Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grumbling against God

The book of Numbers tells the story of Israel leaving Mount Sinai, heading to the Promised Land, rebelling, and being punished by wandering around in the desert until everyone old enough to have participated in the rebellion dropped dead. Along the way, they complain about pretty much everything, and several additional rebellions break out. Jim Hamilton comments:

"The point being made in all these episodes is that Israel is in the presence of Yahweh, and they owe him praise and thanks for what he has done and how he has provided. Grumbling about circumstances, the kind of food, or who is in charge directly attacks the one who sovereignly orchestrated the circumstances, chose this food not that, and appointed the leaders who are in place. Grumbling against Yahweh suggests that what he has brought to pass is not good, or that his choices were not wise, or that he will not be able to do what he said, or that he has not been faithful to his promises. Yahweh responds to suggestions that he is not faithful, able, wise, and good - which are at the heart of unbelief - with wrathful indignation. He is a consuming fire - even with Moses." (Kindle location 2305, page # unknown, sorry)

He is exactly right of course, and this is but one of numerous reasons you should read this book. I'd also point out that this description does not just apply to Israel in the wilderness. It also describes very well the very first human sin back in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. God gave them a literally-perfect environment, and they still found an excuse to complain and rebel. In the midst of God-created perfection, Adam and Eve believed they could do better.

And so it is with us as well. All sin is merely a repetition of Adam's catastrophic error and Israel's folly. When we sin, we dare to judge God and find his provision lacking or his ways foolish. No matter what the sin is, it's this same basic form of rebellion. We think we can do better than God.

So this short paragraph also explains why hell is perfectly just. We look at the sovereign and wise creator of all, declare him to be an incompetent fool, and try to exalt ourselves over him. "Wrathful indignation" is certainly an appropriate response to such insolent rebellion.

Incredibly, this attitude doesn't stop even in the church. We debate whether hell is real or if the punishment would far outweigh the crime, while we really should be marveling at the incredible mercy God continually displays in that we're not there yet. We are not satisfied with the revealed Word and seek after 'fresh' revelation, when we should be blown away that God would even condescend to reveal himself to such despicable creatures as us at all. We scandalously entertain complaints about the exclusivity of Christ, that it somehow isn't fair that there's only one mediator between God and man, instead of being jaw-droppingly amazed that God would so graciously redeem even a single one of us.

God is good. God is wise. God is sovereign. What God has provided is better than anything we could even imagine. Let's be satisfied with what God gives and stop grumbling about what we imagine God has withheld.

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