God provides earthly bread
Sunday, July 25, 2021
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The Lord Cares About Complaining
It’s contagious. As I look back at all those months we walked through COVID I remember how easy it was to forget. It was easy to forget how viruses work, how they transmit and spread. You can’t see them. And so, I would reach out to shake someone’s hand. And sometimes the person would shake back. Sometimes, I’d remember and then take back my hand. It was difficult because I forgot just how contagious it was. This morning we learn of another contagion. You can’t see it. But it’s just as harmful as a virus—if not even more. That contagion is complaining. This morning we will see how much the Lord cares about complaining. In Exodus 16, we read: “1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”” (Ex. 16:1–5 NIV11-GKE)
We are jumping right into the middle of the book of Exodus. So let’s get our bearings. The Lord has rescued them from the oppressive and murderous Egyptians. And he drowned Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. And now, day by day, the people have food. But they are beginning to run out. So some begin to grumble. And that attitude of discontent begins to spread. And in these words we see how the Lord looks at complaining and grumbling. He warns us away from it. The reason is clear. When God gives to us good gifts, he expects us to see them as good gifts and not complain. Here in the desert they had food. The Lord was providing for them. When it came to their daily needs they had no reason to complain. And what it shows to us is our very own inclination toward pride. I remember when I was a child, we had a garden. And it was big. It took an immense amount of work to tend it. But the vegetables that came out of that garden were nutritious. And I remember complaining about almost every plant that came out of that garden. They didn’t taste as good as Coca Cola and pizza did to me. How prideful I was that my parents gave me good gifts—such nutritious food. And I pridefully complained about it. Each of us has that sort of inclination and temptation. But notice how the Lord responds to our pride: “6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him.” (Ex. 16:6–7 NIV11-GKE)
Notice what the Lord does in these words. He clears away the pride. They complained, saying that they were brought out into the desert to be put to death. The Lord clears the air. The Lord clears away their own pride and tells them the truth. He is not the one who brought them into the desert to put them to death. He is their Lord who brought them Egypt to save them from death. This invites us to see our complaining for what it most often is: Pride. It also lets us see what the Lord did with that prideful complaining. He sent Jesus to rescue us from it. We are reminded of all the complaining that those gathered around the cross hurled at Jesus. Jesus, instead of ending them for their pride, paid for it with his own life. And he has done the same for us. The Lord cares about our complaining. First, he clears away our pride. But there is more: “7 Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”” (Ex. 16:7–8 NIV11-GKE)
Here is where these words take an interesting turn. In the words leading up to this the Lord clears away our pride, letting us know that complaining is wrong. But here Moses says some very important words. There are times when the Lord sincerely invites us to complain. But there’s a context. We complain to him. He is the one who knows all of what is going on. He is the only one very often who can help us. This is especially true when it comes to times of pain in our lives. Whether that pain is physical, bodily pain what you can see and feel, or its the strange soul-crushing anguish in your heart. That especially is the time when our Lord invites us to complain to him.
When we do not complain in this proper way to him we rob ourselves. We rob ourselves of the truly beautiful results that will eventually come later on. I’m thinking of MT now, since, days down the road, we’ll be heading out on vacation. And what you have to picture, especially in central MT is desert. Picture sage grass and rattlesnakes. But this morning picture thousands of rusted out vehicles. On the ranch my mom grew up on there was this rusted out pick up truck. The wheels were gone. The the engine was gone. The hood was gone. There was nothing pretty about it at all. But, as we would visit that ranch year after year, there was a small bush that grew out of where the engine used to be. It had no right to grow there. And yet it did. And if you caught it at just the right time of year you could see flowers growing out of this ugly, worthless, wreck. But none of us would ever have seen it if we weren’t patient, watching that bush grow year after year.
My friends in Christ, these people in the desert were scared. They were in pain in their souls. They were running out of food and they were in a desert. Where do you go with that sort of anguish? You go to your Lord. Why? You complain to him because he hears your pain. How often in our lives have we committed this sin of omission, leaving out the good we could have done? How amazing it is for us to see the sort of Savior we have. He complained perfectly in our place. In the bible it says this about Jesus: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb. 5:7 NIV11-GKE)
Jesus complained. But he complained with perfect focus on his Father and perfect trust in him. And he did this in our place. And in all of this we see how much our Lord cares about our complaining. First of all, he clears away our pride. So, we learn day by day, to pour contempt on all our pride so that we can see the good gifts he gives us. And second, he hears our pain. And as we complain to him in this good and proper sense, in due time, like that flowery bush growing out of that wreck, we will see the good he brings out of the pain. Amen.