Moses said, “[This will happen] when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the LORD hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him. And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD.”
Moses had done as God instructed. He had gone before Pharaoh and said what he was told to say. He had announced the signs he was told to announce. He had done what he was told in parting the Red Sea. He had led the Israelites in a song of praise to the Lord, giving God glory for removing all threat of Pharaoh from them forever. He had done what God told how God had told him to do it. Now, three days into the wilderness, Israel complains against Moses and Aaron saying that they, those two guys, brought all of them out into the wilderness to die. So, I have three principles of Christian service that I’m pulling from today’s verse and the context leading into it.
Principle 1: Even the greatest move of God will contain whiners. It’s inevitable. The reason for this is simple: we’re all whiners about something. Moses doesn’t sugar coat things or let the Israelites keep on grumbling. Oh, no. He calls them out. He tells them, “Look, God is going to take care of your complaint, but—when that happens—remember that I’m not the dude who brought you anywhere for any reason. God sent me to do this. So that complaint of yours? Against God.” Which brings me to…
Principle 2: When I’m doing God’s work in God’s way on God’s timetable and people are still griping, their beef is with God and not with me. Years back, I was an overseer for a youth ministry and people griped about me planning a retreat for the youth. They griped about how I was too young to be trusted with the youth (I was in my early 20s at the time). They griped about how I couldn’t be trusted with the other youth leaders going on the trip (bunch of single ladies also in their early 20s). They griped and griped and griped until their complaints reached the youth pastor who was over me. He and his wife came on the trip and all the gripers subsided into silence. Meanwhile, I decided I was done. I was young and hadn’t gotten anywhere near a full understanding of the fact that the gripes weren’t really with me. The youth came back saying that the retreat was the best they’d ever been on. Some of them talked about it for years afterward. Totally God’s doing. The youth were blessed like crazy and everyone came away content. Except me. I hadn’t realized that all the griping about me being too young or untrustworthy or whatever had nothing to do with me and everything to do with someone complaining about how God had chosen to work. These days, I try to shrug off the complaints (they’re still there) about how things do or do not get done, so long as I am fully convinced that the ministry is doing what God wants when God wants it done and how God wants it done.
Principle 3: I am not important to the work. It’s true. We praise Moses as being this awesome man of God, and he is, but Moses is so awesome because he has a firm grasp on this concept: the servant is not the important component in the work. I serve with youth again these days and I’ve noticed that God will move people into and out of ministries as pleases Him. At the time of the previous story about overseeing a youth ministry, I didn’t think I was qualified to oversee anything (still don’t think I’m qualified), but I watched as God did amazing things in and through that ministry. Having seen the ministry flourish without me even being a helper is a reminder that the servant is not relevant to the work. God can use anyone He wants to get the job done. John the Baptist said God could raise up children for Abraham from stones. Jesus said the servant is not greater than the Master. And when Isaiah met the Lord, the question was not, “Do you think Isaiah’s willing to go do what We want done?” but “Who will go for Us? And whom shall I send?” God does not need me to get His work done. He could probably get it done faster and better without me. But God chooses to allow me to be a part of what He’s doing, just as a father lets his children “help” him do things that would be done faster without them. Am I important to God? Absolutely. I’m valuable enough for Him to die for. But that does not mean He needs me to do anything in order to accomplish His goals.
Summary: (1) Every move and ministry of God will include whiners, because it includes people. (2) When God’s work is done God’s way in God’s time, all complaints are against Him and His program. (3) The servant is not the vital component of the work.
God, thank You for this reminder. I know You’ve walked me through this lesson before and this reading; this reminder make me wonder if another round of applying this lesson is on the horizon. If so, please enable me to come through still serving You and not worrying about people’s complaints about what You’re doing. You don’t need me to defend You.