Summary: Choose life in the Promised Land, and discover what waits for you on the other side of joyful reality
A number of weeks ago, I jokingly said that everyone in my family had a license for something in life. The one license my folks said was solely mine was the complaining license. Dad would say: “Stop your fussing;” and if I didn’t, he’d pick on me and saying: “I don’t like this, and I don’t like that; I don’t like this, and I don’t like that.”
I don’t know why from a very young age, I had an early onset of grumbler’s syndrome -- but I did. Thankfully, I’ve grown most of that. However, I don’t know if I would had it not been for the grace of God. Even so, I grumble from time-to-time -- and I think that’s normal. I bet you grumble once in a while too. But to live that way -- as in a permanent state of being -- is all together something different.
Have you ever noticed some folks are miserable -- all the time? It’s kinda like, no matter how nice you are to them, or despite how great life can be, they just find something to grumble about -- it’s like their baseline mood is one of permanent unhappiness? I think it’s safe to say we all know people like this. Some of them live nearby, run businesses, or work beside us… or, maybe they’re related. And unfortunately, there’s lots of people within the universal church who hold grumblers licenses.
So, let me ask you a question. Do you think chronic complainers are just miserable because that’s the way were born? Or, is there maybe something more going on -- say, something spiritually off-center? Personally, I think it’s the later. I believe the ways in which we view and live life: whether from a state of grumbling, or from a state of joy, begins with the heart. This morning, we’re going to peer into the history books and see what happened when Israel grumbled too much, and the consequences of their attitudes of heart. And as we’re looking at that, we’re gonna see what that all means for us, and how like Israel, we each have the choice; we can either choose life, or choose death. So with that, please turn in your bibles to Deuteronomy 30:11-20.
FILLING THE GAPS FROM LAST WEEK
Let’s fill in the gaps from where we left off last week before we move ahead. Last Sunday we encamped with Israel at the base of Mt. Sinai and heard the ten laws from which all-human laws have derived. However, while Moses was atop of the Mountain with God, the people rebelled and fashioned an idol to worship -- despite God’s command to do otherwise.
God’s anger burned, and again he wanted to smite his people; he wanted to start over in a matter of sorts by creating a new family with Moses as its head. Moses pleaded with God and asked him to stay his wrath. God obliged. God rewrote the Ten Commandments on another set of stone tablets, and commanded Israel to place the tablets in the Arc of the Covenant. Israel obeyed, and did as God commanded. From that time, God’s law and the Arc of the Covenant resided within the Holy of Holies -- the location where God’s presence would dwell among the people. Ex 33:10 states: “Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to his tent.”
God dwelled among his children, provided for and guided them, and established them as a people set apart. Despite God’s presence; notwithstanding his provision, and regardless of God’s leading, the people still found ways to grumble -- and they grumbled often.
They complained about their living conditions, food, water, this that and everything: Numbers 11:1 says, “The people complained about their hardships.”
But the most egregious of all these was this: the people grumbled about their state of being. And in their misery, they longed to return to Egypt, rather than to move forward with God towards the new life and blessings he had in store for them. Let me explain….
But God knew it was time for the people to move from their place of complacency, restlessness, and grumbling, and into the Promised Land. So, the Lord said to Moses,“Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” And so, at the Lord’s command, Moses sent them out from the Desert.
They came back after 40 days and gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! … However, the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.