Numbers 11:10–23 says this:
Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the Lord blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’” But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”
In Numbers 11, God’s people turn on God and turn on the man who leads them. They have been the beneficiaries of God’s miraculous deliverance in the past, but the present circumstances have made that a distant memory. They’ve been wandering in the desert with nothing but manna to eat for months. Life wasn’t that great when they were slaves in Egypt, but it has gotten harder, not better, since they chose to follow God. They’ve had enough. The whole camp rebels; every family cries out, “Can’t we just have some meat to eat?!”
What does God’s leader do when he’s tried to be faithful but finds himself failing? Moses is a strong, Spirit-filled, experienced, and competent leader. So, what does he do? He does what most of us would do . . . he complains! He asks God “Why?” and accuses him of unfairness, of choosing the wrong man for the job, and of asking too much. He says to God, “If this is how you are going to treat me, I quit!”
When You Find Yourself Failing
How does the God of the Bible respond to our failures and frustrations? He doesn’t respond like a human—he responds with grace. He gives Moses the help he needs to press on and fulfill his calling. He promises his very own presence and his very own word, saying “I will come down and speak with you.” He promises the “power of the Spirit” to give strength and friends to step in and help carry the burden. God’s presence. God’s Word. God’s Spirit. God’s people. You have what you need, Moses. You are not alone in this.
“Yeah, but the task is still impossible!” Moses replies. And then comes the final grace-filled promise from God: “Is the LORD’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” Nothing is impossible with God, and oftentimes he puts us in impossible situations so that we learn that he is faithful and what he says is true.
If you are a failing pastor, a failing boss, a failing mom, or feel like a failure of any kind, this word should encourage you. God is not a man. He doesn’t get discouraged when things are tough; he doesn’t despair when our hope wanes. The circumstances that reveal our inadequacies are simply platforms for God to show his love, power, and faithfulness. He does not condemn us when we feel like failures, for there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He is for us, not against us. God promises his presence, his Word, his Spirit, and his people to carry us through when we want to quit. Nothing will separate us from his love, and he will show himself faithful.
So, the next time Satan throws your failures in your face, don’t despair like the Moses of Numbers 11, but listen to the Moses of Exodus 14: “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you . . . The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exod. 14:14).