when the journey was getting too long. Specifically, at a place that became known as Kibroth Hattaavah (meaning Graves of Craving), they complained about the food (Numbers 11:4-6).
Their complaining robbed them of their joy. The Israelites began to look back at slavery in Egypt as the good old days – can you imagine longing to return to grueling, murderous slavery? We too can grumble about God’s provisions, when we complain that the old job is better than the new or that life was better before marriage or kids or that life was more meaningful before I retired. Complaining often distorts our view of the past and robs us of enjoying God’s blessing in the present.
You might say, “What about if life really was better in the past and the present really is miserable?” Complaining also robs us of hope. The wilderness was not their home. Our wildernesses are not our homes either. God has provided for us a better manna, Jesus Christ, the Bread from Heaven (John 6:35-40). No matter how difficult the wilderness journey gets, Jesus promises us life to the fullest – even amidst our afflictions – and a life free of suffering in the future. Let us not spurn the Lord’s provision, but let us grab hold of him and count ourselves blessed.