If you noticed the title of this sermon you may be thinking to yourself, "Is this a typo?" Shouldn't the title be, "How Not to Complain"? Even though complaining is second nature to us, in order for us to have a complaining spirit, there are specific attitudes we must hold. The purpose of the message today is to help bring these to the light of the Holy Spirit, where we can truly be transformed! Last week we talked about what happened after God miraculously rescued the nation of Israel from slavery and oppression in Egypt in order to bring them to the Promised Land.
We saw that it didn't happen immediately. In fact, their journey took longer than they expected. But during that time God was clearly and directly guiding them with a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud and Moses was teaching them the Law that God revealed. And at that point, they obeyed God and followed Moses.
But what was the attitude with which they obeyed? A quick look at Exodus 15, 16, and 17 shows us that from the very beginning, they complained.
In our passage this morning (Numbers 11), things haven't changed at all!
In this story, there are three attitudes that the Israelites had that led to a complaining spirit:
1) They questioned God's love and care for them. In almost all the instances of their complaining, they asked, "Have you brought us out in this desert to kill us? Did you bring us out here to die of thirst? I wish I had the wonderful food that I got free of charge in Egypt..."
2) They discounted God's power. When the Israelites were grumbling about not having any meat, God proclaimed in Ex 16:12 "At twilight you will eat meat and in the morning your will be filled with bread. then you will know that I am the Lord your God."
Even Moses complained to God when it got too much for him. Numbers 11:21-23 reads: But Moses said, "Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot and you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!' Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?" The Lord answered Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you."
3) They did not trust God's plan. In many of these passages, the Israelites complained that they regretted the decision to leave Egypt. "Why did we ever leave?"
Although it is very easy to be critical of the Israelites, don't we do the exact same things when we complain?
What are the things that we most complain about? I'm sure at one time or another we've thought, "Why are you doing this to me Lord?" This may mean that we question whether or not God really loves and cares about us. Or we may ask, "Why is this happening? Why aren't you doing something about this?" This can mean that we are discounting God's power to help. Or we think, "What is God doing here? I don't understand this. Why should I do things God's way?" which means we don't trust God's plan and purpose.
God's purpose for the Israelites was to rescue them from slavery and oppression and have a relationship with them based on His promise to Abraham in Genesis 15. God did not transport the Israelites to the Promised Land after their rescue because their journey was meant to teach them God's love, presence, provision and power. 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 tells us that they were examples for us, a foreshadowing of Christ to come.
God's plan and purpose is not the pursuit of a comfortable and happy life, free from suffering. If that is what you are seeking, you are following the wrong god. Jesus Christ showed us that sometimes the path of God involves the willingness to enter into suffering.
The purpose of God is to rescue us from sin and death and be in relationship with us forever in His kingdom. The good news is that there is a God who loves us, who forgives us and brings us into relationship with Himself when we believe and trust in Christ!
What have you been complaining about lately? Instead of complaining, will you remember and be thankful that God does love and will provide for you? Will you remember and be thankful that God is powerful? Will you remember and be thankful that God has a plan and purpose that will not fail?