The Tongue of the Wise
April 28, 2013 :: Exodus 15:22-16:36
We’ve only had two sermons in this series, but they’ve got us off to a good start.
The first one was called "The Fearsome Tongue,” and we talked about how powerful our words can be. “Reckless words pierce like a sword.”
And the second sermon was about the other half of that verse, “but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
“Pleasant words are honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Our words can be powerful for good[!] as well as for evil.
Today and next Sunday, I want to talk about grumbling.
During the first message in this series, I asked you to name some sins of the fiery tongue, and one of you yelled out, “Grumbling.”
And I said, “Oh that’s a little one isn’t it? That’s no big deal.”
And we all laughed. Because we know that we’re all guilty.
In a very helpful article on “Grumbling a Look at ‘Little’ Sin” author Paul Tripp says, “We live with grumbling all the time. Isn’t it amazing that we human beings can stand in front of a closet full of clothes and say we don’t have a thing to wear? Or stand in front of a refrigerator full of food and say there’s nothing to eat? We are angry at the food and go on diets because we’re convinced that anything that ever tasted good is fattening. Isn’t it remarkable that we have wonderful activity-filled lives full of meaning and purpose, and we grumble that we’re way too busy? Or that we can look at everything that exists and find some reason to complain? Grumbling may seem like a little thing—a little sin—but I would like to propose to you that grumbling is a pollutant in the waters of your heart. It will kill life.” (Grumbling–A Look At A ‘Little’ Sin, Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 18, Number 2, Winter 2000).
I want to take two weeks to think about this together.
This week in Exodus and next week in Numbers.
Because I think we all need to hear this. I know that I do.
Exodus 15 comes right after Exodus 14. (Believe it or not!)
What happened Exodus 14, does anybody remember? The Red Sea Rescue!
The LORD God rescued His people Israel from the hands of the Egyptians by 10 devastating plagues and one Red Sea Rescue. The Egyptian army had been buried by a divine tsunami. And the people of Israel had worshiped the LORD in singing at the Red Sea! “The LORD is a warrior. The LORD is His name. I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea!”
The people of Israel sang the praises of their Rescuer in Exodus 15.
But that didn’t last long...just three days.
In three days, the same people who were raising their voices in mighty rescue songs were grumbling against their Rescuer.
Grumbling. In the Old Testament, the word for grumbling (or if you have King James Version–murmuring) is used 21 times. And all but 2 of those times, the word “grumbling” is found in this section of the Bible (Exodus 15, 16, and 17) and the very similar situations in the book of Numbers. This passage is about grumbling in the wilderness.
Both of those words are great because they sound like what they are.
You guys over here. Tell your neighbor, “Grumble, Grumble, Grumble.”
And you over here say, “Murmur, Murmur, Murmur.”
The experience of the people of Israel in Exodus 15 and 16 stands in the Bible as a warning and an exhortation to us to not fall into the same temptations that Israel did.
In the New Testament, whenever it talks about the behavior of Israel in the wilderness challenges us to not act like they did. The book of Hebrews, chapter 3. 1 Corinthians, chapter 10. Philippians chapter 2.
Paul says there in Philippians chapter 2, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Don’t grumble. Don’t follow the example of Israel in the wilderness. Don’t grumble.
What is grumbling?
Grumbling is rebellious complaining.
There is a godly way to complain. It is to take your problems to the LORD in faith and make your problems plain to the LORD in prayer. The Psalms are full of godly complaints.
But grumbling is never godly. Grumbling is never good.
Grumbling is rebellious complaining without faith.
Now, that’s a lot easier to say than it is to do!
• Grumbling comes naturally.
• Grumbling comes easily.
• Grumbling is hard to fight.
At least it is for me.
I often don’t even realize that I’ve fallen into it. Someone has to point it out to me.
It’s second nature for me to grumble.
I don’t like something. I don’t like my situation. I don’t like my circumstances. I don’t like what’s happened to me. I don’t like how I feel. And I grumble.
How about you?
This week I posted a little bit on Facebook about what I was learning about grumbling, and a number of people pressed “like” or said “ouch” or sent me a note saying, “Your message on Sunday is sure to pinch, but please preach it. Grumbling is toxic and poisonous, and we need help.”
How do we learn to stop grumbling?
I think that in this section of Scripture there are 3 things about God to remind ourselves when we are tempted to grumble. Three reasons why we shouldn’t give in to grumbling. And if we can get these reasons engraved on our hearts, we can gain some victory over grumbling.
The people of Israel have been rescued but that does not mean that they are out of trouble.
In fact, they run into trouble right away. Moses leads Israel away from the Red Sea into the Desert of Shur (northwest corner of the Sinai peninsula). And they run out of water. Chapter 15, verse 22.
“Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water.” Stop there for a second.
Put yourself in their shoes. It’s easy to be critical when you are well fed and comfortable.
Did everybody get something to eat this morning? Did everybody get something to drink? Anybody really hungry out there? Anybody thirsty? Anybody not drink anything for the last 2 days?
There are upwards to 2 million people here in the desert. And they have no water supply.
And then, they see some water! But it seems like some kind of cruel joke. V.23
“When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. ‘Bitter’) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’”
Now, put yourself in their shoes. Desert. No water. Crying babies. Here’s some water. Uggh! Can’t drink that!
What do you do? Well, you could pray. You could thank God for what He has done. You could ask Him in faith to supply your need. Or...you could grumble. V.24
“So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What are we to drink?’ Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them.”
Don’t Grumble. Why? #1. THE LORD IS TESTING YOU.
You see here how God responds to their grumbling? Amazingly enough, He simply answers Moses’ cry with a miracle. A piece of wood makes the water (not just not bitter but...) sweet.
You know, wood doesn’t normally make water sweet. But this time it does because the LORD wants it to. And it quenches the thirst of the multitude.
And verse 25 says, “There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them.”
This was a test.
The reason they didn’t have water was a test. And, you know what, they didn’t pass.
This was a test.
Now, when the LORD tests us, He doesn’t do it just to flunk us. He does it to teach us. The LORD uses tests to teach us.
The LORD uses tests (or trials, that’s what the word “trial” means) to teach us. He uses our circumstances, our situations, our problems, our trials to:
• teach us what is in our hearts
• and teach us what should be in our hearts
• and teach us to respond differently in the future.
The LORD uses our circumstances, our situations, our problems, our trials, our tests to teach us what is in our hearts, teach us what should be in our hearts, and teach us to respond differently in the future.
You see, the LORD’s tests are not just pass/fail but instruction.
And we see here what was in Israel’s heart–unbelief.
They grumbled because they didn’t believe. Because they didn’t trust.
And all along, the LORD was testing them. We’ll see the same thing in chapter 16.
And the LORD is testing you.
This problem that you have–I’m sure you have one. Whatever it is. You know what it is–this problem that you have is (among other things!) a test.
Don’t grumble at it. The LORD is testing you.
He knows all about it. In fact, He’s sovereign over it. No matter how bad it is, He’s in control of it!
And He’s brought it into your life for (among whatever other reasons) to test you. To teach you what is in your heart. To teach you what should be in your heart. And to teach you how to change.
Forty years later, Moses was preaching to the people of Israel before they went into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy chapter 8). And he says, “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years...to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”
Friends, He’s still doing that today.
And here’s one of the things He’s trying to teach you: With obedience comes blessing. With disobedience comes danger.
We use those phrases all the time with our kids.
With trusting obedience comes blessing. With unbelieving disobedience comes danger. V.26
“There the LORD made a decree and a law for them [something to go by], and there he tested them [His testing is training.]. He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, [test] I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.’”
Now, there is a promise and a threat in that verse. “If you trust and obey, I will not bring any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians.” Implied corollary: I just might if you don’t trust and obey.
With trusting obedience comes blessing. “I am the LORD who heals you!” With unbelieving disobedience comes danger. Pass the test: Don’t grumble.
Are you passing the test?
V.27 stands as an illustration that He can do what He says. V.27
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.”
The LORD knows what He’s doing. He is in complete control here. He says, “I can heal you,” and He leads them somewhere perfect in the middle of the desert, a little oasis, a delightful little campground, a foretaste of the Promised Land.
Did that end the grumbling?
Chapter 16, verse 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. [One month exactly from the Passover.] In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 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.’”
Now, they are hungry–we have to put ourselves in their shoes–but this is really too much!
They grumble against their leaders and charge them with treason.
The Israelites say that it was better in Egypt! They remember it as “pots of meat and lots to eat!” (Walter C. Kaiser)
“O! Remember the smorgasbords back in Egypt? Rameses Old Town Country Buffet?”
Yeah, right?! As if there was any such thing!
They are hungry, but they accuse Moses and Aaron of trying to kill them.
No faith here.
So, the LORD graciously brings another test. V.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 [another test]. 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.’ 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, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?’ 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.’
Don’t grumble. Why? #2. THE LORD BROUGHT YOU OUT.
The LORD did.
And you’ll see it. You’ll know it. You’ll know it when get meat this evening. And when you eat bread in the morning.
You’ve not grumbled against us. You’ve grumbled against the LORD.
That’s so important to realize. When we grumble about our circumstances, we are, in our hearts, truly grumbling about the Lord.
The LORD who (v.6) “brought you out of Egypt.”
“Israel, do you know Whom you are insulting when you grumble?
The same God who rescued you from Egypt is going to take care of you in the desert. Why don’t you trust Him?
I know you are hungry. But you don’t HAVE to grumble.
The LORD brought you out!
If He brought the 10 Plagues on Pharaoh and his people, if He split the Red Sea and brought you across on dry ground, if He saved you from Pharaoh and his army, don’t you think you can trust Him for some food?
Don’t listen to your stomach! Listen to me: ‘The LORD brought you out!’
Don’t grumble. It insults him.
It shows that you don’t think He is able or willing to take care of you.
Well, soon you’ll see. You’ll know. He brought you out.” V.9
“Then Moses told Aaron, ‘Say to the entire Israelite community, 'Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'’ While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud [!]. The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.'’”
How much more, should we who live on this side of the Cross of Jesus Christ, the greatest rescue of all, not grumble.
He brought us out of sin and darkness and Satan’s control.
Don’t you think we could trust Him and not grumble when we’re not happy with something along the way?
Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
He brought you out by His One and Only Son. Don’t grumble!
Think about that. Think about what He did for you.
And that will do away with grumbling. Don’t grumble.
Why? #3. THE LORD IS SO GRACIOUS.
Have you ever noticed how gracious God is to Israel in this part of the story? They have done nothing right since the worship service at the Red Sea. Grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble.
And how does God respond? Does He spank them? Not here. (We’ll see something different next week.)
But here, what does he do but He gives them what they want! He provides what they need! And much more.
Yes, He uses it to teach them a lesson but He pours out His grace on Israel. He feeds them! V.13
“That evening quail came and covered the camp [Wow! A camp covering of quail!], and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. [Whoa!] When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ [Hebrew: “Manna?”] For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. [You don’t deserve it! This is grace!]
This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. [That’s grace!] Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ [Why?] However, some of them paid no attention to Moses [that’s getting to be a pattern!]; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. [Don’t keep it overnight, it doesn’t keep.] Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.”
You know what that is?
That’s daily bread.
That’s daily grace.
That’s mercies new every morning.
That’s a fresh supply of daily grace.
That’s our God!
He is so gracious! Why would we grumble against that?
God not only heals them, turns their bitter to sweet, gives them meat, and bread, but He also gives them rest. Sabbath. V.22
“On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much–two omers for each person–and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, ‘This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. [Don’t work!] So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'’ [It will keep this time.] So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. ‘Eat it today,’ Moses said, ‘because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.’ Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. [Duh!] Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you [that’s grace!] the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.’ So the people rested on the seventh day. [Grace!] The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. [Another “foretaste [literally!] of the Promised Land!” (Peter Enns, Exodus NIVAC)]”
The LORD is so gracious. He even gives you a day once a week to enjoy Him without working! And He gives a perpetual reminder of His grace. V.32
“Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.'’ So Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to be kept for the generations to come.’ As the LORD commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept. [A perpetual reminder of His grace. V.35. This grace went on and on and on and on.] The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. (An omer is one tenth of an ephah.)”
The LORD is so gracious!
He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and goodness.
He is so gracious, friends.
Why would we ever grumble?
His mercies are new every morning. Think about what He is for you each day!
This week, I got to go out visiting, and I realized that I had visited two members of our church that are over 90 years old.
Lloyd Hampton and Bea Johnson. Lloyd just had his birthday last month and Bea has hers next month. Bea Johnson has been a part of this church for 91 years!
Many churches haven’t been around for 91 years, but our church has someone in that has been a part of that church for 91 years!
And one of the things that jumped out at me when I visit with both Bea and Lloyd and Dora was how little they complained.
I don’t know if anyone has ever heard Lloyd Hampton complain!
Lloyd says to me, “I sure miss the fellowship at church, and I’m so thankful for the people who pray for us and think of us. I have so much to be thankful for. God has been so good to me.”
Lloyd knows the knows the principle of manna.
Daily grace. Fresh grace for each new day. Ninety some years of it.
Dora does, too. Bea does, too.
Why would we ever grumble when God supplies fresh grace for each new day?
Why would we ever grumble, when He gives us our daily bread?
Why would we ever grumble?
THE LORD IS TESTING YOU! Trust Him. Pass the test.
THE LORD BROUGHT YOU OUT! Don’t Insult Him. He Saved You!
THE LORD IS SO GRACIOUS!
He gives us everything we have. Everything we need.
And He has given us Himself...
The Lord Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of manna.
After Jesus fed the 5,000 (in the Gospel of John), the people wanted more of the same. They wanted more manna just like Moses had given them.
But Jesus knew what was in their hearts. And He knew what they needed. So He said (John chapter 6):
“‘I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven [what manna was just a picture of]. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘from now on give us this bread.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty [He is the sweet water!].”
Jesus is the bread of life.
He went on to say to the crowd (John chapter 6):
“‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ ... I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’”
Jesus is the True Manna.
A Christian is one who has “eaten of Him” by faith, that is someone who has believed that He is the embodiment of all of the grace that we need.
Have you trusted in Jesus as your Bread of Life?
He alone is satisfying, and He is satisfying forever.
We need to repent of our Grumbling, and to rejoice in our Rescue and Rescuer.
Messages in this Series:
1. The Fearsome Tongue
2. Sweet Words