Grumbling Grumbler, Deuteronomy 30:15–20, Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, February 16, 2020
The story is told about a wife of a hard-to-please husband who was determined to try her best to satisfy him for just one day. “Darling,” she asked, “what would you like for breakfast this morning?” He growled, “Coffee and toast, grits and sausage, and two eggs, one scrambled and one fried.” She soon had the food on the table and waited for a word of praise. After a quick glance, he exclaimed, “Well, if you didn’t scramble the wrong egg!”
You may know of someone like that. Perhaps you are like that. With that said, let me ask you: how often do we notice these miserable folks around us? Some of them live nearby, run businesses, or work beside us, or, maybe they’re related. I think it’s safe to say we all know people like this. And unfortunately, there are lots of people within the church who are nothing more than Grumbling Grumblers.
It’s kind of like, no matter how nice you are to them, or despite how great life can be, they just find something to grumble about. It’s like their baseline mood is one of permanent unhappiness, such a person, like Grumbling Grumblers, may make us think that they can never be content with life. He or she struggles with happiness; they tend to have a “doom and gloom” outlook on everything; they are seldom thankful. They grumble about this, complain about that. Nothing is ever good enough. Being riddled with pessimism they often knit-pick and criticize nearly everything and everyone around them.
So, let me ask another question. Do you think chronic complainers are just miserable because that’s the way they were born? Or, is there maybe something more going on, say, something spiritually related? I believe the ways in which we view, and live life: whether from a state of grumbling, or from a state of joy, begins with the heart. The apostle Paul says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing” (Phil. 2:14).
With this morning’s text, we’re going to peer into the history books and see what happened when Israel grumbled too much, and the consequences of their attitudes of heart. And as we’re looking at that, we’re going to see what that all means for us.
The setting of our Old Testament text takes place as the children of Israel are standing on the threshold of entering into the Promised Land. They had wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and their wandering is now coming to an end. But before they step across the Jordan River to enter into the Promised Land, God through Moses has some final words.
It is the culmination of a lengthy discourse that began back in Deuteronomy twenty-seven, he reiterated the stipulations of the covenant, and reminded Israel, once again, of the ingredients of their relationship with the Lord their God. He states clearly what will bring blessings and what will bring curses. Their choice is simple. Obey His commandments and be blessed; disobey, and be cursed. There is no middle ground. Make the right choice and you will never have to worry about being a Grumbling Grumbler.
Moses’ concern, of course, was when they come into this land of prosperity they would grumble so much that they would forget the promises of the Lord God. So a choice is emphasized. As the NIV translates it: “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”(15) These seem to be easy choices, don’t they, life and prosperity, or death and destruction?
Yet even though it seems to be an easy choice, they need to know the consequences of their bad choices. God said, “But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.”(17-18)
What was the requirement for the children of Israel when they entered the Promised Land? They had one thing to do, and that one thing was to drive out all of the inhabitants that were there. The Lord wanted them to drive out the inhabitants in the Promised Land because they were pagan people. They did not believe in God, and they were not going to worship the Lord God Almighty.
Rather than obedience, God’s chosen people chose disobedience. So it was that they, even though this was to be their Promised Land for generation after generation, soon found out the consequences of disobeying, their enemies would come and defeat them. Rather than choosing a life of prosperity, they chose disobedience; death and destruction.
Today, we already live in our promised land; the Lord wants us to ask ourselves, what is our choice? As we live in this Promised Land, we live among those who worship pagan things. There are many false gods all around us. There are many who end up choosing to be nothing more than Grumbling Grumblers!
The Lord reminds us that day after day, we as believers and God’s chosen people make our choices. Our choices are not any easier than they were at the beginning of time. In fact today’s choices are much harder. Remember Adam and Eve only had one choice, not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Only one choice to do wrong! They chose sin in a perfect world. We are far removed from that perfect world that Adam and Eve enjoyed.
The prevailing attitude in the world around us is that if we let people do what they want and respect their space, and their feelings, and their opinions, and even their bad judgments, that can’t be such a bad thing.
All around us people declare sin is not so bad. Evil is even considered good. People consider themselves worthy of heaven. Yet, that is not what the Bible says! Just as the Lord was serious with His chosen people, He is very serious in our day and age too, with our nation that lives in our promised land, God says: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good”(Titus 1:16).
Still, God has placed His choice upon us. God has taken us from the grasp of Satan and placed us into the palm of His hand so that we can make good choices. We can make Christian choices. It is difficult, it is hard, and the world can be quite alluring. As the philosophy of the world creeps in, it is so easy to make the wrong choice.
And because of all of this, or as a result, people choose to live in a permanent state of grumbling. You could say they die according to the way in which they lived. By their own heart and actions, just as Israel chose death, instead of a blessed life.
Think of someone you know that lives in a state of perpetual grumbling, Christian or otherwise. Ask yourself: are they happy, are they living a good life, or are they miserable? But more important, how’s their faith, are they growing, or are they simply dying?
I can tell you, those that that live as the Israelites did, in a permanent state of grumbling and complaining without the Spirit in their life, they exist physically, but spiritually and emotionally, they’re dead inside. Only the Holy Spirit can change their lives. That same Spirit dwells within your tent, within your souls, and He wants you to show His glory, so that it will shine forth from your spirit.
Our Lord says to you, “What is your choice?” Is it going to be listening to the world and disobedience and seeing God’s judgment, is it going to be a life of a Grumbling Grumbler? Or is it going to be listening to God’s Word, is it going to be a life of obedience that enjoys all of God’s blessings?
God tells you to walk in His ways and to love Him. Make no mistake. God did not, and will not, turn away from His people. His people might turn away from Him. Yet, just as He has always done, God will bring back His people through trials and tribulations. God will bring back His people even through captivity. How much easier it would be if they would just walk in God’s way.
In our day and age, we have freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. We can do and say just about anything we want to without any repercussions, because those are the freedoms that we enjoy. We have freedoms which nations around the world lust after, and do not possess. Yet, how often do we take them for granted? How often do we forget the freedom we have to be able sit down and read our Bibles every day, the freedom to confess Christ openly without any government interference, the freedom to worship on Sunday?
As we look at our life, we see our lives are continually filled with blessings beyond all comparison. These are divine blessings that you and I do not deserve, divine blessings that we have not earned, and divine blessings that we cannot buy. This is especially true when we look at the spiritual blessings that the Lord has given us.
When we look at all of the creation in the world and all the billions of people that are here, the Lord says, “You are my treasured possession.” God has chosen us, so that we might choose obedience and enjoy God’s blessings.
Clearly, as believers, we are challenged not to grumble or complain; rather, we are to love one another deeply so that we may become blameless and pure in God’s eyes. If we grumble and complain, it shows how worldly we still are. A complaining spirit leads to fighting and quarreling because complaints come from unfulfilled desires, which lead to envy and strife. That was what was at the root of the problem with Israel. God has given us our faith to overcome the snares of Satan. God has given us our faith to overcome the failings of our flesh.
Our gracious God says to you that now that He has made you His followers and His children, His possessions, God says, “What is your choice? Is it disobedience and grumbling, listening to the world; or is it obedience and listening to God’s Word?”
On our own you cannot do it. But because God has given you faith and He is alive and well in you, you can do all things through Him who loves you. God has given you the strength and ability to continue to follow Him, because He has chosen you. May each of you enjoy all of God’s blessings! Amen.