“And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!’” (Numbers 14:2)
After spending quite a few months at Mount Sinai, where God gave His laws to Moses, the Israelites were finally ready to enter the land God had promised them. But before they went in, they first sent twelve spies to scout out the land so they could see just what their new home would be like. All twelve brought back favorable reports—the land was good and fruitful, and it would be a beautiful place to live. But only two of them thought they could actually conquer the land. The other ten were afraid, claiming that the current inhabitants were just too big and strong for them to subdue. This threw everyone else into a panic. They began to rage against Moses, mourning that it would have been better for them to just die in the wilderness than to be killed in this new land.
What they probably weren’t counting on was that God would hear their complaints. But He heard every word they spoke against Him, against Moses, against the land He said He would give them. And He also heard their wishes that they had died in the wilderness. So that’s exactly what He gave them. Instead of leading them to conquer the land, God sentenced them to forty years of wandering in the wilderness, a year for every day the spies had been gone. They wouldn’t return until the unbelieving generation—everyone twenty years old and up—had died. This was what they wished for; this was what God gave them.
When things go wrong for us, we often don’t think about the consequences of our complaints. All we think about is what we want and how upset we are that we’re not getting it now. We never stop to take into account what God wants. But it’s God Who knows what we need. When something doesn’t happen the way we would like, it’s because God has something even better in mind. The Israelites wanted to just waltz into the Promised Land and settle down without any trouble whatsoever; but if they had been listening earlier, they would have realized that God had a better idea. They would drive the people away slowly, over a period of several years, so that the land would still be fertile and prosperous when the Israelites were finally able to settle it. But they were so consumed with themselves and their own wants that they missed God’s plan.
God knows what He’s doing. But unfortunately, we often refuse to accept that. Sometimes, the only way we’ll understand it is when God finally gives us what we want—that bad thing that will hurt us in the long run. Again, He knows what He’s doing. Complaining about His plan tells Him that we don’t think He does. His plan is best; but if we wish for something else, He just might give it to us. The Israelites, by their own request, died in the wilderness. We have to consider our own lives, too; are we also rebelling against God’s plan? What horrible things might we be wishing for?