From Henry Neufeld (Scripture is from his own translation)
3And the Israelites said to them [Moses and Aaron], â€œOh that we had died by YHWHâ€™s hand in Egypt, where we sat by cauldrons of boiling meat and ate bread until we were satisfied!â€ For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!â€Â Â â€” Exodus 16:3 (HN)
There are just so many things one could say about that text! Unfortunately I not only hear the voices of my neighbors and my fellow church members in that chorusâ€”I hear my own voice.
â€œWhy, God, have you called me here? Life was so much easier when ________.â€ You fill in the blank for yourself.
What can get quite humorous is when those of us in church leadership get together and start talking about whatâ€™s wrong with our lives, one of the things weâ€™re certain to complain about is, well, how much people complain! Thereâ€™s something paradoxical about complaining about how much other people complain.
But look again at the text. What the Israelites are wishing is that God would have killed them in Egypt. Better to be struck down by God than to starve to death following him out in this wilderness.
Thatâ€™s the problem with delivering people. We may not like where we are now, but as soon as we move on, weâ€™re going to forget the problems of the past and remember all the better points. In the present weâ€™re likely to forget the good things and remember all the bad ones.
The Israelites remembered pots of boiling meat and enough bread to eat. They forgot the taskmasters, the beatings, the work quotas that were too large, and the fact that they couldnâ€™t move on. Supposing God had struck some of them down. Can you imagine the complaints of unfairness?
â€œHere we are, getting whipped and beaten, and all we have to eat is this lousy bread, and the boiled meat is pretty tasteless. God lets us be tormented and then he strikes us down. It would be better to take us out into the wilderness where we could die of hunger — at least nobody would beat us! Instead God strikes us down here!â€
Complainers donâ€™t get satisfied. They canâ€™t be delivered, because they take their bondage right along with them. Thereâ€™s always something. First thereâ€™s no carpet in the church, then the new carpet is the wrong color. If the Bishop sends a new pastor, heâ€™s disrupting the ministries of the church that were just beginning to stabilize and grow. If he leaves the pastor there, heâ€™s just letting things get stuck in a rut. How can we grow if we donâ€™t get some new blood in the leadership?
Being a complainer, however, is pretty human. I think weâ€™re all there at one time or another. But God is in the deliverance business and heâ€™s going to try to deliver us even from our complaints, if weâ€™ll let him.
The Israelites wondered why they couldnâ€™t just go straight to Canaan. Weâ€™ve been delivered, why not follow the straight road and get where weâ€™re going? But God realizes that we take who we are along with us, and he has to get us to drop off all that garbage along the way.
You can take the person out of Egypt, but itâ€™s much harder to take Egypt out of the person!
I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that God is going to make us take the journey of deliverance, to get Egypt out of us, just like he did the Israelites. The good news is that God is going to make us take the journey of deliverance, to get Egypt out of us, just like he did the Israelites.
We might as well get used to it. Now please notice that Iâ€™m not saying God is calling us to a life of misery. God is quite willing to get us out of misery, provided we will let him get the misery out of us.
I can look around me and see many, many things for which I thank God. If I choose to think about them I can be happy. I can find dozens of things to complain about or worry about. If I do that, I can be miserable. Even more important, that complaining and misery will not accomplish one single thing to make any of those things better. Jesus says worry wonâ€™t add time to our lives. Neither will complaining. It wonâ€™t solve our financial problems, make our families happier, build up our churches, or improve the weather.
All it does is make us more miserable.
Oh that God had slain us in Egypt? Rather, let God slay the Egypt in us!