Scripture: “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.” Numbers 11:14 ESV
Observation: No sooner had Israel set out from Sinai toward the Promised Land than the people “complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes” (11:1). Arousing the righteous anger of the Lord, Yahweh places a ring of fire around the outlying parts of the camp (11:1), likely ignited by lightning to display his power (as he did for Elijah’s showdown against the prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 18:38). Consumed with fear, the people cry out to Moses, who then intercedes to the Lord, who relents.
With the crisis not long over, Israel lodges a new complaint regarding the lack of meat in their nomadic diet and harkens to the good old days in Egypt, again inciting the Lord’s anger (11:4-10). Understandably, at this point, Moses’ patience runs thin, and he expresses his displeasure to the Lord in having to lead this nation consumed in self-pity, for the burden is too heavy for him (11:14a above). If he had stopped there, Moses would have done well. Instead, Moses childishly contends with Yahweh to kill him if this dynamic continues without relief (11:14b above). Israel’s long-suffering Lord then reassuringly directs Moses to appoint seventy elders to share his burden (11:16).
Takeaway: There is an element of irony in this story. Moses complains to the Lord about the childish behavior of God’s people and proceeds to make a juvenile plea to take his life if things do not improve. But are we any better? Constant complaints and demands wear our patience thin. And at some point, if no relief is in sight, we too may fall into the trap of self-pity and harbor morbid feelings.
So how then do we resist self-pity and find relief? The first half of verse 14 provides the foundation: pray to the Lord. The hard part, though, is waiting for a response. Indeed, when others gnaw at our patience, it’s challenging to find rest for our souls and quiet our minds to hear from God. Hence, this is where the community of believers can help. While stress triggers the hypothalamus to send distress signals to the adrenal glands that move us toward a fight or flight response and consequently shut down our ability to reason, others (far enough removed from our circumstances) can offer rational, godly insights.
Thus, we would do well to swallow our pride, turn to the Lord and admit we need help, and then seek prayer support and guidance from trusted believers. Indeed, Jethro earlier provided leadership advice that lightened Moses’ burden (Exodus 18). Here, Yahweh graciously speaks audibly to Moses, shortening the response time. For us? We have the aid of the Holy Spirit along with the body of Christ. And when both intercede on our behalf (Romans 8:26-26; James 5:16), help is soon on the way, for the Lord will provide relief in due time (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the gift of your Son who, before his arrest and crucifixion, sought relief from you in prayer and resisted self-pity. Would you please help us follow his example and draw near to you in humble prayer and seek the support of trusted believers? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling