By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath, 1st October, 2011)
Beware of Murmuring: Let Your Soul bless the LORD
David sang, "Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits" (Ps 103:1-2). How many times do you remember to bless the Lord from your inmost being for all His goodness towards you? Beware, the soul that neglects to bless his God will find itself gripped by a mean spirit of ingratitude. This is the root cause of the sin of murmuring against which we are warned in 1 Cor. 10:
"Neither let us tempt the Lord, as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents.
"Neither murmur ye, as some of them murmured, and perished by the destroyer.
"Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come" (1 Cor. 10:9-11 RV).
The simple warning message of the scripture is that we must not make ourselves a hard-to-please people of God, a people who follow God with bitter feelings and anger bottled up inside us against Him. For so it means to "murmur"—to complain in a ‘subdued, muttering way’! And the Lord is put through an emotional ‘torture’, as it were, because we are so churlish and ungrateful! The force of the Greek word translated as "tempt", namely, "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents" (KJV), is to "tempt out", i.e. ‘tempt or try so as to wear out’ the longsuffering of Christ. The Lord is longsuffering (2 Pet. 3:9) but a deliberate trying of His patience by a people who know His ways and have benefited from His goodness does wear out His longsuffering!
Do you have a complaining attitude, and do you direct it at God?
Snakes in the Camp of Grumblers
In the original story in which God sent snakes to bite the Israelites, the king of the Canaanite city-state of Arad, alarmed by the news of Israel’s approach, fights against Israel and takes some of them prisoners. On praying to God with all seriousness, Israel secures a great victory over their enemies and utterly destroys them. Soon the Israelites resume their journey, using a longer route, instead of the direct shorter route through Edom which had refused them passage (Num. 20:14-21). Because of this detour through rough and dry places, the people become "discouraged" or "impatient". And they take it out on God; they vent their spleen on God. They deprecate His goodness–not even the victory He has just won for them is spared: "the people spoke against God and against Moses [saying], Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water. And our soul hates this light [i.e. worthless] bread" (Num. 21:5). They rue God’s very role in their life because of ‘mere’ frustrations on the way. As punishment for their sin of murmuring, God sends snakes to bite the Israelites. Thereafter the people come to themselves and express remorse, and God makes Moses set up a bronze serpent on a pole which heals those who look at it.
Does the story sound familiar? Are you somehow ‘frustrated’ with God because of a temporary difficulty or challenge in your Christian life? Or is it because what you seek so badly from God has not yet been received?
Don’t let any frustration experienced in your walk with God tempt you to get fed up with Him, disregarding all His grace and goodness in your life. Don’t grumble against Him because of an unexpected problem or loss, or a personal crisis or what someone in the church has said against you. You might not like the consequences. Once when the Israelites murmured against God because they craved meat, God granted their request "but sent leanness into their soul" (Ps 106:14-15; see Num. 11:4-5). The "leanness into their soul" was a "wasting disease" (ESV) or ‘plague’ that left many of those who murmured in their lust for meat dead (Num. 11:18-20, 31-34).
When God’s people murmur against Him, He hears and is stung by their murmurings (Mal. 3:13-15). However, when His people repent and show remorse, God does relent and sends healing as He did for the Israelites with the brazen serpent. But let’s not "turn again to folly" (Ps. 85:8).
So, have you been ‘bitten by a snake’, that is, incurred God’s disfavour, because of murmuring? Look at the "brazen serpent" of healing; He who sent the plague has made a provision for your healing if only you repent. In the New Testament, this "brazen serpent" is the uplifted "Son of man" who gives life to whoever believes in Him (John 3:14-15). He willingly forgives and restores any member of His spiritual body who repents of his or her particular weakness (see Rev. 2:4-5; 1 John 1:9).
Serve God with Joy
We are not called to serve God with festering feelings of resentment; we are called to rejoice in Him:
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4), Paul wrote to the Philippian brethren from his prison cell (1:12-13). So do away with the sin of murmuring and joyfully serve the Lord irrespective of your present circumstances. Don’t do God’s work as if you are doing it for men, but do it for the Lord with "goodwill" from your heart (Eph. 6:6-7; Col. 3:23-24).
Bear in mind that God hates and punishes murmuring. He pointed out to the children of Israel through Moses: "Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee" (Deut. 28:47-48).
The offence is not a refusal to serve God at all, but serving God in a mean spirit—without "joyfulness" and without "gladness of heart"—despite His abundant blessings. The penalty is the kind of service where grumbling truly belongs—slavery! If you refuse to serve your good God with joy, you may end up serving Satan, your enemy, and with the kind of treatment he will mete out to you, you cannot help it but be filled with resentment!
Rather than murmuring against the Lord, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4). Rejoice in Him at all times. Let not an evil heart of unbelief stemming from a mean spirit of ingratitude and murmuring grip you; it could cause you to fall away from the Living God (Heb. 3:7-12). So “with gladness of heart” serve the Lord, and it will be well with you and with your soul. Amen!