Grumbling and complaining
Attitude! Some of us struggle with it more so than others. Most often the things that get us bent out of shape really are not that big a deal. Just about every culture I am familiar with has its own way of saying: “No Worries,” “aole pilakila,” “take it easy,” and “no problem.” Having the big picture or the full perspective can certainly help improve our attitudes. This is why I believe it is so important to know God’s Word from the start to the finish. I believe that Jesus Christ has the power to transform our attitudes into His image if we will only focus on Him.
If you have been following along in this sermon series or if you have just joined in God is working with a certain people group. In our story the Israelites are in the beginning stages of their wilderness experience.
Numbers 11:1-15 (NLT)
“Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the LORD heard everything they said. Then the LORD’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. 2 Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the LORD, the fire stopped. 3 After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means “the place of burning”), because fire from the LORD had burned among them there.
4 Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. “Oh, for some meat!” they exclaimed. 5 “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted. 6 But now our appetites are gone. All we ever see is this manna!”
7 The manna looked like small coriander seeds, and it was pale yellow like gum resin. 8 The people would go out and gather it from the ground. They made flour by grinding it with hand mills or pounding it in mortars. Then they boiled it in a pot and made it into flat cakes. These cakes tasted like pastries baked with olive oil. 9 The manna came down on the camp with the dew during the night.
10 Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. 11 And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? 12 Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? 13 Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! 15 If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!”
Why do we complain, why do we grumble? We do so because something is not to our liking. Would it help our attitude if instead of focusing on our dislikes focusing instead on our blessings? Some of us face persecution, some go hungry, and some have reasons for worrying about tomorrow. Nevertheless the blessing of Christ far exceeds any persecution, our earthly hunger, and what may or may not happen tomorrow.
What has God done for all of us sinners to make us right in His sight? Although this list certainly is not exhaustive these are some of the things I am most thankful for: that God sent His Son to die on the cross so that I may be forgiven. That God would give me the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide me in this life and into the next. Furthermore, that God would be so intimate with me that I may call Him Abba Father which means “Daddy.” In thinking about these things and so much more Paul wrote,
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”*) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,* neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).
Brothers and sisters accept Jesus Christ as ultimate truth! There is nothing greater in life, nothing more fulfilling then Christ. Focus on Christ and have a joyful spirit no matter your circumstance. You probably have heard it said or experienced it for yourself but some people have it a whole lot worse than we have it. And for some of those who have it a whole lot worse they are still able to have a positive attitude because they are focusing on Christ and not themselves.
Perhaps, you have heard this before, “Out of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.” For example:
“A glad heart makes a happy face;
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart;” (Proverbs 15:13a, 30a).
Recently, I opened up a tattered old book of Favorite Hymns of Praise. To my joy were songs with such titles as: “Blessed Assurance;” “Trust and obey;” and “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”
Do you know why these songs have brought joy to the hearts of millions for hundreds of years? It’s because the Common Denominator (the shared trait) in each of these songs is Jesus! There is a song book in the middle of the Bible called Psalms.
Psalm 95:1 (NLT)
“Come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.”
This Psalm speaks of Jesus as the Rock of our salvation. Some of us believe we are saved; however, some of us may not know what that means. Allow me to illustrate. I have witnessed some “Third World” poverty; however, I have never personally witnessed but have seen pictures and read stories of people living in garbage dumps. Do these people need to be saved from their living conditions? Certainly! However, not until these people experience freedom from the garbage dump will they realize their need for salvation. Does that make sense? I do not think we can fully have joy in Christ until we understand what we are saved from. Some of us go about our daily lives just as the names and faces of real men, women, and children go about theirs while living in the worst conditions imaginable. Someone once said that ignorance is bliss. I am sorry but filthiness both eternally and worldly is not bliss. And this is just how God sees our condition. Oh, we may not see it but the filthiness of our condition is real. In comparison to someone else we may see ourselves as clean, right, and honest but in the eyes of a Holy True God all our goodness’s are “filthy rages!”
“We are all infected and impure with sin.
When we display our righteous deeds,
they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
and our sins sweep us away like the wind” (Isaiah 64:6).
Though blinded at six weeks of age through improper medical treatment, Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) wrote many hymns of praise such as the song below “Blessed Assurance.”
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
Perfect submission, perfect delight! Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; angels descending bring from above echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
Perfect submission—all is at rest; I in my Savior am happy and blest; watching and waiting, looking above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
Chorus: This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long; this is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”
Is there any of us who think the blood of Christ that washes away our sin, our filthiness is not relevant? Hear these words of St. Augustine (396-430), “Beware of despairing about yourself. You are commanded to put your trust in God, and not in yourself.”
Each week I write a sermon for Sunday’s worship service. I do not remember if it was last Saturday or early Sunday morning but I found that a certain text had become bolded which I had posted on-line the day before. Do you know what I mean by the image bolded? It is kind of like highlighting a certain sentence with one of those yellow highlighting markers. It turns out that Matthew 9:4-6 somehow got highlighted; it became "bold." As far as I know I am the only one who can make revisions to the text I submit and I did not "bold" that text in the sermon. It turns out that the section that was highlighted really brought meaning and relevance to Leviticus 25 the text I was preaching from. For example Sunday morning while preaching and when I came to the Matthew 9:4-6 part in my sermon; wow, there was power - the hair on my arm was standing up! The just of the sermon was describing the "Jubilee" and it's Eternal and earthly ideals. In the Matthew 9:4-6 text Jesus emphases the Eternal ideals more so than earthly ideals. I emailed this story to a friend Rob Harris and I like his reply. “You know, I really believe some of the connections like that between the Old Testament and the New Testament are among the best and most solid ‘proofs’ of both the absolute validity of Scripture and the truth of Christianity.”
Think with me about the connections between the Old and New Testaments. Allow me to share a specific example other than the Leviticus 25 and Matthew 9:4-6 relationship. How does Paul draw on Numbers 11 in speaking to the church at Corinth? Paul begins in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 stating don’t forget about the things that happened to our ancestors long ago. He then states, “These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did,” (1 Corinthians 10:6).
I think one of the “evil things” spoken of in 1 Corinthians 10 is the sin which we read about in Numbers 11:4; namely, the temptation to grumble (1 Cor. 10:10). Does it seem difficult to greet life with a cheer? I say no; especially, considering that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Like the Jubilee and its connection to both eternal and earthly ideals, like Paul's use of Numbers 11 in speaking to the church in Corinth what other connections are there between the Old and New Testaments? In Numbers 11:4-6 the people had enough of the manna; however, Jesus spoke of it by contrast. The Gospel writer John records Jesus as saying.
“I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever” (John 6:58).
Jesus stresses that He is the ultimate manna, the true manna which was sent from heaven capable of sustaining both our Eternal and earthly souls.
Another old hymn goes,
“Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey.”
Jesus, what a blessing to focus on!