Friday, June 10, 2011


"Murmurers?", you might ask; "What are those?"  In the Old Testament, those were backbiters, complainers, those who mumbled against those in authority, and if exposed, they spoke out.  Some churches have them; businesses certainly have them.  More or less than churches, I couldn't figure where I would look to get such figures, but nonetheless, people in authority will encounter them.  If the pressure is really on, they will speak out immediately, as the chiildren of Israel did to Moses when Pharaoh's army had their backs against the Red Sea; "And they said unto Moses, 'Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?'  Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?  Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, "Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?"  For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness." (Exod. 14:11 - 12)

That was only the first murmur; shortly after the resolution of the first murmur by God's destruction of Pharaoh's army, another one became immediately present; "And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.  And the people murmured against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'" (Exod. 15:23 - 24)  They were of little faith, weren't they?  Every time they were desperate to survive, they murmured against Moses, God's representative of authority, and did they realize in murmuring against Moses, they also murmured against God?

And after their thirst was sated, of course, then they murmured about being fed.  "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, 'Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'" (Exod. 16:2 - 3)  Again, they valued availability of food over the 400 years of slavery they just escaped from, only to murmur against God for their freedom they just received at His hand.  Are we any different when in desperation?  Are we too of little faith, or no faith?  God was longsuffering of His people, for we know it is written that without faith, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6).

And again they were thirsty, and even after one miraculous drink, again they murmured; "Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, 'Give us water that we may drink.'  And Moses said unto them, 'Why chide ye with me?  Wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?'  And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, 'Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?'" (Exod. 17:2 - 3)  Note that Moses pointed out to them that they were tempting the Lord with their lack of faith.  Instead of asking nicely as people having faith, these murmured as people without faith!  They were in doubt!  Do we ever murmur because we are in doubt?

Murmuring can be infectious; Num. 11:1 - 34 tells how the people murmured to Moses about the desire to eat flesh, and this being the fifth time of murmuring, now even Moses murmured to God of His affliction as His servant.  He complained of how could he provide enough flesh to feed this great people of His.  Is this the sound of doubt now from God's servant?  God actually had to remind Moses that His hand was not waxed short, and that He could provide, as He had been doing to this point, and the Lord spoke this consequence; "And say thou unto the people, 'Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, "Who shall give us flesh to eat?  For it was well with us in Egypt": therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.  Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; but even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, 'Why came we forth out of Egypt?'" (Num. 11:18 - 20)

By this point murmuring had become a sin that the Lord had to punish.  Miriam and Aaron murmured against Moses concerning his marriage to an Ethiopian woman, and as Miriam led this criticism, so she received public punishment from God in the form of a week of leprosy wherein she was shut outside the camp until her week of shame was fulfilled. (Num. 12:1 - 15)

Do you think this was sign enough from God concerning murmuring with what happened to Miriam?  Nah!  They sent spies to reconnaissance the children of Anak, and when most of the spies reported unfavorably, well...yeah, they murmured again!  "And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.  And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, 'Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!  Or would God we had died in this wilderness!  And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey?  Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?'  And they said one to another, 'Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.'  Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.  And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, 'The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.  If the LORD delight in us, then He will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.  Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.'  But all the congregation bade stone them with stones.  And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.  And the LORD said unto Moses, 'How long will this people provoke Me?  And how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?  I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.'" (Num. 14:1 - 12)  If you know the rest of the story, Moses had to ask for pardon for the iniquity of the people, for here they were again, doubting God to the point of thinking to stone to death Moses and Aaron!  The people still hadn't connected the dots that murmuring was rebellion against God!

If His chosen people provoke Him to wrath, how longsuffering is He with us, when we do the same, and our trust in Him we question?  See how He feels about this; "Because all those men which have seen My glory, and My miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted Me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to My voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked Me see it:"(Num. 14:22 - 23)  "How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against Me?  I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against Me.  Say unto them, 'As truly as I live, saith the LORD, 'as ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against Me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.  But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.  But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.  And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.  After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know My breach of promise.  I the LORD have said, 'I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against Me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.'" (Num. 14:27 - 35)  I don't know about you, but this sounds like a hurt, angry God our Father to me!  As the people did not fear Him enough not to complain, so He was provoked to anger to pronounce His consequences upon them.

Our God is longsuffering, indeed, and many are ignorant of how many times they have provoked Him to wrath before He executed consequences upon them.  It is written, "And the LORD said, 'My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh:'" (Gen. 6:3)  He knows that we know not what we do, and that we are weak.  He knows our frames.  But as He tests us, He knows what to expect out of His creations.  We, too, must learn what to expect of Him, what to believe of Him, and not to doubt.  Jesus spoke of being able to do incredible things, but the key was not to doubt (Matt. 21:21).  Are we much different than these people?  Don't we get up each morning, and each day we don't know what is in store for us?  Nothing is guaranteed, no matter what position we were in yesterday.  We can have financial security one day, and the next, it is undone.  We can be free today, but will we still be tomorrow?  Each day has its own tests, and as we go through one after another, let us strive not to murmur, as the Israelites did, but train our minds to throw away doubt, and believe that the Lord's hand is never waxed so short that He cannot bring us through whatever tribulation is upon us.  "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Cor. 10:13)

Pray for our church leadership.  They don't need murmurers in the congregation, they need our prayers and assistance.  If someone is complaining about them, tell them to bring it to the one they are complaining about, and to complain with a fix!  It doesn't help to complain, but not have a way to fix the reason for murmuring.  They can keep in good standing with a church leader if they know a way out for the complaint, and if they take it to them instead of murmuring as a backbiting to other people.  Explain they may keep them as a brother or sister in Christ if they bring it as constructive criticism instead of a kind of downtrodding.  Our church leaders need edification, too!  "Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;"
(Phil. 2:14 - 15)


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Rich,
    My freshman classmates at Elim Bible Institute and I are working on answering this question:

    As you have been studying the Book of Numbers, there are three major sins that cause the stumbling of the entire nation of Israel: rebellion, murmuring and doubt. List the Instances found here and compare these stumbling blocks to some of the struggles you have seen in the church today.

    I found your blog with google, what a powerful tool.

    I found your blog with google, what a powerful tool.