Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are You in the Wilderness?

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In this wilderness your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun…I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will surely do these things to this whole wicked community, which has banded together against me. They will meet their end in this wilderness; here they will die.' – Numbers 14:26-30, 35 

I've always been fascinated by the Exodus. I remember as a young child watching The Ten Commandments and seeing Charlton Heston lead the Children of Israel across the Red Sea. That scene is still amazing to watch and captures some of the magnificence of that event. What's really amazing is that almost immediately following that incredible miracle of deliverance by God, the people started to complain…about EVERYTHING!
  • They constantly murmured and complained even though God was with them. He went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way and a pillar of fire by night to give them light (Exodus 13:17-22).
  • When there was only bitter water for drinking, they complained yet again. Scripture tells us that God commanded Moses to cast a tree into the waters and the waters became sweet (Exodus 15:22-26).
  • They complained about having no food. In one of the most stinging accusations in the Bible, they accused Moses of bringing them into the wilderness to die of hunger. Again God provided for them by giving manna (bread) from heaven (Exodus 16:1-4).
  • When there was no water they again complained to Moses saying that he had brought them and their livestock into the wilderness to die of thirst. As a result, God commanded Moses to strike a rock with his staff and water came forth (Exodus 17:1-7).
It’s important to understand that the reason the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years was not because they were lost. The geographical area of the historical "wilderness wandering" is relatively small and easily could have been navigated in a much shorter period of time. The truth is they were probably just going in circles. I can imagine that someone (probably a bass) at some point said, “I think we’ve seen that camel before!” They certainly were not lost.
It wasn't because they didn’t have leadership. Moses, Aaron and Joshua were there to seek God’s direction and to guide them throughout the journey. Though imperfect, they were seeking God’s direction to find the land that had been promised to Abraham hundreds of years before. Most important, God Himself was leading them on the journey as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Leadership was not the issue.
Actually, scripture is very clear: the people wandered in the wilderness because of their murmuring and complaining. Although God never left them, He used the wilderness experience as time of punishment for the Israelites. Just as important, it also was an opportunity for teaching and spiritual growth.
As Christians, and as a church, we must be reminded that God despises mouths that complain. If we’re not careful we can easily allow ourselves to have critical spirits that spew forth negativity and pessimism that impacts everything…and everyone…around us!  We hear it every day in comments like:
  • “I didn’t like that song, did you?
  • “Well, if I were in charge we would do…”
  • “I’m just not happy with the way things are going.”
  • “I’m not a negative person, but…”
Paul warned us of the dangers of negativity and complaining in Romans 1:21 when he wrote, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Many times when we find ourselves (or our church) in the wilderness, it’s not because we don’t know God, but rather because we have allowed ourselves to become bitter, unthankful, and have taken the focus off of Him (remember the golden calf!). The results are devastating: our thoughts and words become critical, our hearts become “darkened”, our worship becomes weak, and our lives are characterized by powerlessness and a lack of God’s supernatural presence.
Are you in the wilderness? If so, you need to remember what probably put you there. Like the Israelits, it just might be our murmuring and complaining.

1 comment:

  1. Thank You Lavon. Gods Word is Powerful and Sharp.