Complaining against God

God punished the Israelites for grumbling

Num 11:1  And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes; and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.

The Israelites began to complain about the lack of meat. They started to lust after the Egyptian food they had left behind and demanded that God give them meat. Somehow they forgot about the brutal slavery that the Lord had set them free.

Num 11:4-6  Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving; and the people of Israel also wept again, and said, "O that we had meat to eat!  (5)  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;  (6)  but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at."

God gave them what they asked for, but they paid dearly for it. He sent quail; but as the people began to eat, God struck them with a plague that killed many.

Num 11:31-34  And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and it brought quails from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth.  (32)  And the people rose all that day, and all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quails; he who gathered least gathered ten homers; and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.  (33)  While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.  (34)  Therefore the name of that place was called Kib'roth-hatta'avah, because there they buried the people who had the craving.

Are we allowed to grumble?

When we determine whether or not it is right to complain to God, we need to look at our attitude. For example, look at the incident below.

Num 11:1  And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes; and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.

The Lord wanted to bring the Israelites to a better land, to have a better life but they were complaining about their misfortunes.

Exo 16:1-3  They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.  (2)  And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,  (3)  and said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger." 

Exo 17:1-3  All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the LORD, and camped at Reph'idim; but there was no water for the people to drink.  (2)  Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." And Moses said to them, "Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put the LORD to the proof?"  (3)  But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?"

The Lord had the good of the Israelites in mind but the people declared that the Lord had wanted to bring them out from a good place – Egypt – so that He could kill them all in the wilderness.

Have you ever noticed that we tend to complain to people who are closed to us rather than people we hardly know? This is because we feel that the ones that are close to us will understand what we are going through and we are not afraid to reveal our true feelings to them. If that is the case, why don’t we feel comfortable complaining to God? If we are to be close to God, He should be the One that we should express our true feelings to most often. Furthermore, God already knows what we’re thinking and we can’t hide anything from Him anyway.

Throughout the Bible we see that the people who are walking close to God complained to God and expressed their candid feelings to Him.

Are we allowed to complain at all?

Hab 1:2-5  O LORD, how long must I call for help before you listen, before you save us from violence?  (3)  Why do you make me see such trouble? How can you stand to look on such wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are all around me, and there is fighting and quarreling everywhere.  (4)  The law is weak and useless, and justice is never done. Evil people get the better of the righteous, and so justice is perverted.  (5)  Then the LORD said to his people, "Keep watching the nations around you, and you will be astonished at what you see. I am going to do something that you will not believe when you hear about it.

Habukkuk was one person who complained to the Lord. But the attitude behind the complain is important. Unlike the Israelites, he is not saying that God has been bad. He is complaining to God and asking Him why despite being a holy God, He does not come immediately to right the injustice He sees in the world around him.

King David was another man who complained to God. He has no negative feelings towards God as can be seen from his declaration of praise in verse 3 and 4. Yet he could not understand why God would abandon him and allow him to go through such a long period of trial.

Psa 22:1-5  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? I have cried desperately for help, but still it does not come.  (2)  During the day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer; I call at night, but get no rest.  (3)  But you are enthroned as the Holy One, the one whom Israel praises.  (4)  Our ancestors put their trust in you; they trusted you, and you saved them.  (5)  They called to you and escaped from danger; they trusted you and were not disappointed.

“Man born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.” Job 14:1 NIV

Job complained and questioned why God allowed terribly bad things to happen to him when he had lived a virtuous life. Even though he complained, Job never quit doing good and he never turned against God. In fact, Job said:

“Though he slay me yet will I trust him.” Job 13:15 KJV

While Job continued to trust God, he wanted to plead has case before God himself. He wanted to ask God, “Why?”

If I only knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. Job 23:3, 4 NIV