Cantankerous Pilgrims


Grumbling is a blight that still blots many churches. Here are four reasons why grumbling among Christians can be deadly.


Creator God, I cannot begin to fathom all You have made and how it all works together. I respond in awe and wonder to You.


Numbers 11:1-15


Consider:  An old saying runs, "Nostalgia is remembering the joy but forgetting the pain" (4-6). It is so easy to have a distorted perspective on the past.

Think Further: 

Today's incident takes place three days into the trek from Mount Sinai toward Canaan. Thousands of people are marching in order, with tribal standards flying. The Ark of the Covenant borne by Levites forms the vanguard (10:11-36), while the cloud of the Lord leads the way. A spirit of triumphant optimism pervades, for "the Lord has promised good things to Israel" (10:29).

Three days into the inhospitable desert, however, optimism implodes into discontent (4-6). A year earlier the people had also complained bitterly about lack of food. Then manna was divinely provided. Now the people complain again. This time the daily diet of manna has become monotonous (6). We, in our cuisine-loving Western society, find it easy to sympathize.

Grumbling is still a blight that blots many churches. Following up Paul's point that the Israelites are a warning to us (1 Cor. 10:10), there are four reasons why grumbling among Christians can be deadly. First, it is infectious. A dissatisfied minority ("the rabble," 4) can contaminate a whole community. Second, it is disorienting. Perspective is distorted. Memories of Egyptian cuisine block out recollections of cruel suffering (5). Third, it is censorious. It leads to fault-finding and breeds rejection of God-given leadership (11-15). Fourth, it is disastrous. Today's episode is the lead story in a series of accounts in Numbers in which every section of the pilgrim community rebels against God's provision and purpose, resulting in a whole adult generation (apart from two men) forfeiting the privilege of entering the Promised Land. James warns us that grumbling still merits divine judgment (James 5:9). Paul urges us to bear with one another and to forgive any we may have a grievance against. Since Jesus has forgiven us, how can we fail to forgive others (Col. 3:13)?

Apply:  Do you think others would describe you as a complainer? Resolve today to speak positively rather than negatively.


Loving Father, I am well aware that forgiveness is a biggie with You. I have received Your forgiveness; I ask for Your grace to forgive others.

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