As Moses recounts multiple examples of Israel’s complaining in Deut. 9:22-23, who is the object of Israel’s complaint or criticism or groaning? Oftentimes the text says it’s aimed at Moses, but the Lord takes it as a direct attack on himself. Likewise, who is the object when we complain? When we say or think things like this: “C’mon, this is ridiculous” OR “I’m so sick and tired of my spouse acting this way” OR, how about this one—“I can’t believe what our government is doing. This is terrible!”
Who are we ultimately complaining against?—God. Why God? Because when we affirm that God is sovereign, ruler over all the Universe, and we complain about how things are going in that Universe, then by default we are taking issue with the One who governs all things. Ultimately, to complain is to be annoyed and dissatisfied with God’s authority over the world. It’s true, isn’t it, that we have a major problem with complaining, but what are some sinful thought patterns behind complaining? There are at least a couple of major ones: One is that we’re convinced we deserve better circumstances: When we lose sight of who we really are and how it was only by God’s grace that we are saved, we can easily develop unbiblical and worldly attitudes towards our lives. Instead of being amazed about God’s grace, complaint expresses the beliefs: “I deserve or I have earned smooth circumstances in all areas of my life.” Another sinful thought pattern behind complaining is to think that God’s sovereignty, his wisdom and/or his goodness is flawed—”I know that God’s ways are higher than my ways, but that can’t be true in this situation. I can’t see any way this is beneficial. Maybe this circumstance or this person slipped under God’s radar. Or maybe God wasn’t thinking this one through all the way. Or perhaps, he is getting back at me for past sins. This has to be for my harm not my good.” Even though these explanations are ludicrous, they are the things we are affirming when we complain.
That’s why God gets enraged at complaining; it calls into question who he is. Moses could have chosen other sinful behaviors to recall towards the end of Deut. 9, but he chose complaining because it’s an utter denial of God’s person and character. Therefore, it’s no less offensive to God than the idolatry mentioned earlier in the text. We must see it for what it is, repent of it and replace it with gratefulness, which is God’s will for your life in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:17).