Keith Green’s article “Grumbling and Complaining–So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt?” (Part 2)

Keith Green – So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt (live)

Uploaded by on May 25, 2008

Keith Green performing “So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt” live at West Coast 1980


This song really shows Keith’s humor, but it really has great message. Keith also had a great newsletter that went out every month and I always enjoyed reading it. Below is a portion of an article he wrote  and I still remember some of the things he said over 30 years ago when I first read it.

Keith Green – So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt

Grumbling and Complaining —So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt?

By Keith Green

Three Common Complaints

The reason I wanted to lay a solid foundation before looking closer at the Israelite’s complaining attitude is simple but important. As I said, we think God isn’t going to be as hard on us as he was on them. “Hey, I’m under grace! God isn’t keeping a list of my sins. Especially not something like a little complaining now and then !”

But the Israelite’s wilderness journey exposes the attitudes behind their complaints – some really serious sins! Let’s look at three complaints that will get us into big trouble. Be honest and see if you find yourself in these accounts in Numbers.

#1 Complaints Of the Flesh

Numbers 11 gives a concise picture of what God and Moses had to put up with while trying to lead the people out of Egypt into the Promised Land. “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord …” Not only did Moses have to listen to their complaints, but the Lord heard all their griping as well.

We often forget that the Lord hears everything we say. He even knows everything we think! As David said: “Thou dost understand my thought from afar… Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold O Lord, Thou dost know it all.” (Ps. 139:2,4) You can’t hide bad attitudes from God. It’s better to get to the root and deal with it. What was the root of their complaint?

The Israelites began craving food other than what the Lord was providing. They wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” What breath they must have had! We could call it Egypt Breath. “But now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” (Num. 11:4-6)

The root of their complaint was their flesh. They forgot that they didn’t deserve anything! God was giving them bread they didn’t even have to work for. It was free. All they had to do was go and pick it up! But their ungrateful response was, “What? Manna again? All we ever get is this crummy bread from heaven. Wonder-bread… ugh! We wanna go back to Egypt!”

The Bread Of Life

Now don’t judge these people too quickly. In John chapter six of the New Testament, we find Jewish leaders complaining about Jesus. Even His disciples were grumbling at His words. He declared, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst… Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died... if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever.” (Jn. 6:35,49,51) After this, “many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.” (Jn. 6:66)

A lot of people today pray the “sinners prayer” found in 3rd Corinthians. They say, “Jesus, come into my heart. Be my Savior. Amen.” Then a few weeks later when the wife or the new car they prayed for hasn’t arrived on their doorstep, they start looking back. They didn’t realize the cross had two sides. The death side and the resurrection side. Many people want their resurrection right on the cross. Or worse, they want a padded cross with a pillow and a sun lamp. One that’s real comfortable. No way. The cross hurts so they start thinking, “Gee, this peace is not only passing understanding, it’s passing notice! I don’t even see it! Where’s my peace?!”

Pretty soon they’re thinking, “I thought this would be a joyful experience. Before I prayed to receive Jesus I could have anything I wanted – this is starting to be a drag!” Then they complain to the Lord. “I know you’re supposed to be the Bread of Life, but I’m getting hungry for my old friends, my old ways, my old life.”

It’s not that God doesn’t have enough patience when we pray complaining prayers. But sometimes He allows us to have exactly what we’ve been praying for! Yes, God sometimes answers prayers of the flesh. But I guarantee you won’t like the results.

Be Careful How You Pray

The Israelites complained about manna and demanded meat and the Lord told them He would give them meat to eat. Now I can hear everyone saying, “Hey, complaining pays off! We oughta do it more often!” The Lord said, “You shall eat not one day we but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you – because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you …saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” (Num. 11:19-20)

The Lord, knowing their hearts, knew they’d rejected Him for their appetites. So He gave them what they thought they wanted. God sent a wind to bring quail in from the sea and they covered the ground three feet deep for a day’s walk in any direction. Quail City! Not to mention the other ... you know… the other things that quail bring. It must have been quite an answer to prayer! “And the people spent all day and all night and all the next day gathering the quail (he who gathered the least amount gathered ten homers) and they spread them out for themselves…” One homer equals 11 bushels so the person who gathered the least, gathered 110 bushels – for himself! God’s people – flesh personified. (vs. 31-32)

“And while the meat was still between their teeth… the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague. So the name of that place was called Kibrothhattaavah, because there they buried the people who had been greedy. “(vs. 33-34) The name actually means “the graves of greediness”. God answered their complaining prayer abundantly and they added insult to injury. There was no praise, no thanksgiving, no trust, and no faith. Just greed. Many, many people died in that plague.

Are you restless in your faith because you haven’t seen an answer to some important prayer? Have you been grumbling because you’ve trusted God for a need you don’t feel He’s taken care of? Have you been longing for the way things used to be? Have you been ungrateful for what the Lord has given you?

Don’t allow your flesh to win over your Spirit, carrying you into a dead faith – or worse, into outright rejection of the Lord.

Keith Green,
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