“And all the congregation cried out with a loud voice, and they wept that night. All the Israelites grumbled and deplored their situation accusing Moses and Aaron, to the whole congregation said, ‘Would that we had died in Egypt!’”
Numbers 14: 1, 2
“The Mayhem Caused by Murmuring”
“Murmuring is wasted breath, and fretting is wasted time.”
C. H. Spurgeon
What problems have I faced that caused me to “murmur?”
“Nothing ousts the sense of God’s presence so thoroughly as the soul’s dialogue with itself – when these are grumblings and grievances.”
Friedrich Von Hügel
“Those who have known what it is to be freed from great mental distress and brought out again into light and joy by God, lose all desire to pass judgment and bear grudges.”
Last week, I received a catalog in the mail designed for gourmet cooks. This catalog was filled with every gadget imaginable. But there was one item that really caught my eye. It was a sign that, according to the description, was to be hung in the kitchen. This sign looked like a road construction sign and it had the words: “No WHINING ALLOWED!”
As I have read the book of Numbers, I think this sign would have made a great gift for Moses. He needed to hang it on the door of his tent for everyone to see, because there are nearly 25 times in the children of Israel’s journey from Egypt to Canaan that the Biblical record tells us “all the people murmured.” They were a bunch of whiners. Nearly every time you hear of them grumbling and accusing, their comments were directed toward God, and His servant Moses. If you are wondering why, in a study on women of the Bible, we’re taking a look today at what God said about murmuring, it is because the Bible makes it crystal clear that it wasn’t just the men who succumbed to grumbling. The women were right along side joining in the commotion. In fact, in the case of Moses’ family, his own sister Miriam led the chorus of family grumblers against Moses.
I know from practical experience, growing up in my parent’s home as a child, if I wanted my parent’s patience to wear thin, all I had to do was whine! While the Scripture makes it clear that God is patient, kind, and long-suffering, to hear your children murmur against you and your child Moses, and to hear these ungrateful people, who had been miraculously delivered from years of Egyptian tyranny, say they wished they had died in Egypt became too much for our gracious God. Lest you think God took His “out-of-control” anger out on the children of Israel, I would like to offer this thought. When the children of Israel told God, “We wish we had died in Egypt,” they were actually saying, “We want Pharaoh’s leadership rather than Yours.” So God gave these murmurers the desire of their hearts. He gave them what they asked for – the removal of His protection -- and disaster followed. For when by the words of our own mouth, we defiantly ask for God to get out of our lives, He will reluctantly comply with our demand. But without God’s protecting guidance, the children of Israel immediately found out how dangerous it was to murmur against God and His servant Moses.
To help us better understand the destructive force murmuring has, I went to the Hebrew translation and found out that the word murmur has a wide-variety of uses. But there are three that I want to explore in more detail:
USAGE #1: The word murmur can mean obstinate. When I hear the word “obstinate,” I am reminded of my horse “Patches” who hated to have a bit in her mouth and further refused to move when her bridle was on. I had to drag the horse around. That horse was obstinate – period. When she planted her feet, you got the point, very fast, that nobody was going anywhere, and that leads me to usage #2 of the word murmur.
USAGE #2: The word murmur can mean “to tarry.” In Numbers, we find that it didn’t take too long from the time the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt until they got to the border of Canaan. But their travel time would have been much less without the griping and grumbling. All the turmoil slowed the people down. In fact, I liken grumbling to getting yourself stuck in quicksand which sucks you in and drags you under. But quicksand also stops you from progressing and this is the effect all the murmuring had on God’s children. It stopped their progress and they found they had “tarried” on the way.
USAGE #3: The word murmur also means, “to endure a grudge,” and this is a doozy! If we look at what the Bible tells us about the behavior of murmurers, we find they took their unhappiness and discontent out on God: “Why does the Lord bring us to this land to fall by the sword” (Numbers 14: 3, Amplified Bible). They became so unhappy and held such a grudge against God and Moses they said: “One to another, ‘Let us choose a captain and return to Egypt,’”(Numbers 14: 4, Amplified Bible). They dumped God and Moses.
As I read this sad story, it hit me how often I have let mumbling and grumbling do damage in my life, the same way it did in the lives of God’s children so long ago. I become obstinate because, by my griping, I talk myself into a state of doubt in God’s leading. And once I begin to question God’s leading in my life, it’s as though I am stuck in the quicksand of discontent and stop moving forward. I tarry along the way. But what’s worse is that with time, my murmuring creates such a negative atmosphere and I get so mad at God – I will even hold a grudge against Him, blaming Him for all my troubles to the point where I say: “If you can’t and won’t and don’t help me right now in the way I think you should, I’m going back to Egypt. I might as well live in slavery rather than wait for You!”
Have you ever had this happen to you? As unbelievable as it may sound, for God’s children thousand of years ago, and for God’s children today, the rejection of our Heavenly Father can and did have its roots in murmuring, grumbling, and griping. Yes, murmuring does cause mayhem. This is why from the Old Testament through to the end of the New Testament, God’s children have shown in the pages of Scripture the severe effects of spreading a negative spirit. In the next to the last book of the Bible, Jude, the brother of James penned these words of warning when he described the qualities found in individuals who exhibited ungodly behavior: “These are inveterate murmurers (grumblers) who complain of their lot in life, going after their own desire” (Jude 16, Amplified Bible).
May our daily prayer be that of the Psalmist David when he asked God, “Let the words of my mouth and mediation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight. O Lord, my firm impenetrable Rock, and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19: 14, Amplified Bible).
“Some people complain because God put thorns on roses, while others praise Him for putting roses among thorns.”
“O God, whose presence is liberty, grant us that freedom of the Spirit which will not fear to tread in unknown ways, nor be held back by misgivings of ourselves and fear of others. Ever beckon us forward to the place of Thy will which is also the place of Thy power, O ever-leading, ever-loving Lord.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
(Available May 2009)