Summary: Sermon #1 in the series of Untold Stories of the Old Testament. Text is Numbers 11-12 and deals with complaining by the Israelites in the wilderness and how Moses handled it.
Series: Untold Stories of the Old Testament #1
Date: CHCC: May 20, 2012
Text: Numbers 11-12
2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
Today we’re going to get some important lessons from some obscure chapters in the book of Numbers. When we get to Numbers 11, the Children of Israel had been camping around Mt. Sinai for almost a year. It had taken them about 3 months to travel from Egypt --- where they had been slaves --- to Mt. Sinai --- where they became a free nation.
During the 11 months they’d been at Mt. Sinai, they had received the 10 commandments, they had constructed and dedicated the Tabernacle, and they had consecrated the priests. They had organized the 12 tribes and they had raised an army for defense. Israel was now a nation, ready for action.
Unfortunately, their first action was to start COMPLAINING. Numbers 11:1 "Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused."
Today we’re going to look at 4 things we can learn about the sin of complaining. And we’re going to look at 3 lessons about how to respond to criticism. That’s 7 points, so we have to move fast. Stay with me!
The first lesson is that…
1. Complaining is a deadly sin
We tend to think of complaining as nothing more than a harmless way of making conversation. But that is not how God sees it. Numbers 11:2 tells how God reacted when His people started complaining. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
God didn’t consider complaining to be a minor little flaw. In the examples we’re going to look at today, God gave two deadly consequences to complainers: consuming fire, and leprosy. It’s obvious that God considers complaining to be a deadly sin. He cannot tolerate complainers among His people. It’s enough to make me want to be sure I don’t turn into a complainer!
After the fires broke out, the people cried out to Moses. He prayed. And God made the fires die down. But before long the whining started up again. The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!” Numbers 11:4
They were complaining about the miraculous manna that God had provided for them. In essence they were complaining against God. This is why complaining is such a deadly sin. When we complain, what we’re really saying is, “God hasn’t given me enough. God’s not fair!” Complaining is the opposite of thanksgiving.
The next thing we learn is that …
2. Complaining discourages others
Notice how Moses reacted to all this whining: He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?” Numbers 11:11 Moses told the Lord that taking care of those people was like taking care of a bunch of babies … and he went so far as to say, “ If this is the way it’s going to be, then please just go ahead and kill me!”
Complaining is the opposite of encouraging. Never underestimate how your complaints will demoralize other people! I remember Mel Sabaka saying “I don’t have trouble motivating others – I have trouble with other people de-motivating me!”
Maybe you work at a place where there’s a culture of complaining. Then you know how demoralizing it is to spend all day in that environment.
Maybe you live in a home that has developed a culture of complaining. Nobody can enjoy that kind of home life!
I’m so thankful to say that CHCC does NOT have a culture of complaining. But I’ve seen plenty of churches that do.
One thing I’ve noticed through the years is that when complaining springs up, it’s usually directed at the very people who are trying the hardest and doing the most to minister to others. In fact, it’s often directed at the ones who have helped the complainer the most.
I remember the first time I learned this. I was talking to a lady who announced she was leaving the church. I invited her to come in and tell me what the problem was. I was shocked that the people she was complaining about were the Sunday School teachers --- who had stood by her through all kinds of troubles, and other church leaders --- who I knew had actually donated money more than once to help pay her bills.
By the end of that conversation, I felt like Moses … just kill me now! In fact, I had to go home and lie down for an hour just to get over listening to all that vitriol.