It’s hard to trust in the Lord. It’s easy to acknowledge that we should be trusting in the Lord in all things, but it’s harder to apply that knowledge. One way we can grow in this residual suspicion of God, left over from the old self, is by remembering what He has done already.
The ancient Israelites struggled with this. In the wilderness, we read in Numbers,
2 Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.
3 And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! – Numbers 20:2-3
Now, mind you, this was not an easy situation. It’s not as if their wifi was acting up. They had no water. So, this is indeed a dire situation. But their response to it was wrong. Rather than call on the name of the Lord, they went to Moses and Aaron. And rather than ask them for intercession, the people collaborated against them to quarrel with them.
And they said some stinging words: Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! They would have rather died than be in their current predicament. This is an ungrateful, unwarranted attitude.
And the event they’re likely referring to is what happened earlier in Numbers, when the people had complained about not having meat and longed for Pharaoh’s food. In that instance (Numbers 11), the Lord gave them quail, but struck the people with a great plague in His just anger. And these people are saying that they wish they had died back then, too. How ungrateful is the sinner’s heart.
Now, we said this complaining was unwarranted. But why? We acknowledged that this was a dire situation—they were in the desert with no water. It was unwarranted because God had time and again showed His love for them, His provision for them, His power to deliver and save. He had delivered them from slavery. He had given them manna from heaven. He had once before given them water from a rock. And yet they complain. They quarrel with God’s anointed.
Now, there is a sense in which it seems like we’re supposed to read this and be appalled at their attitude. And there’s another sense in which we should stop to realize that we are not much different from them. Let he who does not complain stop reading this bleat. Let he who has never been discontent go home already. The Israelites are being foolish here. And we are sometimes like them.
The reason why they complained in this situation, the only logical reason that they should have complained in the hearing of God, is that they had Gospel Amnesia. They had short-term grace memory loss. They had forgotten who God is and what He had done for them and who they are and what they have done against Him, and so they complain. They don’t trust in Him. They forsake Him and even say, “Would that we were dead”.
And that’s the same reason we complain. We have Gospel Amnesia. We forget who He is and what He’s done, and we forget that we don’t deserve anything, yet He provides everything. So, if we suffer from complaining, if we suffer from memory loss, we need to take practical steps to have the gospel ever before us. Whether that’s a regular devotional time, or memory verses, or regular fellowship, we need to continually remind ourselves and each other about the gospel.
What will you do today to stamp out your complaining? What will you do to not harden your hearts, as at Meribah (Psalm 95:8, the place of this water incident)? May God help us to that end.
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