The burden of caring for 2 million people, many of which were unhappy, was an enormous burden for Moses. Nothing stings like rejection. It’s one of the greatest fears in life, right up there with public speaking. Moses was often rejected by those he wanted to love and lead. This weighed heavy on his soul. Add to the emotional burden, the weight of meeting the daily needs, expectations, and demands of the people. Sometimes it was more than he could shoulder.
If we look at our life, we could divide it up into several buckets – spiritual, physical, marriage, family, career, friendship, and finances. We carry these buckets through life. Some are as light as a feather. But there’s always a few weighed down with worries and concerns. Physically – Am I ever going to recover and be active like I once was? Marriage – Will she/he ever really forgive me? Family – Why is my teenager so silent and distant? Career – How can I get out of this dead-end job? Friendship – Why did my good friend not show up? Finances – Will there be enough at the end of the month? You can have multiple burdens in different buckets at different times. Multiply it up, and you’ve got a heavy load.
In Numbers 11 the children of Israel were grumbling again. They had tried fried manna, manna casserole, manna soufflé and fondu, and even manna burgers. They didn’t want to see another flake. Everyone started weeping in their tents. Notice Moses’ prayer in Numbers 11:11-15:
“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”
Twelve times in 5 verses Moses uses the first person – I, me, myself, and my. “I can’t carry these people. I can’t feed these people. They keep crying to me all the time. The burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you’re going to treat me then kill me now!” Israel’s greatest leader wasn’t always strong.
Here’s the irony. God hates complaining but loves it when we pour out our complaints to him in prayer. As we empty the heavy burdens in our buckets, he fills us with faith. We see this transformation in many of the Psalms. The whole world is falling apart in the beginning, but by the end there’s an explosion of praise.
Unfortunately, some believe their words are so powerful that saying something negative even in prayer will create a negative outcome. Standing before God they’d rather deny reality and confess how blessed they are even though things are falling apart. Thankfully, we don’t have to impress God by pretending to be strong. It’s the other way around. When we are weak he is strong.
Moses is modeling for us what it means to cast our burdens on the Lord. This is something the Bible encourages us to do both in the Old and the New Testament. Psalm 55:22 encourages us to, “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” And, 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”