The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
Day 71: Admitting Your Problem
And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
Weíre taking a little time this week to look into the sin of murmuring, or "grumbling," as my New American Standard Bible translates it. Murmuring is evil-speaking, generally aimed at those in authority, whether at work, church, or in Washington D.C. Itís the habitual practice of grumbling about almost everything, second-guessing those who are calling the shots, gossiping and speaking evil of other people. It can be relatively harmlessólike the "armchair coach" who thinks he knows how to manage the baseball team better than the paid professionalsóbut more often it is extremely harmful, and works away at the very foundations of the structures we all need so much: church, government, family, and company.
We saw last week that murmuring is basically a sin against God Himself. Though itís usually directed at delegated authorities like Moses and Aaron, itís really an attitude about life in general, and subconsciously, about the God who is ultimately in charge of everything. It is the sin that kept Israel from the Promised Land, and itís the sin that is keeping many children of God today from the inheriting the promises of God.
There is, however, a cure. And weíre going to take five days to discuss how you can be free from this binding and dangerous sin once and for all. Even if you consider yourself only a moderate murmurer, or someone who only starts the grumbling process when really pushed into a frustrating situation, you need to listen up and follow along with us right down to point number five. Murmuring, in any dose, can be fatal: to you, your children, your church, even your country. Itís like mixing a little arsenic or strychnine in your food each dayóyouíll eventually succomb to it. And when you thnk of it, why would you want even a small supply of such nasty stuff around in the first place?
Admitting Your Guilt. The murmurer is a habitual blame-shifter. Thatís what murmuring is all about. "That person did this to me," and "that person said such-and-such," and "I really care about things around here but itís a hopeless situation because of the way the boss is running the show," etc. The murmurer keeps a close watch on others in order to find fault. Though most murmuers will readily admit they themselves arenít perfect, theyíre generally blind to the depth of their problem, and they go about making their own life, and everyoneís around them, miserable.
If someone has the nerve to point out their attitude problem, that individual sets himself up for special murmuring attention. It can be a very thankless proposition to try to really befriend and help a habitual murmurer, because those closest to them get murmured about the most!
The murmurer has to realize that he is joining company, not with the martyrs and saints of the ages, but with the disobedient children of Israel in the wilderness, the Pharisees of Jesusí day, the legalists who resisted Paul, and the God-resistors and church-dividers of every age. Thatís a serious statement, but murmuring is a serious business, no matter how well-meaning you may think yourself to be. Step one is admitting youíre a murmurer and realizing the seriousness of it. It is the most important step of all. May the Lord grant you the courage and the inner honesty to take a good look at yourself and decide to change.
Day 72: Digging Out the Root of the Problem
For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Weíre talking again today about how to be set free from the sin of murmuring, gossiping, and evil-speaking. Itís the sin that angered God and kept the children of Israel out of the promised land, and itís a sin that keeps many from Godís full blessings today. It can affect not only the guilty person but many innocents as well, for a little murmuring is like a little leavenóit quickly quenches whatever the Holy Spirit is doing.
Many murmurers began as innocent victims themselves. Perhaps they were raised in a dysfunctional family, been abused in one way or another by parents, relatives, or others. They have not had a real fun life, and they really donít believe life can be very fun at all. Theyíve had to learn to repress their feelings, and some are holding dark secrets too awful to talk about. They donít trust others, and are always on their guard, always quick to get offended, pick up on an insult, whether one was intended or not. Mickey Mantle once said about his old teammate and friend Billy Martin, "He was so sensitive he could hear someone give him the finger behind his back." Billy was always looking to be insulted, waiting to be insulted. It makes you wonder who did what to him to make him that way.
Forgiveness. In order to start the process of freedom from this negative, murmuring condition you have to forgive the people in your past that have spoiled you for the people you know and relate to today. Recognize that your murmuring is not something that the boss or pastor has provoked you to, itís something you carry with you everywhere you go. Certainly theyíre not perfect and no doubt have made some mistakes, but the problem lies with you, not them. If you pause and think about it, youíve been mad at nearly every boss youíve ever had; or youíve had fallouts with nearly every pastor youíve ever got to know; and youíve been dissatisfied with every president in your memory, not just the last two.
It may very likely go all the way back to an alcoholic dad that never gave you any affirmation, or who even abused you. You may be down on any authority figure or father-figure because of him. As a pastor, Iíve had to make myself realize that a lot of people are just mad at me because a pastor is a powerful father figure and they never liked their dad. It may be that you were the poor family at school and you got mocked by the other kids because you wore ragged hand-me-down clothes. Maybe to this day you murmur about folks who dress in nice clothes. Maybe you were called an ugly duckling, and youíve had it out for the swans of this world ever since; or you were an unhealthy boy and just like to find fault with anyone who seems athletic. Do you see what Iím saying? There are a thousand and one other experiences that may have given you an attitude problem, but they have very little to do with the people in your life at the present.
Youíve got to deal with the author of your hurts. Youíve got to forgive your father or mother, or schoolmates, or whoever it is that youíre still mad at. Youíll feel more free the minute you do, but you wonít get anywhere without dealing with those old hurts.
Day 73: Changing Direction
Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
Acts 3:19 (KJV)
Today weíre going into Step Three of how to get free from the sin of murmuring. The reason weíre taking so much time on this is because the Bible itself doesófrom Exodus through Deuteronomy the subject comes up again and again (the book of Numbers has been called "The Book of Murmurings"); and also because it is so common today, so potentially devastating, and so hard to overcome once itís established in your life.
Repentance and Conversion. Jesus Himself emphasized the need for repentance, and He put it in the context of gettign right with others who have hurt you (see yesterdayís message). "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors," (Mt 6:12) and "first be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your offering [to God]." Some things cannot be truly repented of until deep issues of the heart are dealt with, like really forgiving those who have hurt you.
Repentance and conversion are very closely relatedóboth of the terms suggest a changing of direction. Repentance means to change your mind, your whole way of looking at the particular subject: to love what you once hated, to hate what you once loved; to have your entire attitude radically altered. A lot of people feel they have repented just by saying theyíre sorry to God... but thatís just step one of our little deliverance program here, "Admission" (see the message two days ago). Repentance is more than admission or confession; it involves really doing something about the problem area. You can go forward for a hundred altar calls, and weep bitterly and desperately before the Lord, but if you donít change your mind about the issue youíre dealing with youíll fall back into it sooner or later. When it comes to particularly tough, habitual sins, you really have to think it through, let the Word of God shed new light on it, conform your thinking to Godís, and do some radical removing and replacing of old thought patterns.
Conversion is changing your actions and behavior. Obviously something that never makes it out of your heart and into your everyday life is stopping somewhere short of really pleasing God and making things right! Repentance and conversion arenít really as hard as they may seem at first glance. If you make your mind up to deal with something then changing directions is quite easy. The hard part is deciding to really do something about your flesh, really deciding to say no to sin and yes to God.
Some years ago the Lord dealt with me about some deeply entrenched bad attitudes. It actually took three or four years to come to the realization that they were wrong. When I did finally decide to purge them out of my life I prayed each day for Him to renew my mind about those attitudes, to remind me of what Heíd already shown me, and to shed new light on them as necessary. I didnít want this to become a lesson soon forgottenóI wanted to be totally renewed and free now that Iíd seen the light. He answered those prayers and granted me to put on a totally different attitude. He can do the same with negative attitudes and murmuring for you. Change your mind and your lifeówith Christ all things are possible.
Day 74: Replacing the Old with the New
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
Weíre continuing again today our series of messages on how to get free from the habitual sin of murmuring, or complaining, and evil speaking. First, you have to recognize the problem for what it is, a destructive habit that can drag you and others possibly into the very pits of hell. Second, if applicable, you have to do a little digging, and forgive any old hurts that have contributed to your negative attitude. Third you repent and be convertedóchange your mind and your ways.
Replacement. The fourth step of freedom is an extension of the third. Replacement is a part of true conversion. When you get rid of the bad you have to replace it with something good. You cannot leave a vacuum in your life, or youíll fall into old patterns before long. Remember Jesusí words about the person who was delivered from demonsóif the demons return and find that their old house (you) is now swept and decorated, but still without inhabitant, theyíll return with a vengeance and your last state will be worse than your first. You have to replace the old bad things with new good things.
You have to replace bad attitudes and unhappiness with the joy of the Lord. Some people speak glibly about the joy of the Lord without having it in their life in the slightest. They havenít really tasted and seen that the Lord is good. They have a distorted concept of His righteousness and justice. This is merely an extension of their bad attitude toward life in general, the attitude that makes murmurers out of them. They canít help but speak bad; to them life is bad; speaking good seems hypocritical and phony; happy people are trying to hide something. Thatís how they really see things. When they murmur and complain theyíre speaking from the abundance of their heart, because thereís little but unhappiness in it. If you try to repent of your speaking without replacing the bad attitudes in your heart you fight a losing battle.
The Bible describes anything but a negative world and negative life for the believer. Peter speaks of "joy unspeakable and full of glory," Paul tells of rejoicing all the time, even old Ezra said "the joy of the Lord is your strength." These men had wholesome things in their hearts; they saw God as good and loving; they saw the future as in His hands, even though the present might have been less than the best place to be. They had faith, not fear in their hearts. They trusted God, rather than wondering what evil punishment He might be planning for them. They knew how evil men were, but they loved them anyhow, and they trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit to make bad men good. The world is full of problems, but they knew how to pause and smell the flowers, watch a beautiful sunset, or even kick back with a clean conscience and watch a sports contest on occasion. Paul said heíd learned the secret of living, and being content in any and every state. The murmurer is just the opposite: he is discontent in every state.
Get some good things down into your heart. Read about Godís love and mercy and miracles in His Word. Read testimonies, and missionary biographies. Rejoice with others who are rejoicing, instead of listening critically, or accusing them of being silly and emotional. Replace that old garbage with the joy of the Lord. Again, ask God to keep reminding you and keep on doing this work in your heart. Heís more than willing to bring you into joy and victory, to replace your unhappiness with joy.
Day 75: Positive Confession Really Works
A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words...
Confession. The fifth step of victory over murmuring and complaining is to start speaking right, start confessing out loud good and positive things instead of giving in to negative speech. Itís obvious that the most powerful way of putting down evil speech is to put good speech in your mouth instead.
Iíve put it last in our five-step recovery program because we had to deal with the causes first. Jesus said the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart, and you can do positive confessions until your blue in the face, but if your heart isnít converted, youíll slip sooner or later, and talk worse than ever. So we had to address the heart first, forgive old hurts, and start replacing negative attitudes with new positive ones. But here is where good confessions really can help.
You see, a complaint or a murmur usually begins as a passing thought, and if you ignore it, refuse to pick it up and examine it, itíll just pass away. But if you do entertain it, and then share it with someone else, it gains strength and soon takes over you and your companions. More churches have been split because of negative telephone conversations than any other causeóand the people who do it somehow listen to messages like this one and still think that their case is different, that the rules of evil-speaking donít really apply to them because their complaint is so valid... God will be the judge, and Iíd hate to stand before Him after having done my best to discredit someoneís else, no matter what the reasons.
At any rate, itís the speech, the confession with the mouth, that lends more strength to a passing evil thought. The more you talk about it the worse it seems. When you share your negativity with others, they soon develop their own slant on the subject, and you see things from a new light, new wrong things are brought up, and now the passing negative thought has become a tree with many branches, in which the demons of hell are perched, waiting to devour you completely with their ugly murmuring spirits. I remember Rick Joynerís vision critical Christians getting divine revelations about the faults of othersóin fact demons were perched above them vomitting!
The more you dwell on and speak about something, the more powerful and influential it becomes. Communist propagandists knew this well; they kept broadcasting lies until the people actually believed themóat first folks laughed at the absurdity of the propaganda, but eventually the very power of the spoken word got them thinking negatively, and finally swallowing the whole line.
But it works for positive speech, too. If you keep saying positive things youíll make them more powerful in your life. Things like, "Wow, is God ever good to us!" and "What a great life I have!" or countering a bit of gossip with "Well, I donít know about that, but heís never done anything bad to meóI think heís a great person." Keep telling your husband or wife how beautiful he or she is, out loud. Theyíll start to feel beautiful and youíll start to appreciate them more. Positive speaking can be just as contagious as murmuring. Wouldnít you rather have a happy life? Donít you want to enter the promised land? Then quit the evil speaking and start talking like a Christian!
Day 76: Short Memories
I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, "At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God."
Psalm 106 gives an interesting account of the children of Israel at the beginning of the exodus...
"He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up... And the waters covered their enemies; there was not one of them left. Then believed they His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul."
Psalm 106:9,11-15 (KJV)
The children of Israel were a fickle and forgetful people. They stood murmuring before the Red Sea, and God sent a mighty wind that blew it into heaps on both sides of them so they could pass through it with dry feet. When the Egyptians tried to follow them, the sea returned to itís normal bounds with such a tremendous rush of water that every one of them perished. This made the Israelites excited and the Bible records that they believed His words, and they sang His praises.
"But they soon forgot His works." They had hardly left the Red Sea before they were grumbling and complaining again. The water was bitter at Marah. And now they had no bread to eat. They forgot the miraculous deeds that the Lord had already done for them. They didnít remember the ten plagues that devastated Egypt but left them unharmed. The parting of the Red Sea, and the sweetening of the waters of Marah were hazy memories, though they had happened just days ago. Weíre hungry, we want some bread and vegetables, and some meat. You must remember also that they were not starving by any means. They had taken their herds and flocks with them, but they were saving them to be raised in the promised land. They were just plain murmuring.
Their negative attitude seems to pivot around the phrases, "they soon forgot His works," and "they waited not for His counsel." God always has an answer. He had answers to their other trials, and He had an answer for this one. Nevertheless they didnít wait for an answer, but seized the opportunity to pick on Moses and Aaron instead.
King David, who may have written the psalm, was just the opposite. He was given to deep moods and depressions, too, but he strengthened himself in the Lord, the Bible says. One of the ways he did this was by remembering the Lordís mighty works. In the Psalms he is always reiterating the miracles of the past, remembering the victories of old, as well as the promises made to himself. Thatís why he was a man after Godís own heartóhe kept his heart right. He waited on the Lord. He didnít complain about others, but left them in the Lordís hands. He looked for the Lordís deliverance, instead of looking for someone to blame for momentary problems. And God never let him down. Youíll find he wonít let you down, either.
Day 77: Leanness of Soul
I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, "At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God."
We said yesterday that God never let David downóthat man trusted in God and found Him to be faithful to His promises. You might think that the rebellious children in the wilderness would get just the opposite treatment from the Lord, but the amazing thing is that He also never let them down. In spite of their murmuring, He continued to provide for them, to meet every new challenge and problem with a miracle, to feed them and clothe them throughout the entire forty miserable years they spent complaining about Him in the wilderness.
Here in our opening text the Lord says, "I have heard the grumblings...and you shall be filled..." He answered their murmurings even though they never asked Him in prayer, though they cursed His servants and the bad luck that had brought them out in the desert. He answered them though they might easily have slaughtered a few of their own cattle and sheep and eased the hunger. (Iím sure that the more well-to-do families were eating fine, actually, but those with very little by way of material goods were starting to feel the pinch, and started the complaining.) God heard their cry and met their need.
Psalm 106:15, which we looked at yesterday, gives a little more information on the subject, though: "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul." They paid a price for their carnal-mindedness. They drained their souls of spiritual strength. Though their outward bodies were strengthened by the food they received, the inner man was weakened by it. They went the way of the flesh instead of the way of the Lord. They might have waited just another day or two, and the Lord would have come through for them in perhaps an even greater way, and they would have had full spirits and full bellies. But they wanted the full bellies and they wanted them right now; they werenít about to wait, and they didnít feel like trusting. They wanted food.
God wants to give us the desires of our heart. I knew a man of God who was hurt very deeply by a certain unprincipled pastor, and who started a church and stole literally hundreds of sheep just to spite that man. Well, his health started failing him, his family started falling apart, and he finally lost everything. I still believe that had he waited the Lordís timing and proceeded with a pure heart, he would have got all that he wanted and more. He would have had a full spirit, a full soul and a full belly.
Donít kick and fuss just because things donít seem to be going just right today, but trust the Lord, await His perfect timing and seek His perfect willóstand still and see the salvation of the Lord. You can have a full belly and a full soul, too. Why sacrifice one for the other?
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.