Gratitude Sermon Series
Week #5: What Do Grumblers Look Like?
On a sunny July afternoon my cousin Clay challenged me to a race. He had a brand new Honda four-wheeler. I was beautiful, bright orange with a engine that started with a simple press of a button and gentle tug of a rope. It would fly over the Alabama clay.
I on the other hand had to use cunning to outsmart this technological giant. I had had a Manco, three-wheeler that had a lawn mower engine, that I had painted myself, jet black, with a red stripe. It had no switches just full throttle. The race was this, he would go left and I would go right around a huge hilly cow paster. Whoever got back first was the winner – Only we had not counted on one thing (the mid-way point.)
As he topped the hill we both fixed on each other’s eyes, He swerved right and then suddenly left, I swerved left and then suddenly right at the same time – there was no stopping – POW! We both were half-hearted in our turning, If I would have stayed right and he left, I would have won. But instead, we couldn’t decide left or right.
This week we are going to look at a portrait of people who claim to be God’s people but are only half-hearted in their attempt in following Him. It is a pictures of what grumblers look like.
***see article below “Rise and Fall of the Three-Wheel ATV”
Grumblers Always Want To Go Back (vv. 1-10)
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And udo not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” 10 Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.”
“Upon hearing the evil report of the majority of the scouts, the Israelites weep, complain, imply that God has evil motives, and desire to change leadership in order to go back to Egypt.” The story told by the 10 spies spread throughout the people like a wildfire, that by nightfall “all the people” believed and wept. Joshua and Caleb’s voices could not be heard over the wailing and lies.
No one talked of God’s grace, or his many miraculous deeds that had been done over the two years. They only focused on the giants, the grapes, and them being grasshoppers.
They then look to put blame on this anger and so they “grumble” against Moses and Aaron. We are to imagine the worst sort of rage, a picture of screaming, rending of clothes, throwing, cursing in anger – completely given over to grief and despair.
As the Israelites are given over to fear and grief they begin to say that it would be better for them to die in Egypt as slaves, or to die in the desert, than to get this close to the Promised Land only to be unable to enter. “In addition, they begin to skeptically suspect God of evil intentions: “Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?” Their skepticism distorts their vision so that the slavery in Egypt looks better than following after God.” And they will soon discover that this will become their own self-fulfilling prophesy.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve sin against God in pride that they know as much about how to live their lives and make decisions as God does, or even more. Also, in the Garden there is peace with God, harmony, there is no poison or death. Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve is “you will not die.” In Numbers 14, we see a lie but it is the opposite for the Hebrew people. The Promised Land represents a restoration of the Garden. God has promised that He will be with them in the Promised Land, where there can be unity, peace, harmony, and the promise, “you will not die.” But the people believe the lie and it leads to anxiety, fear, and eventual death.
The Israelite sin is not pride, but fear and this anxious fear leads them to finally reject God and His plan for them. Matthew 6:25, 33 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?. . . But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Two things were needed: the people needed to stop their rebellion against the Lord, and they must cease to be afraid of the people in the land. The Israelite people choose laziness and despair “over a path of courage, effort, and hope leading toward the promised land.” God wants us to trust in Him, but also to fight for His plans.
Joshua and Caleb also say that the land’s protection is gone. There are no walls, no fortification, no factors of size, and certainly no gods that can withstand the onslaught of the people of God when they know that the Lord is with them.
The word translated “protection” often is translated as “shadow” or “shade.” In the hot regions of the Middle East, the notion of a shadow is a symbol of grace and mercy, a relief from the searing heat of the sun.
Luke 9:62 “Jesus replied, “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” We cannot keep looking back to the way our lives were, if we are to be of any use to God today and in the future, especially when our lives were much worse.
Grumblers Have a “Plan B” Life (vv. 19-24)
19 Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now.”20 Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. 21 But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it. 24 But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.
Moved by Moses’ plea to forgive the people for their rebellion, God pardons their sin. But forgiveness in this case in not complete. The people who have behaved so intolerably will not be put to death, but neither can things go back to the way they were on the day before the rebellion. Forgiveness here has nothing to do with forgetting – there is no mention of wiping the score clean. “God’s forgiveness is a gritty patience and willingness to continue on in relationship in spite of the past.”
The people who had rebelled against God, could not enter the Promised Land and had to go to “Plan B” which is to wander in the desert. Which life would you prefer? Yet there are so many people who instead of following God and His Word, rebel against Him. It is as if God from heaven is saying, “I want to do great things through you, but you just won’t listen.
“tested me ten times” – God is gracious and merciful, but there is a limit, and once that line is crossed there is no going back. This limit of grace is limited to those who will not believe. The words of God in v.21 are forceful “as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth” There is a certainty that these people will never see the promised land. Hebrews 9:27 “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,”
V. 24 The Lord singles out Caleb and calls him “my servant”, and remarks with affection about his “different spirit.” But his reward for this faithfulness came forty-five years later. (Josh. 14:10). We as Christians should not expect to be blessed or rainbows to open before us now, but one day – in heaven He will remember our deeds and our works for Him.
We see that for those that do not believe God, He keeps an account. He knows every sin, and on judgment day will bring this list out and this like the words of the Israelites will be our judgment upon ourselves. However, for the believer, the Christian – Heb 8:12 “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Grumblers Waste Their Lives (vv. 28-30)
Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
The rash words of the people asking to die in the desert become in a sense the judgment of the Lord. They have brought on themselves their punishment. This is the way it is in most rebellious people. The sin that we give ourselves over to will eventually destroy us. For the Israelites it was “doubting God” – this doubt sentenced them to 40 years of wandering aimlessly in the desert.
“I will do to you the very things I heard you say” – The four different punishments of God’s people were all based on what they had said. 1) They did not want to follow God in His purpose for them, so they wandered in the wilderness 2) for every day the spies were in the Promised Land would be a year they would be in the wilderness 3) they used their children as pretext to say why they shouldn’t go in, so only the children would enter 4) Does God want us to die in the wilderness? So the first generation would die in the wilderness.
They believed in knew the Lord but they did not believe the Lord. This would cause them to mark time in the desert until they died. Not believing God’s Word causes us do things that “mark time” in the desert of life. God’s desire is that the Israelites go in and conquer the Promised Land, to enjoy the land flowing with milk and honey, to be a city on a hill, a peculiar people, that would draw the people’s of the earth to God.
People would have looked at this people and their “surly good” land and would have said God is truly with these people. But now they are dust covered and miserable – would the world look upon them and say the same? No.
When we doubt God and live a life of rebellion, then in the end when we look back we will say “what did I do with my life, what a waste!” The apostle Paul said “Philippians 3:7-10 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having fa righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Heaven is the Canaan set before us, a land flowing with milk and honey; there are many people who says that heaven is going to be wonderful, except is hard to get to it. The Israelite’s problem was that they thought following God was too hard, because they thought that is was they who was going to fight the battle.
I have heard many people say “yeah, but Drew, you don’t know what I’ve done.” The Bible says in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God always fights the battle for us. But we must have faith in Him to do it!
Not only does disbelief keep the half-hearted from heaven (the promised land) but it also keeps one from the peace and joy God has promised in this life. John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Grumblers Want To Follow When It Suits Them (vv. 39-45)
39 When Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, the people mourned greatly. 40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned.” 41 But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the LORD, when that will not succeed? 42 Do not go up, for the LORD is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. 43 For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.” 44 But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.
Here is the classic example of too little, too late. Now too late to be in faith, the people determine to go up to the land they had refused. They confessed that they had sinned (v. 40). But, even in their desire to enter the Promised land, they rebel because God had already told them what His desire for their lives would be.
Their actions were rash and not thought out, but worse of all was that God was not with them. They brought about another judgment upon themselves. They thought they could change their future after God had spoken.
There are many people who delay following God, delay trusting Him with their lives, thinking I can “do the God thing later.” Don’t be like the Israelites who when it was too late decided that they wanted to enter the Promised Land.
Matt 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons vin your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
This morning if you are over 20 and fall into the Israelite camp of doubt and rebellion, it’s not too late. You can still turn form your sins and follow God in faith. Ask for His forgiveness and begin to live a life that is a life of purpose, calling, and direction. Allow God to use you build His kingdom, a lasting and eternal accomplishment. If you are under 20 and a child of someone like the Israelite people, have hope, one day you can be free of your parent’s rebellion and you can live a life pleasing to God.
If you are like Joshua and Caleb, hold fast and your faithfulness will be recognized and blessed.
 David L. Stubbs, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Numbers (Grans Rapids, Michigan; Brazos Publishing, 2009) 129.
 Stubbs, 130.
 Ibid, 130.
 Ibid, 133.