Summary: Urges believers to focus on God’s provisions rather than human complaints.
Is the Lord’s power limited?
On Ash Wednesday we began our 40-day journey toward the cross and the resurrection. We were reminded of God’s amazing grace on the one hand and of our own sin on the other. We nailed our sins to the cross. We admonished each other to turn away from sin and to be faithful to Jesus Christ as we traced a little black cross of ash on each other’s forehead. The ashes we used symbolized death and sorrow; they came from the house down the street where three young lives were lost recently.
Our journey toward Easter is a walk of faith, just as the journey toward the promised land was a walk of faith for the children of Israel. And that journey sometimes goes through the desert.
Some of you know about the desert in your personal lives. Life has become difficult. Physical health has become a concern. Human relationships no longer seem rewarding. Financial resources have dried up. The steps you take don’t seem to get you anywhere. Life seems like a trackless waste.
Congregations sometimes experience the desert as well. Prayers don’t seem to get answered. Ministries don’t seem to yield fruit. Apathy abounds. Nothing seems to be happening.
But there is a way through the desert. Our scripture today describes a critical episode in the life of the Israelites as God led them through the desert. We need to remember that out in the desert there isn’t much available unless God provides it.
To get our bearings, here are a couple of questions:
1. In what country were the Israelites slaves before they got to the desert?
2. Who led them out of Egypt?
3. What special laws did Moses receive from God on the mountain?
These 10 commandments became an agreement between them and God. God had shown his Amazing Grace in bringing them out; they would live in joyful obedience to his commands. They stayed at Mt. Sinai a little over a year to get their heads screwed on straight and their hearts plugged in, where God made clear to them that they should observe the Passover so they never forget that they were saved by the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. God passed over their homes and saved theim from death. In the same way Jesus made clear that that we should observe the Lord’s Supper so we never forget how the blood of the Lamb of God saves us from eternal death. And, we learned last Sunday, just as it was a sin not to hold the Passover Feast, so it is a sin for disciples of Jesus to disobey when He commands us to eat & drink in remembrance of him.
Today’s passage is one that gets our heads and feet out of the sand, one that moves our focus beyond ourselves to that of the God who provides.
1. Trumpets. We begin in Chapter 10 where we see that God commanded Moses to make two silver trumpets. These trumpets were to be used to signal readiness to the people. They served in place of cell phones, two-way radios, and public address systems. God made provisions for the journey. And according to I Corinthians. 15:52, God will use a trumpet one last time to call his people home.
2. Journey begins. Starting in verse 11, we see that the cloud lifted, another of God’s provisions, and at the Lord’s command they began to move again toward the promised land. It must have been exciting to think that the promise God had made to Abraham was on its way to fulfillment.
3. Complaints. But, in Chapter 11, just three days into this segment of the journey, they get bogged down. The music has changed. No longer can you hear the lively music of marching. Instead, all you hear is the steady drumbeat of complaint, like rain dripping on a tin roof. If you look at the vocabulary in Chapter 11 you see words like complaining, weeping, craving, if only. Somehow dissatisfaction, discouragement, and disappointment had taken over. And the problem seems to be with their food, according to verse 5. The Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt and had made provisions for food in the desert, but some among them wanted to go back to the menu of slavery.
So they complained. They heard each other’s complaints. Moses heard their complaints. The Lord heard their complaints, The Lord got angry at them for complaining; Moses got angry at the Lord. Things were a mess.
If you have ever taken a family vacation, you know something about complaints. After all your hard work of planning, packing, and paying so that everyone can have a good time, 30 minutes down the road one child says, “Mom, he’s over on my side.” “Mom, I want my own pillow.” “Dad, I’ve gotta go potty.” “Mom, I’m bored.” Everyone gets out of sorts, even the parents who say, “Look, if you don’t stop this complaining we will turn around and go home.”