The descendants of Abraham were God’s chosen people not because they were wealthy, handsome, powerful, or numerous. They had no special quality to set them apart from the rest of the world. He chose them simply because He chose them. God displayed His great love for His chosen people who were enslaved in Egypt. He redeemed them out of slavery with a marvelous display of power shown in the plagues. He provided the necessary blood sacrifice in the Passover Lamb. He miraculously passed them safely through the Red Sea without getting the least bit wet. He miraculously destroyed the enemy which pursued them.
Exodus 15 records Moses and the sons of Israel pausing on the banks of the Red Sea to sing a song of praise to God for His mighty deliverance. Moses’ sister, Miriam, burst into a responsive song of praise as well. Two verses later, God’s people began to murmur and grumble. The record in Exodus and Numbers indicates that this murmuring continued for 40 years. My observation of others and my own life tells me that this murmuring has not stopped to this day. Because of their unbelief, God’s people were soon to embark on a wilderness wandering that would last 38 years. The wilderness is not always bad, but in this case it was. The unbelief of the Israelites would result in constant murmuring. It seems to me that the main message of the book of Numbers is God’s faithfulness toward us in spite of our disobedience. I think we miss the main point of the book if we study the Israelites. I think the purpose of Numbers is to reveal God.
However, my purpose here is to try to see myself in the Israelites, specifically in their murmuring. This is a painful exercise. I have often been guilty of murmuring. In Exodus 16 the murmuring continued. The people murmured against Moses and Aaron but three times in verses 7-8 Moses clearly declared that the murmuring was not really against them but rather against God. Realizing that murmuring against others is really murmuring against God is a sobering thought. The book of Numbers records nine terrible instances of murmuring. The first is in Numbers 11. This first one is different from the other eight. The others tell the object of the murmuring. This one just says the people murmured. It seems to be recorded as the representative instance. First mention is almost always important. This instance sets the stage for understanding the others. Verse one reminds us that the Lord always hears our murmuring. Verse one also tells us that murmuring about adversity is a sin against God. That cuts like a knife across the grain of my heart. Complaining, griping, murmuring about adversity comes so easily, so naturally, so quickly. Shutting off its flow is harder than shutting off the flow of a blown undersea oil well.
Perhaps it is the difficulty of it that makes it such a powerful tool. I wonder what the impact would be on unbelievers if every Christian in your community immediately ceased all complaining, griping, and murmuring. I wonder what the impact would be on your church if every member and attender immediately ceased all murmuring. I wonder what the impact would be on my life if I immediately ceased all murmuring. May God help us all.