Avoiding Taberah

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Taberah was the name given an encampment in western Paran where God judged Israel for their grumbling (Numbers 11:1-3). Taberah means “a burning” because it was there that “the fire of the LORD burned among them.”

The nation of Israel was finally on their way to the Promised Land after four centuries in Egyptian bondage. They had walked through the Red Sea on dry land. The representation of God’s visible presence in the cloud and the pillar of fire over the Tabernacle was leading them. God’s dynamic, handpicked leader, Moses, was filling his role, directing their way as God led.

Despite all these blessings, the people complained continually. Israel griped about a lack of water (Exodus 15) and a lack of food (Exodus 16). Though God gave them bread from heaven (Numbers 11:8, 9), they whined that they had no meat to eat (verse 4). Moses made it clear that: “Your grumblings are not against us but against the LORD” (Exodus 16:8). Because of the constant murmuring, God judged them and many died.

Unfortunately the complaining did not cease even after the judgment of God burned at Taberah. Numbers 11:5 reveals the mixed multitude spread that bitter, ungrateful spirit, by lusting for by-gone days in Egypt. These discontented people recalled the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic they had enjoyed in Egypt; but conveniently forgot the cruelty, humiliation, pain and deprivations of their centuries of slavery.

 The biblical principle underlying this lesson is that God hates when His people are ungrateful, unthankful and filled with complaints. With all the reasons the people of Israel had to be thankful and rejoice in God’s goodness, why would they complain? But, with all the blessings of God on His people today, why would we complain? We have no reason to gripe, but just like Israel, we often do.

Paul used this Old Testament experience to warn New Testament believers of similar sins. “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved….Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:6, 10, 11). Clearly: the lesson of Taberah is also for us!

Though we do not always discern God’s direction, and cannot always see how He is working, we know it is always God’s will for us to give Him thanks! To be constantly grateful is not to ignore problems. It is to be genuinely grateful in them, instead of chronically dismal because of them.

 So, how do we avoid Taberah?

  • ADAPT Complaints into Solutions – When things get under your skin, pray about it—“be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). When things are tough, God wants you to trust Him more, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).


  • AVOID Chronic Complainers – Griping, complaining and grumbling is contagious. Avoid whiners like the plague. They will drag you down. They will increase your discontentment. Unfriend chronic complainers on Face Book and unfollow them on Twitter. Life is too valuable to sulk and sour with dismal downers. If you happen to be married to one, spend more time praying for him or her!


  • ACCEPT Responsibility for your Own Mistakes – If you blew it, own it, confess it, ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation—instead of blaming other people.


  • APPRECIATE God’s Blessings – Practice Gratitude. We cannot always give thanks FOR all things, but we can find ways to be thankful IN them. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Learn Contentment—like Paul, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11). As we appreciate blessings we can grow in contentment for, “godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Let’s avoid Taberah and grumbling—the thing God hates! Determine not to gripe about unpleasant or inconvenient things. Complaining leads to bitterness, which is a sin that can affect your whole life and everyone around you (Hebrews 12:15). Constant griping can destroy your relationships with other people, and at the very least, cause them to avoid you.

At the top of this devo-blog is a familiar picture. It was taken in 1918 by Eric Enstrom. The photograph shows a bearded, saintly, older man giving thanks to the Lord before partaking of a meager meal. In the photo entitled “Grace,” Enstrom wanted to show people that even though they had little during World War I, they still had much to be thankful for. The man had few earthly goods, but had more than most people, because he had a thankful heart. Today we have much more, but it seems we must work harder to be genuinely thankful and content.

The good news is that the judgment of Taberah and its cause can be avoided. We can repent of our complaining ways. We can be more grateful and express more thanks. We can look on the bright side and pray for our enemies. Not only CAN we be more thankful, we MUST be more appreciative if we would truly represent the saving message of our wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who always gave thanks.

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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