The demise of the Israelites in the desert always amazes me. Not all the Israelites, of course, but all those that were adults when God rescued them from Egypt (all but Joshua and Caleb). They were there when God sent the plagues, old enough to comprehend what God was doing. They were there when God parted the Red Sea. Again, old enough to process what they were a part of. They see miracle after miracle and yet, they don’t make into the Promised Land. Not for questioning God, even though they did that. Not for lying, even though they did that as well. Not even for idol worship! No, they don’t make in because of grumbling and complaining!
I know we touched on this a little yesterday, but I’m just struck by how they don’t learn their lesson, they keep on being ungrateful complainers. I’m thinking through how powerfully pervasive an attitude of complaining and pessimism can be in our lives.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. Numbers 14:26-27
If the Israelites, who saw the presence of God in a pillar of cloud and fire each and every day, could be sucked into a mindset of grumbling about what they didn’t have…well, if it could happen to them, I better realize how easily it could happen to me! And the result for them was devastating.
So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. Numbers 14:28-31
The powerful message here—at least to me—is the potential for missing out on God’s plans and blessings if I’m living in an attitude of complaining and ungratefulness. Somehow it can feel so justified and even “harmless” if my current circumstances are hard or undesirable. But God sees it as rejection. And it seems that if there is one thing God can’t or won’t tolerate—above all the other sinful behaviors of the Israelites—it’s ungrateful grumbling.
It happens so easily, and has such destructive results in our lives. And God wants something better for us.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“For this is God’s will for you…” This is God’s will? I thought God’s will would be something more magnanimous? I thought it would be something about being holy or sharing the gospel or sacrificing everything for God. Don’t get me wrong, those are definitely central to following Christ, but isn’t it interesting that Paul identifies joy praying, and giving thanks always as God’s will for us.
Giving thanks always. Yes, it seems that God places a high value on not grumbling and on being grateful. May today be a day of gratefulness and joy for us.