ODJ: rabble babble

May 12, 2013 

READ: Numbers 11:1-15 

The foreign rabble who were travelling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain (v.4).

Many years ago I was counselling at a Christian camp when the programme staff began to struggle. Why? Some of the counsellors didn’t appreciate the way the director was leading, so they started to complain. As the complaints spread, more people joined in. By the end of the week the staff had become polarised and the whole camp had been affected by the tempestuous situation.

When we have to live or work with negative and complaining people, it can be draining and downright toxic. That’s part of why God challenged the people of ancient Israel on their complaining ways (Numbers 14:27). But a bigger reason was that His people were rejecting His leadership—they were rejecting Him.

So how did the complaining begin? Numbers 11:4 gives us a clue: “The foreign rabble who were travelling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt”. Soon “the people of Israel also began to complain”. The Israelites had been infected by the words of some foreigners who were merely tagging along on the journey—people whose rotten attitudes were spoiling the whole bunch! Even the leadership was getting worn down. Moses, tired of answering the people’s complaints, basically told God: Please end my life and put me out of this misery! (v.15).

Ultimately God lost patience with His whining, nontrusting, disobedient people and forced them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years (14:34). That’s some stiff punishment!

As we consider this account, it’s important to recognise the effect that complaining, ungrateful people can have on us (1 Corinthians 15:33). Be careful whose words you take to heart. If people close to you aren’t edifying and motivating you with the truth of God and His goodness, it may be time to leave the rabble behind.—Tom Felten

Read 1 John 4:1 to see why it’s possible to be affected by the words of those who claim to be believers in Jesus.
Why is complaining such an abomination to God? How have you been affected by negative, complaining people? What can you do about it?