If you’ve ever noticed that there are just never enough hours in the day to get everything done then you know how a preacher feels when preparing a sermon. God’s truth, revealed in His Word, has so much today on so many subjects that there never seem to be enough minutes in a sermon to say everything there is to say about any subject… at least not if you want people to still be awake at the end.
This is one reason blogs are so helpful. Along with the sermon crumbs portion of the bulletin, the blog allows us as pastors to share a few extra morsels that didn’t fit on the sermon plate. So here is a piece of the biblical narrative on complaining to chew on. (If you haven’t heard the sermon on this subject, you can access it here: http://www.ccczion.org/resources/sermons/?sermon_id=88.)
We often judge the seriousness of a crime by the severity of the sentence it receives under the law. By those standards, God must take complaining quite seriously.
When Israel fled out of Egypt they quickly found themselves between a rock and a hard place or, more specifically, a vast army and a vast sea. There was nowhere to go. But God saved them by doing something totally unexpected… he parted the Red Sea in two and they crossed over on dry land, escaping the Egyptian army that was on their heels. They had seen God work miraculously and mightily!
Yet a mere three days later we find them complaining to Moses that they have only bitter water to drink (Exodus 15:24). They have gone three days in the desert without a drink and now the water they have found is undrinkable. Their complaining betrayed a lack of trust in God to provide for their needs, the very same God who had just split the sea in two. God responded graciously and turned the water sweet and then led them to an oasis of twelve springs in the desert.
Yet only a few verses later we read that they are complaining about a lack of food, even proclaiming that it would have been better if they had died in Egypt (16:2-3). They act as though God cannot or will not do something about their food shortage, the very same God who just turned bitter water sweet and then led them to an oasis. Again, God responded graciously and gave them bread every morning and meat every evening.
By the time the Israelites are on the doorstep of the Promised Land, they have seen God miraculously provide for their escape from slavery in Egypt, for water, and for food. But now, they hear the report that the inhabitants of the land are fearsome and they again grumble and complain (Numbers 14:20-23), as though God, who has done all of these great things, is unable or unwilling to give them victory over those same inhabitants. God had had enough and the Israelites of that generation were not allowed to enter the land. Though he forgave them, they were punished (v. 20). Those who had worked the crowds to convince them to fear were killed (v.37). Those who disobeyed God and tried to enter the land anyway died at the hands of the Amalekites and the Canaanites (v.44-45).
In the end, Israel’s grumbling and complaining, their distrust in God’s ability and willingness to provide for them, cost the nation 38 years of additional desert dwelling (Deuteronomy 2:14-15). What will our complaining cost us? What might we be missing out on because we do not trust God to provide and raise our voices in protest? The answers may only be found if we exchange complaining and arguing for trust in the Lord and in His provision for our needs.
Pastor Leo Barnes
Pastor of Youth Ministries
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