Published: August 19, 2023
Updated: November 4, 2023
As I sit down to write this week, we are finishing the harvest of our sweet corn. Sweet corn is a must have in our garden. It is perhaps my husband's favorite thing that we plant. This year I warned him that he probably wouldn't have any help with the planting and the hoeing. I remember saying that perhaps he should limit the amount he was going to plant--knowing that all would be on his shoulders and with his hoe! But my warning seemed to go unheeded. What he planted grew very well! He watched over his "corn field" with a touch of pride. It grew even without what we consider adequate rain. It was getting a God blessing despite an evil drought. We did wonder why we weren't receiving the rain that we normally get for our Iowa crops--both garden and field. But I haven't heard much grumbling.
When he discovered that the raccoons had decided the sweet corn was ready, it was time to build a raccoon fence! The corn was not planted for the raccoons! That also required assistance and I wasn't available! We were so happy that we had a son home and willing to help with the fence building! The crop was saved! Soon after that, harvest began. He happily picked and then we enjoyed many ears of corn with our daily meals. The time came when more had to be picked than we could eat. It was time to preserve for the future. Time to put our harvest in the freezer. It was time to pick, husk, blanch, cool, cut, and package up. After doing this for several days, I started to get tired of doing the same thing day after day after day. As we get older, parts of life seem to move slower--this corn preservation being one of those things. Though at times life seems to speed by and we wonder where the time has gone? We just know and are encouraged that we are getting closer to seeing Jesus--soon!
At any rate--I didn't exactly grumble but I was getting very tired of knowing each morning that I would have another large pail of corn to deal with.
Then I got to thinking about a familiar Bible story found in Exodus 16-17 where God provides even when we grumble/complain. Did you complain about something last week? Does complaining ever really get us anywhere? When we complain, it shows that our hearts are not grateful for the things we have. God wants us to have grateful hearts, and He also wants us to come to Him with our requests rather than grumbling when we don’t get our way. That doesn’t mean that God will always give us exactly what we want, but we can trust God to give us exactly what we need.
The story of the Israelites grumbling in the desert was a good example for me this week. Why were they in the desert? (God had rescued them out of Egypt.) God’s people had seen Him do amazing things, yet they still managed to find things to complain about. God was gracious to them and provided for them even though they were ungrateful. God worked many miracles in Egypt and had brought His people out of slavery. Once the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea they found themselves in the desert. I like to try to imagine traveling through that hot, dry desert.
Eventually the Israelites became hungry. They began to complain to Moses. Were the Israelites grateful for what God had done for them in the past? (No) Instead, they complained! God provided bread from heaven, which the people called manna. Manna is a word that means, “what is it?” God also provided quail for the people so they would have meat to eat.
Moses warned the people that when they grumbled, they were really grumbling against God Himself! God wants us to come to Him with our wants and needs, but when we complain, that shows that our hearts are not grateful for what He has already done for us. God wants us to have thankful hearts! We often grumble against Him thinking that He doesn’t care about us because we don’t always get our way. Instead of punishing our sin, God made a way for us to draw even closer to Him.
Wilderness and desert do not sound like a scenario for cooking--70% of the Bible story takes place in the wilderness. Creative Israeli cooks might have thought up a dish they could have called, “Quail a la manna.” Or in Hebrew fast-food tents, perhaps manna burgers. You could get your manna burgers with or without roast quail. The Hebrews were on a very long hike. They walked through the sea on dry land, while Pharaoh’s army was swallowed up in water. They celebrated with singing and dancing. But their euphoria quickly turned to complaint. The mob of ex-slaves pitched camp where the water was bitter. God sweetened the bitter water. The next stopping place was a desert oasis with springs, palm trees and blue skies. I wonder if today it would have had swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses, gourmet restaurants—sort of like a Middle Eastern Palm Springs. The oasis was everything tired hikers in the desert could ask for. But God didn’t let the Hebrews settle for long at the resort. God
made them move on, out into the Desert of Sin. What an ominous sounding name! And what a hard place the Desert of Sin was! Sun beat down with absolutely no shade to rest in. Water had to be rationed. And worst of all, no food! No food is really bad news! Pretty soon, from all corners of the camp, you could hear gripe leaders go into action. Instead of cheerleaders, the Hebrews could have had gripe leaders. Soon, a chorus of complaint became murmuring through the mob. “Where do our leaders think they’re taking us? We were at that wonderful place, Elim. Why couldn’t we stay there longer? Instead, we had to march out into this forsaken desert where there’s no shade, no water, no food.” Oh, the grumbles: “Man, remember what it was like in good old Egypt? Remember the meat and garlics and wonderful veggies of Egypt? It would have been better to die as slaves than starve free in the desert. Moses and Aaron have brought us out here to starve to death. Down with Moses and Aaron!”
It was only one month since the Hebrews saw God beat up on all the powers of Egypt with the 10 plagues. The greatest power in the world, but in a contest of power, God
won hands down. Only a month since the parting of the sea. Just a month since their great deliverance from Egypt. But one month was all it took to start the griping and groaning and grumbling.
For me, it was just over 1 week since our first ear of corn! And I wanted to grumble about my blessing!
God finally spoke through Moses. “All right! All right! I’ve heard your grumblings already!”
OK, what Moses actually said for God was: “He has heard your grumblings.” Three times in three verses: “He has heard your grumblings.”
Then, “If you want food, I’ll give you food.”
The next morning, the camp had heavy dew. When the dew dried, a flaky substance appeared on the desert floor. “Manna,” they said. Manna sounds like something a kid might say when some new food is on the table. “Manna! What is it?” And the name stuck—manna. Who knows what manna was really like? Maybe something like honey-sweetened Cheerios. Numbers says that when ground into flour and made into cakes, manna tasted like wafers made with honey or like cakes baked in oil. Instead of manna burgers, maybe they were manna scones. Whatever the taste, manna was God’s provision for hunger, sufficient and satisfying. It was the gift of a good God.
I suspect they had manna straight and manna toasted. They had manna cooked and manna plain, manna hotcakes, manna snacks and manna soufflé.” But if manna is all you get to eat, and if every day it’s the same menu exactly, you likely tire of it and forget what a wonderful blessing manna really is. Pretty soon, gripe leaders begin to stir up a chorus of complaints again. “Who can live on bread alone? Man, oh man, remember all the good grub back in Egypt? What wouldn’t we give for some fresh vegetables, even if it was broccoli!!” “Now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:6, TNIV). Finally, God said, basically, “You want meat, you’ll get meat! You’ll get meat ’til you’re sick of it. You’ll get meat ’til you can’t stand that either.” Suddenly--quails! Small birds brought into the camp by the east wind, flying low, roosting at night on the ground, easy to capture. In the morning, it was no sweat to swat a basketful of quail. Then, back to the tents and whatever Jewish mothers could make of a basketful of quail along with the ever-present manna. Quail was good for a while. People praised God for quail. But it wasn’t long before some began asking if they couldn’t just once have a veggie burger. Or what about some tasty lamb stew or even some leftover turkey and stuffing. But it was just quail, roast quail, quail with manna. And they start to grumble all over again. Why was it that the people of God grumbled? Why does anyone grumble? Very simply, we grumble because we forget.
Grumbling Is Forgetfulness! Grumbling for the Hebrews was forgetting how bad it was to be a slave in Egypt. Grumbling was forgetting how much they wanted out of there. Grumbling is forgetting the gracious acts of God to liberate us from bondage. Grumbling is forgetting God’s promise of a new land. Grumbling is taking our eyes off the hope offered by God’s promises. Grumbling can be selective forgetfulness—remembering only the good in the past and forgetting its trauma. This is longing for the good old days, forgetting the way it really used to be.
Grumbling is forgetfulness. When you don’t like a thing, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.” Grumbling is forgetting the blessing of life itself and of life’s simple benefits. Grumbling can become a habit of life. We can make a habit of ignoring or forgetting God’s goodness. Grumbling becomes a habit, a lifestyle of forgetting.
I was glad for the abundant harvest. I was tired of days of corn, eating it was not as enjoyable any longer! Definitely preparing it for the freezer was no longer fun. I was tired of it!!! And yet it still needed doing! I don't like to waste what God has provided! But I became a bit like the ungrateful desert wanderers. I was tired of corn, just as they were probably tired of the manna and quail. I know that I will appreciate it later but for now----I don't want to see another ear of corn! A tomato sandwich will be wonderful--until I have too many and get tired of them! I guess I am no better than the Israelites!!