Numbers 17:1–18:32, 1 Corinthians 1:1–31, Psalm 18:1–12
Two things on my plate this week: my first head cold in ten years (it’s a bad one), plus a fairly significant financial decision tied to how ambitious I want to be. Should I be surprised that God is giving me devotional readings about the sin of complaining along with reminders of my need for humility and wisdom? His timing is amazing.
The OT reading continues with the Israelites in the wilderness. They refused to enter the Promised Land, so were in a state of disobedience. They started complaining that they had as much right to leadership as Moses and Aaron. God was angry and warned He would destroy these complainers. They persisted and the ground opened up and swallowed them. Still, others kept on griping. (See yesterday’s post.)
So they experienced a test. Each leader brought their staff and Moses put them in their tent of worship. Then, “On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the Lord to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.’ Thus did Moses; as the Lord commanded him, so he did.
“And the people of Israel said to Moses, ‘Behold, we perish, we are undone, we are all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?’” (Numbers 17:8–13)
This wasn’t the end of it, but they did stop grumbling, for a little while.
Again, it’s been said that grumbling is the worst sin. It is like sitting on the lap of God because your legs are broken and you cannot support yourself, and at the same time, slapping His face. With words like that, the attitude of grumbling is far away. How can I complain? God is so good to me. I live and breathe. As someone else said, when you cannot think of anything to be thankful for, take your pulse.
The NT reading is about a different problem, that of trying to be more important that I am by boasting who I know, who I read, who I follow, name-dropping as if association with someone put on a pedestal will put me up there too. Paul answers the church at Corinth with this: “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name . . . . For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Corinthians 1:11–17)
Paul knew his place and didn’t try to be what he was not. I need to read this often, and these verses that follow . . . “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31)
As the Lord warns me not to complain, not about big things or little things like a runny nose, He also reminds me that I am His little child. What more do I need? He takes care of me. It doesn’t matter if I feel foolish or like a nothing. My identity is in Him.
“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” (Psalm 18:1–3)