Complaints and snakes
The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest
Complaints and Snakes
A family was driving home from church one Sunday. Dad was fussing about the sermon being too long and boring. Mom said the organist played too loud. Sis said the soloist sang off-key. Grandma said she couldn’t hear the sermon. As they pulled into the driveway, Junior said, "Yep, but you gotta admit, it was a pretty good show for a nickel."
In Numbers 21:4-9, the Israelites had just come from an exciting military victory over the Canaanite king of Adad. The entire kingdom was destroyed and Israelite captives had been rescued. You would think there would have been great rejoicing. However, this was not the Modus Operandi, of these people. They were complainers.
They began to complain about the food, again! Interestingly enough, they complained about what they didn’t have and then complained about what they did have. The Lord had provided Manna (i.e. what is it?) for decades; Manna that they didn’t have to buy, hunt or plant. They only had to go out of their tents each morning and gather if from the ground. They had survived and thrived on this diet, yet now they were unhappy.
As, in our opening illustration, spoiled people often complain about the very things that are of benefit to them every day. We have clothing in our closet, but it’s not the newest style or as nice as the neighbors next door so we say, “I have nothing to wear!” We have leftovers in our refrigerator that were just fine yesterday, but, because we don’t have steak or some expensive entree, we say, “There is nothing to eat in our house!”
If you were to visit a foreign country, you would find that people there eat foods that are available to them and are happy to have them. Churches don’t have air-conditioning or padded pews, yet people come and stay for hours on end to get everything they can to left their spirits to get them through the coming week.
When God saw the complaining of his people he sent fiery poisonous snakes into their camp. Numerous people were bitten and many died. One would wonder as to why God would give them such a punishment for complaining. We must remember that God expects the praise and worship of his people. When they complain, they are doing the opposite of praise. Complaining demonstrates a lack of gratitude and God hates ingratitude which is sin. Negativity is a fiery snake in and of itself. Once negative, complaining, words are released from one individual’s mouth, the sting is felt by others and often spread further. James in his epistle refers to the tongue as a fire that spreads like a spark that burns down an entire forest. The snakes coming into the camp had a dissipating effect on these angry words and brought the people to their senses.
When the people realized their sin, they turned to Moses and begged him to intercede on their behalf. When Moses prayed, God gave him a way to give them mercy. God told him to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. He then told the people that if they were bit by a snake they were to look to the snake on the pole and be healed.
If you are embroiled in negative, complaining, hate-filled language, beware; God does not like it. But he has a mode of Grace for you just as he did the ugly mouthed Israelites. He used a pole; we call it the cross. Instead of a bronze serpent, he hung his precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ there. When you look to him with all your heart, he will not just clean up your language, he will cleanse your heart. Turn to him and let him turn your life around.
Looking up with you,