There’s an old adage that goes like this – “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” I’ve seen the truth of this demonstrated many times in my own life and in the life of others. I see it also in Numbers 11.
The people of Israel have just been miraculously delivered from 400 years of slavery in Egypt. This group of people has never experienced freedom, but only the oppressive rule of Pharoah. Throughout the time of their captivity, they cried out to God for deliverance. He heard them and sent Moses. Now they are free.
It’s hard to imagine what that must have felt like. It seems as though the emotions would have been overpowering at times, especially as they witnessed the mighty power of God displayed on their behalf.
But after a year, the newness of freedom has worn off. Manna from heaven is no longer quite so wonderful. And the complaining begins. Dissatisfied with what God has provided they listen to the voice of discontentment and make it their own. But discontentment is a liar.
Discontentment lies about the past – “we remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” (Num. 11:5) Discontentment’s selective memory seems to have forgotten the bitter slavery, harsh taskmasters and forced murder of their children. It paints a picture of the past that appears very appealing and then casts it before our eyes that we might gaze longingly upon it.
Discontentment lies about the present – “but now our whole being is dried up…” (Num 11:6). Discontentment will always exaggerate the present difficulty, convincing you that it is unbearable and unreasonable to expect you to tolerate it. Discontentment will convince you that you are a victim of circumstances, one unfairly treated, deserving so much better than what you have received.
Discontentment lies about the future – “who will give us meat to eat?” (Num 11:4). The question implies that there is a fear that since they do not currently have meat, they will never have meat. Discontentment always seeks that thing that it does not currently have and grumbles because it sees no means to acquire it.
Complaining, grumbling and murmuring are the companions of discontentment. Where you find one, you will inevitably find the others. There are a sneaky lot, and can come upon us stealthily. But by the words of our mouth we can know if we have been caught in their net.
While discontentment may not be frowned upon in the world, it is most certainly frowned upon by God. Numbers 11:1 says that “the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused.”
Our heavenly Father graciously allows us to ask Him for the things that we need. He even allows us to ask for things that we desire. But when all the asking is done, He expects that we will gladly receive what He judges best to give, with contentment.
We can safely be content, knowing that we have such a good Father who always gives us exactly what we need.