August 15, 2011
Grumbling Grumbling Grumbling
Moses also said, ‘You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling again him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD’ (Exodus 16:8 NIV emphasis added).
Friend to Friend
Yesterday we looked at Miriam and how she grumbled against Moses, but Miriam was not the only one who grumbled while heading toward the Promised Land. The Israelites grumbled at every turn. God cared for the Israelites by His own hand - providing water from a rock, manna from heaven, quail from the sky, clothes that never wore out, a fire by night and a cloud by day. And yet…they grumbled.(See Exodus 15:24, 16:2,7,8,9,11, 17:2,3) Do you think they all started grumbling at once? I don’t. I think it started with a few murmurs and grew like an approaching train.
Back in the late 50’s, there was a movie called “The Blob.” The blob looked like a massive pile of silly putty that rolled along swallowing up everything and everyone in its path. That’s what grumbling and gossiping can do among believers. It too rolls along swallowing up unsuspecting victims along the way.
God didn’t take too kindly to Miriam’s grumbling. While she started out whispering about Moses’ choice of a wife, that was not really the issue at all. It was jealousy pure and simple. Actually, there was nothing “pure” about it.
“Has the LORD spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken as well through us?” Her words and attitude of jealousy were just as destructive to the cause of God as infectious leprosy that ate away at her fingers and toes. Why was only Miriam punished and not Aaron? I imagine that she was the principle instigator of the ill-spoken words and Aaron happened to be in the blob’s path.
Let’s back up to Numbers 12:3: “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” Theologians suggest that the word “miserable” is a better translation of the Hebrew word than “humble.” “Ever since Numbers 11:1, one thing after another had brought pressure on Moses so that in 11:14 he whimpers to God that he is not able to bear the load any longer. He even asks that he might die to be relieved of the pressures. Now with this assault of his sister and brother, it was simply too much. He was now the most “miserable” man on the earth. He had found his lot so difficult, his task so unmanageable, his pressure so intense that he called out to God saying, “It is too much!” (11:4) “Now the man Moses was exceedingly miserable, more than any man on the face of the earth!”
( Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, Zondervan NIV Commentary Volume I: Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Micigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 198.)
When someone is bending under the pressure of trying to please God and the grumblers he or she is trying to serve, what is needed is not more booing and hissing from the crowd but cheers and holy pep talks from the team. “Do all things without grumbling,” Paul encourages the church at Philippi (Philippians 2:14 NASB). Timothy writes, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
So we have a choice. We can be like the prophetess Deborah in the Bible who dispensed encouragement from under the honey tree and walked side-by-side with Christian soldiers into battle. (See Judges 4-5). Or we can be like the prophetess Miriam who stirred up strife and caused the march to the Promised Land to come to a complete stop. The difference lies right under our noses.
Dear Lord, forgive me when I grumble. I know that ultimately, when I grumble, I am grumbling against You. Help me to be an encourager and use my words to minister to those around me. Help me to build up and not tear down, to encourage and not discourage, and to fan the flames of hope rather than extinguish the sparks of a dream.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Just try saying the word grumble with a smile on your face. It doesn’t work, does it? I’m sitting here trying now. I sure hope no one’s looking.
Let’s think about this. When we are grumbling about our circumstances, who are we really grumbling against?
Do you see yourself as a person who grumbles or a person who is grateful?
What do you need to do to change?
Make a list of things you are grateful for today!
More from the Girlfriends
If you would like to learn more about how to be a Deborah who encourages others to walk into battle rather than a Miriam who stops progress, you’ll want to read The Power of a Woman’s Words. And to go deeper into God’s Word and learn about the incredible gift of words that He has entrusted to us, you’ll want to read The Power of a Woman’s Words Bible Study Guide. It is perfect for individual or group study.
Click here to learn more about hosting a Girlfriends in God conference in your area or having one of the GiGs speak at your next women's event.
Originally published Monday, 15 August 2011.