If you feel like grumbling, there’s plenty to grouse about these days – the seemingly unending cost of war, the economic freefall of the past few weeks, the meanness in the political campaigns. To say nothing of the way we Christians wrangle with each other.
Sadly, grumbling is a spiritual virus not so rare among God’s people. “Grumblers” could well describe the Hebrews after they escaped slavery in Egypt.
They grumbled against Moses and Aaron for taking them into the desert “to starve” when they could have stayed in Egypt and had lots to eat. (See the story in Exodus 16 NIV, where the word “grumbling” appears seven times in twelve verses). So quickly they forgot how rough it had been to be slaves – and how God had set them free.
But what is striking to me is the Lord’s reaction. Moses tells them: “In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him.”
Because of their grumbling, God would show his glory! I would have thought that “because” of their grumbling the Lord would wash his hands of them. Instead he uses it to show what they needed to see: his glory. Imagine that!
I find hard to imagine what they did see in the morning as they looked toward the desert and “There was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.” Only an artist with the imagination of a William Blake could even try to depict what that cloud looked like.
But then the Lord went even further and promised that because he heard the grumbling there would be meat every evening (in the form of quail) and bread every morning (the manna) – enough for each one.
Here’s what I’d like to do. Every time I start to grumble, I want to stop. To look long enough to see God’s glory in a cloud or the colors of fall. And then to give thanks for those gifts – enough bread and meat – that in spite of my grumbling come each day.
Perhaps grumbling would give way to gratitude.