Numbers 21: 4-9 Lent 4
Rev. Charles Degner March 11, 2018
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” 6Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.
The weakness of complaining and the power of the cross!
I don’t think that I complain very much, but I think I probably complain more than I realize it. When I was a young man, I worked as a bus driver at Glacier National Park. That was the best job in the park and they loved to hire men from our college of ministry or our seminary to be drivers. We regularly spent the night at one of four different hotels in the park, which meant we sampled the food from all the different cooks. Our least favorite was the hotel in Canada called the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes. It wasn’t unusual for the employees to be fed something called “Shepherd’s Pie,” which was usually a concoction of leftover meat, vegetables and potatoes.
At one particularly bland dinner, we were complaining about the food we were eating. There were three seminary students at the table and one very worldly and very ungodly young man named Don. He was a nice guy, but not a Christian. Suddenly Don got up from the table and left to sit at a different table. “Don, what’s up?” we called after him. And he said, “This food is bad enough the way it is without me having to listen to you yokels complain about it.” It’s embarrassing when someone from the world calls you out and points out what a thankless person you are. So how much do you complain?
I. The weakness of complaining
Can we look at the children of Israel for a moment and see how weak and ugly complaining really is? 4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” These people had been on the road for more than forty years. The first time they came to the border of Canaan, they were afraid because of the rumors they heard about the strong people that were in the land. As a result, God condemned them to forty more years of wandering in the desert until every who was older than twenty had died, except for Joshua and Caleb and Moses. During all that time God provided them with water to drink and food to eat. He made water flow out of rocks miraculously when they needed it, and he covered the ground every morning with a flaky food that was perfect for keeping them strong and healthy. It was a little sweet and could be baked into bread or cakes. At night, quail came across the desert and they could catch them to eat. So they had chicken and oatmeal every single day. In addition, their clothes and shoes never wore out. Think about that for a moment – same food, same clothes every day. Would you complain?
It was almost time for them to come to the land of Canaan, but they had a detour around the country of Edom through one of the hottest, windiest, dustiest parts of the desert south of the promised land. But they didn’t complain about the weather. Not that we ever complain about the weather! They complained about the food! They said they couldn’t stand this miserable food called manna. They just wanted to stop by a McDonald’s in Jericho and have a nice, juicy McLambburger and a salad on the side. What I want you to note is that they weren’t complaining about the bad things in their life. They were complaining about the good things in their life which they didn’t think were good enough.
Can we look at our complaining and let this story call us to repentance? I sent out an email to some of the youth that I have on my daily prayer list and asked them what teenagers complain about. Two things rose to the surface. One is that you complain about the rules your parents have in your home and not having the freedom to do what you want. Do you see how you are complaining against the good things that God put in your life? It’s not good to have parents who let you do whatever you want. It’s good to have parents who give you rules and expect you to keep them. God gave you those parents to protect you and to bring you up to follow Jesus. When you speak against your parents in your heart, you are not only speaking against your parents. You are speaking against God, just the way the children of Israel spoke against Moses AND God.
The other thing that teens said they complained about was not having the newest stuff – like the latest phone or clothes. Again, that’s not complaining about bad things, but complaining about good things that aren’t good enough. Have you looked at all the clothes you have in your closet? Does your phone function and do what phones are supposed to do? And what makes you think that you deserve a phone at age 16 or 14 or 12? When we complain to our parents about this, we not only complain against our parents. We complain against God!
Services are broadcast Mondays at 7:00pm and Tuesdays at 10:00am on local channel 7.