Numbers 11:12, 14
“Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? … I am not able to carry this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.”
Another significant thought to consider from Moses’ breakdown before God in Numbers 11 is the way mental and emotional fatigue can distort our noblest, most God-inspired relationships into an unbearable, unfair burden in our perception. If we let that tension build up for too long, without giving it over to the LORD, we can become like Cain of old. So embittered in spirit, so apathetic and cold toward family members, that we’d respond to God’s call to serve with these words: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Think of it, friend: is it of little consequence that Moses refers to his kin as if they are distinct from him? He doesn’t say, ‘the burden of my people,’ or ‘to the land that you swore to give our fathers,’ but ‘this people’ and ‘their fathers.’ That’s what burnout will do. In our rush of blood to the head, we can so easily wash our hands of familial duties, divorcing ‘Love thy Neighbor’ from ‘Love the LORD your God’ as if the two aren’t intertwined. But Moses knows he’s his brothers’ keeper. He knows he’s been set apart from birth. He isn’t oblivious to the fact that he’s literally the only son of Abraham who grew up as a prince in Egypt rather than as a slave, or that his life was spared while many of his brothers were massacred. He still remembers that fateful day when he saw an Egyptian soldier beating a Jewish slave and effectively made a choice of which people he belonged to. So, the contradiction in Moses’ mind here is that he thinks he’s bearing too much responsibility for his kin while, in fact, he’s bearing too little.
Resolve to be your brothers’ keeper today, friend! And remember: even as shepherds, we’re just wandering sheep ourselves. Even as parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, we’re just needy children in the hands of a Shepherd-King Who—wonder of wonders—calls us brothers!