The Danger of Complacency

Complaint I’ve recently been reading through the book of Numbers during my morning devotions.  Numbers is basically all about the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites as they make their way up to the promise land, refuse to enter, and are exiled to wander the desert for 40 years.

The nation of Israel was never a particularly happy group of people during these travels, but their unhappiness appears to ratchet up to a whole new level in chapter 11 of Numbers where we read:

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. – Numbers 11:1

Now, you would think that the Israelites would have learned that God is none to pleased with complacency from this incident alone, but the story goes on in verses 4-6.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving.  And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.  But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Despite everything that God had done for the nation, including saving them from the Egyptians who were slaughtering their children, parting the red sea, providing food in the midst of the desert, they still grumbled about their circumstances.  In verse 20 God summarizes why He is so upset with their complacency.  He says, “You have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, ‘Why did we come out of Egypt.’”  God is saying that their complacency was a direct rejection of Him.

This seems like something of an odd statement as the Israelites weren’t really saying anything directly about God.  They were complaining about their circumstances.  The fact that they didn’t like the food they were being served, etc.  At face value, their complaint was not necessarily a theological problem as much as a practical problem, yet God declares their complacency to be an outright rejection of Him.

So, what is going on here?  I believe that what the Lord is getting at in this passage is this: When we complain about our circumstances we are implicitly questioning the goodness of God.  Because God is absolutely sovereign over all things, when we complain/grumble about the circumstances that God has placed us in we question His goodness in placing us in whatever life-situation we are in.  That means that whenever I utter a complaint in private or in public about how hard it is to raise my kids, about how difficult it is to get along with my boss, or how much I wish that my church would do things differently, I am questioning the goodness of God. That certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek to have a good relationship with our boss, do a good job of parenting our kids, etc. but there’s a vast difference between improving my performance as a parent or an employee and simply grumbling about the things I don’t like in my life.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 provides an excellent example of how we should respond to the difficulties of life.  Habbakuk writes, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the field yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; i will take my joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

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March 22 2010 05:00 am | Devotional

One Response to “The Danger of Complacency”

  1. Heidi on 22 Mar 2010 at 11:00 am #

    I would love to know what God showed you in Leviticus. One of my proposed future book projects in this writing proposal is a series of devotional (arg!) books called “I Didn’t Know That was in There: 30 Days in Genesis…” “…in Exodus” “…in Leviticus” and so on. I LOVE the idea … except for the book of Leviticus. LOL! If someone goes for it, the theory is they will have spent a month in each book of the bible over a total of five and a half years. I LOVE the idea, frankly. 🙂 (or I wouldn’t dare to come up with it…). There is so much COOL STUFF in the Word of God that people remain unaware of…Anyhow, thanks for highlighting stuff from your time in Numbers. bob and I often joke about getting “three feet of quail” in response to our pleadings…I am sure you follow the reference! When we got our four horses we *really* got “3 feet of quail!” LOL!