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. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them. Numbers 11:1-3, ESV.
The people complain and God hears their grumbling. “His anger is kindled” and He responds in judgment. Moses prays to God for the people and the judgment ends. Though the situation seems pretty straightforward, there are three timeless truths to consider.
First, complaining from the people of God is a wrath-worthy sin. It is a rebellious expression of dissatisfaction with God. We are presented with this reality before we are even told what the people are complaining about. The specifics are not important. Complaining, in and of itself, is sin. This was true for Israel and it is true for the church. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:14-15).
Second, intercessory prayer bears fruit. Moses prayed and the judgment was brought to a halt. We may not always see immediate fruit the way Moses did, but we are told to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16).
Third, God is and always has been a God of mercy. The people sinned against a perfectly holy God. Moses’s prayer resulted in an end to judgment, but not because either the punishment they had suffered or Moses’s good deed of prayer balanced the scales of justice. Justice does not work that way. This passage portrays the mercy of God. “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).
I pray that today you will live satisfied with the provision of God, praying for one another, and relying on God’s grace.