by Pastor David Groendyk
The end of chapter 15 is baffling and disappointing, but it’s not uncommon. How often do we forget about Christ’s salvation and do something God hates? Every time we sin after being saved, we’re acting like Israel did in complaining about the bitter water. And the same way this will be a recurring problem for Israel, it’s a recurring problem for us.
The big sin Israel commits in chapter 16 is… grumbling? Five times Scripture reminds us that Israel is grumbling (vv. 2, 7, 8, 9, 12). Clearly, God is trying to show us that this is a problem, and not a small problem! Why is grumbling so serious?
- Grumbling shows that we don’t trust God (v. 3). Israel had had meat pots and bread to the full back in Egypt, but now they were walking through a desert. They didn’t believe that what God was doing was right. They didn’t think it was fair. They thought they could come up with a better plan for their lives, and that plan included a buffet. It’s a tremendous audacity against God to think that we should know better than him.
- Grumbling is a sign that we’ve forgotten what God did to save us (v. 6). The Israelites had seen God’s glory in such a great way. Did they not think that that same glory was still with them? Remembering and regularly thanking God for his salvation is crucial to staving off a complaining heart. Because if God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
- Grumbling is ultimately against God (v. 8). Although on the face of it Israel was complaining against Moses and Aaron, God is the ultimate offended party. It doesn’t matter if we’re upset at the driver who cut us off on the highway or annoyed at how slow the barista at Starbucks is making drinks, when we complain (either out loud or in our minds/hearts) it is directed at God. It’s just like when David had an affair with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah to cover it up. Clearly David had sinned against his fellow man, but his words in Psalm 51:4 say, “Against you (O God), you only, have I sinned.”
How many times do you grumble or complain in any given day? If we really examined our lives, it would probably be an astounding number. Think about how normal grumbling is. Think about how easy it is to grumble. I have to confess that I complain all the time. I would be mortified if I had to list all the ways I complain in any given day. Grumbling should not be normal in the life of the Christian. Practice remembering, reflecting upon, and regularly giving thanks for your salvation and for God’s goodness and provision in order to help stave off that grumbling spirit.
Another good reminder for us as Christians is that we have an even better manna than the one from Exodus 16. Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Jesus is an even better manna for the Christian! What did the bread do for Israel in the wilderness? It nourished them, gave them strength, and gave them physical life. What do we get when we eat of the bread of life in John 6? We get eternal life, spiritual nourishment, and the power to put our sin to death. Even when we keep sinning after we’ve been saved, Jesus remains everything that we need in this life. He is the provision that we need always. What do you do when you find yourself grumbling and complaining all the time? Keep going back to Jesus. Keep asking for forgiveness. Keep repenting. Keep feeding on his Word and staying close to him in prayer. He will be all that you need to put that sin to death. Praise God for our bread of life!