8th Pentecost Sermon
July 30, 2017
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 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 against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’ ”
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.
The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”
That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.
‘God Loves Grumblers’
1) Provides Manna Every Morning
2) Preserves His Promise of Salvation
Dear Children of God,
Do Christians complain if pastor is not producing results they expect? You know we do. Focusing on failures, noting negatives, murmuring under our breath; whispering behind somebody’s back, apparently godly people disagree with whatever direction church leaders guide our congregation. Daydreamers idly remember “the good old days” instead of stepping forward to tackle today’s challenges. Ancient history? Absolutely! Fourteen hundred years before Jesus’ birth, as Moses leads God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, as they first enter the Sinai peninsula aiming to exit at their promised land of Canaan, the Israelites are grumbling in the desert — a historical event we too often emulate with our own evil attitudes today. Realizing we regularly repeat Israel’s mistakes, we ask, “What will God do to us sinfully complaing saints?”
What will God do when we continually criticize his representatives — we blame pastor for our personal problems, we disrespect our parents; we complain about our teachers – to say nothing of the way we downgrade our governing rulers? Will God let us close our ears; can we turn our heads as if the Lord is talking to someone else in our text, as if we never murmur about mom & dad’s decisions or never presumptuously talk back to a teacher? No, I pray we realize: you & I are these complaining Israelites. You & I are to ask, “What will God do to us grumblers?”
Thankfully, we are able to ask, “What will the Lord God do if we turn up our nose & refuse to eat food he puts on our plate? How will the Lord God respond when we look left as he tells us to turn right, when we focus on the past as he points us to the future? If people respond to saints’ complaints, lightning bolts will fly, for no one likes complainers. No one enjoys listening to a whiner. Souls who seem to see the dark, negative, down side of every situation are not popular people. Almost endless objections, unfounded criticism, inappropriate accusations turn my stomach. If I could pass sentence on complaining people, a pit where the earth opens to swallow Korah alive as he defies Moses’ leadership – as he tries turning Israel a different direction — would contain more corpses. Thankfully, that righteous God (who did open the earth to swallow Korah) is a loving Lord ruling our life. Thankfully, as we observe, our gracious God loves grumblers. God obviously loves grumblers. He provides manna every morning the Israelites will wander this wilderness; God still provides what we criticizing saints need day after day. Most importantly, God preserves his promise of salvation; God provides a Savior, proving he still loves us grumblers today.
For a fact, God loves grumblers. But God does not love our grumbling, God does not request our criticism; God does not permit Christians to complain. Despite harsh words we hear first, Israel is actually being blessed. In previous months, the Lord used Moses to free two million souls from Egypt’s slavery. Orchestrating a series of ten plagues, God forced Pharaoh to release his people. When they are apparently trapped at the Red Sea, God blows back the waters so Israelites can walk over to the safe side on dry ground; then God collapses walls of water to drown Egypt’s army. When water at Marah is too bitter to drink, the Lord sweetens it as Moses obediently tosses in a particular piece of wood. The Lord promises his people, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord…if you pay attention to his commands… I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’[EX 15]
God is good & gracious, guarding & guiding his people. In the second month of their desert trip toward Mt. Sinai, however, ‘The whole community grumbles against Moses & Aaron.’ Food they carried out of Egypt is being consumed. Desert travelers do not have time or place to plant a garden growing enough food to fill 2 million mouths. Expecting the worst, assuming starvation is everyone’s fate, ignoring power God exhibited at the Red Sea & Marah, they grumble against their earthly leaders: “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt!” Apparently forgetting the forced labor, the bricks they had to bake before building cities; possibly pyramids for an oppressive Egyptian king, they remember the ‘good old days,’ ‘There we sat around pots of meat & ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’
God’s response is gracious. God displays mercy grumblers never deserve — promises to provide manna every morning; tells Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day & gather enough for that day.’ Israelites failed a previous test, failed to simply listen to the Lord’s voice instead of opening their own complaining lips, but God again explains, ‘In this way I will test them & see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in.. twice as much as they gather on the other days.’
God’s plan, God’s promise is simple: Every morning people are to pick up enough manna to feed their family for that day. Manna is a special type of bread God scatters on the ground while his people wander in this wilderness. On the sixth morning, people are to pick up enough manna to feed their family for two days since the seventh day is a day of rest set aside for the Lord. Forty years, God will miraculously provide his people’s daily needs, but first they will feast on quail he causes to come into the camp that evening. Moses & Aaron tell all Israel, ‘In the evening you will know it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt; in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him…You will know it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening & all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.”
Please notice, complaints are being voiced against Moses & Aaron. Two human leaders are accused of incompetence, but the truth is, as is often the case when Christians complain, as Moses explains, ‘Israelites are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.’ Do saints occasionally complain about our pastor or criticize our parents? Do we laugh it off as ‘human weakness?’ Do we justify ourselves by saying everyone is entitled to their own opinions? Stop! Look at the situation more closely. If I as your pastor rightly preach & properly apply God’s Word; if you disagree with my statements or dislike my direction, it is not personal opinion — you actually disagree with God. When you ignore Scriptural advice parents provide as God’s representatives, you do not simply ‘tune out’ mom & dad, you close your ears; refuse to listen to the Lord. If you intentionally interrupt a teacher trying to present our Lord’s Bible truths, you are despising, defying; you are trying to destroy God’s instructions.
What will God do when we Christians sinfully complain about his truth; when we grumble against his directions for my life? How does God respond as Israelites grumble against Moses & Aaron applying the Lord’s directions to lead his people to their promised land? Graciously, God loves grumblers. Please understand, God never approves nor excuses their attitude or actions. Yet God provides manna every morning. When people will fail his test again, as greedy souls pick up too much manna the first morning, try to save some for tomorrow (only to find it filled with worms); as lazy souls do not pick up a double supply the sixth day; but grumble again when the ground is empty the seventh morning — as stubborn, selfish people repeatedly display less than perfect behavior — God provides daily bread. Most importantly, the Lord preserves his promise of salvation by walking people through this wilderness four decades, walking his people into his promised land.
All the Israelites will not starve (as they assume); the Lord’s people will not disappear in this desert. God promised Abraham his descendants would one day possess Canaan. God promised Abraham a special son from his seed would bless all nations. As the glory of the Lord is seen in this desert, producing quail in the evening & manna every morning, God’s glory & grace shine brighter than ever as we see God preserving his promise of salvation.
God will lead his people to take possession of that promised land – a land where the prophet Elisha will heal a Syrian leper Naaman, proving God’s gifts will be given for every soul – a land where Jesus, the Son of God, will be born of Mary fourteen centuries later, born to live a perfect life as our substitute who never grumbles nor complains or sins in any way so God will declare you & me ‘righteous’ in Christ; born to innocently die on my cross where God forgives all of our sins as Jesus pays our penalty – a land from which apostles like Peter & Paul will be sent out to preach God’s forgiving love to grumblers in every land in every language.
‘Do not grumble’[1 COR 10] as the Israelites grumbled, the apostle Paul instructs us – ‘Do not grumble against each other, brothers,’[JAM 5] apostle James echoes. Yes – powered by the Holy Spirit; guided by God’s Word – I will monitor my thoughts; I will watch my words – I will be eager to support, to assist; I will be careful to build others up with my lips instead of tearing them down, for God clearly does not condone Christians complaining or criticizing his leaders, our Lord does not allow his children to disrespect his teachers or disobey & disapprove of his parents. Rather than sinfully grumble & complain, I will focus on rightly rejoicing in Jesus my Savior & Lord, for (as manna in the wilderness wonderfully illustrates) God loves us. Graciously God provides manna every morning; God preserves his salvation. Graciously, lovingly , the Lord feeds & forgives me, provides my daily needs, preserves my eternal life – in Christ! Who can complain about God’s provision, protection, or direction?