Numbers 17-18

Stop Your Belly Aching.

“What will happen next is this: The staff of the man I choose will sprout. I’m going to put a stop to this endless grumbling by the People of Israel against you. – Numbers 17:5 MSG

The Israelites had become first-class, professional whiners. They could grumble with the best of them. Over and over again since the day they left Egypt, they had found reasons to complain – about everything from the food to the leadership of Moses. Most recently, it was God’s decision to only have the Levites serve as priests in the Tabernacle. God had given them the responsibility that was supposed to belong to the first-born male of every tribe. The Levites were to serve in their place. But the people decided they didn’t like this plan. So God destroyed those who led the rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Then God brought a plague against those who blamed Moses and Aaron for the deaths of their friends. Only Aaron offering an atoning sacrifice spared more people from dying that day.

In light of all the complaining, God comes up with a plan to bring it to a close once and for all. He knew that they were not done yet. It was just going to be a matter of time before the people got stirred up again about something. So God tells Moses to gather a rod, probably from an almond tree, from each tribe and write the name of the prince or head of each tribe should be written on the rod. These were then placed in the Tabernacle before the Lord. The next day Moses went in and discovered that only the rod with Aaron’s name on it had born fruit. Miraculously, overnight this barren rod had budded, blossomed, and born fruit. It had gone through an entire growth season in one evening. And it was just a rod, not planted in dirt or watered in any way. God clearly showed the people that He was picking Aaron and his sons to serve Him as priests. Case closed! No more reason to complain.

Or maybe not. Because immediately after this, the people crank up their whining again. This time it was about their physical well-being. They said, “We are as good as dead. Everyone who even comes close to the Tabernacle of the LORD dies. We are all doomed!” (Numbers 17:12-13 NLT). Instead of praising God for what He had just done with the almond rod, they were thinking about themselves. They were so busy pitying themselves, they had no time to think about the God in their midst.

But isn’t that what we do? We can get so consumed with our dissatisfaction with our lot in life that we fail to see the miracles of God taking place all around us. We whine and moan, and spend all our time grumbling to God that we never do see all that He is doing around us. Yet God patiently endures our rejection of Him. He continues to shower us with His grace and unmerited favor. We turn our backs on Him, but He never turns His back on us. He is faithful, even when we are unfaithful. He provides us with leadership, direction, sustenance, and everything we need to survive in this hostile environment. Yet we continually turn our backs on Him. Or worse yet, we end up fearing Him rather than feeling loved by Him. Like the Israelites, we live as if God is out to get us, not bless us. We view Him as a cosmic kill-joy, not a loving Father who wants to meet our every need in Christ. Sin is ultimately self-centered. It always has been. It ends up being all about me. And when I focus on me, I lose sight of Him.

Father, forgive me for all the times I complain and grumble, and fail to see the miracles You are doing all around me. Open my eyes that I might see You more clearly. Help me to better understand just how loving and kind You really are. I am surrounded by Your grace, but I tend to miss it because I focus too much on me. I want to make You the center of my life, my thoughts, and my day. To put You where You alone belong. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men