Is it a sin to grumble or complain? How do we avoid murmuring? How does complaining put us against God?
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s great to be with you once again.
Today we carry on in our personal study for the pre-Passover period of time of self examination, and we want to cover an area that the Bible addresses and speaks to in a very profound manner. And it’s one that I would say needs our very, very special attention because it touches an area that we’re all guilty of. Not a one of us has been exempt from this area. Now, we could talk about sin in the broad, general sense; but I’m going to focus it down into a specific area where we have to be very, very much on guard, because the Bible tells us what we are SUPPOSED to do, but we don’t always do this. And the reason why we don’t always do what the Bible tells us is because of the world that we live in. The world has a powerful impact on each and every one of us; and so, what we need to do today…and please keep this in mind: this is not a sermon designed to cast stones at anyone. It is designed to inform us of a danger that we all face; and so, we’re all in the same boat together. It’s one that needs our constant attention. It needs constant overcoming because if you let up on this, wow! You can just literally melt right back into the world so fast, it’s shocking. We’ll see some examples that the scripture addresses to warn us about this danger, and this is something we certainly need to keep in mind as Passover approaches.
First of all I’d like to ask you to turn to Philippians, chapter 2, verses 14-15. Here the apostle Paul gives a very powerful statement. It’s a command directing us how we should conduct ourselves as men and women of God. In it he begins in the following. He says, please notice:
Philippians 2:14-15 Philippians 2:14-15 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the middle of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world;
American King James Version×– Do ALL things…he does not say “some things.” He says “all things.” And what are we supposed to do? Do all things without murmuring and disputing, he goes on to say, that you may become perfect, or blameless, and harmless children of God, without fault, so that there is nothing there that points to you in that area, that that’s a fault, that you’re guilty of this, but in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights…
God intended us to shine as lights in a world that is going just the opposite, and we are definitely living in a world today that is going in an opposite direction. What I want to address now is the essence of the topic we’re going to cover today. I’ve entitled this sermon, “The Sin of Murmuring.” I want to paint a little bit of a picture here for you to help you see and understand what murmuring is, what the Bible addresses about it, and why you and I must be on guard against this, because we can very much fall prey to it.
You and I are living in a generation as never before of murmurers. I mean, people murmur all the time. Now, the definition of murmur means to obstinate, to complain, or to grumble, [whispering] “grumble, grumble,” in a low voice. That’s what people do today. It’s on your television, it’s written in articles and magazines; and when you are around people on the work force, whether you’re in school—I’m talking about grade school, middle school, high school, even in college, universities—you will hear murmuring as never before.
In the political arena you will see murmuring going on left and right. But when we address it now in the spiritual dimension, this now becomes something of very important concern for all of us, because murmuring, what it does, it covertly…you know, just like we say, “a covert operation.” That means it’s underground. It’s not what it seems to be. There’s something going on underground. Murmuring, when it is executed by an individual, is covertly stirring up trouble; and I would submit to you that Satan the devil is a master at this very thing. He is the one that knows how to stir up trouble in this world.
When you read about it in the book of Ephesians where it says how he worked in “the children of disobedience,” how does he do that? Well, he works through his spirit to taint the human spirit so that the human spirit will react the way Satan would like it to react, rather than the way God would like us to react. As a result of this, what we find is that it ends up manifesting itself as gossiping; and gossip happens all around. We live in a…you know, we have professional people who are what we call “gossip columnists,” and they write gossip about things, such as movie stars and what have you.
So we live in a world with this. We find that they, also, who find themselves in this category, who murmur—and I’m talking about the actual murmurers; I’m not talking about those of us who are here today, because we’re not trying to practice murmuring. But murmuring bleeds over into our lives, too, at times; and that’s where we’ve got to be alert and on our toes. But people who do murmur, they have a personal agenda behind the scenes. That’s why they murmur. They’ve got something, they’ve got an ax to grind, something that’s bothering them; and so they [whispering] “murmur, murmur, murmur.” And, you know, it comes in different phases. You can have a soft murmurer over here, [whispering] “murmur, murmur, murmur,” a medium murmurer, [low voice] “murmur, murmur, murmur,” and you get over here, [very loud, gruff voice] “murmur, murmur, murmur!” And people really cut loose. Shall we say, they blow their stack! They really cut loose and agitate. But what they end up doing is demonstrating that they are unforgiving.
Murmurers are unforgiving people. They are not ones that, as the Bible shows, practice the principles that God outlines for their well being. They can be ruthless. We’ve seen a world of ruthless murmurers; and they can be self-seeking. They often engage in what, unfortunately, bleeds from time to time even into the Church of God. They bleed into the area of what is called “backbiting,” cutting and chopping behind the scene; and a brother or a sister in Christ might not even know it’s going on, but somebody’s yakking behind the scenes and stabbing others in the back. This is a form of murmuring that God does not want His sons and daughters to do. They many times will slander and they will even go to the point of distorting and misrepresenting the truth. This is what becomes hurtful in our lives. This is why God has told us not to function that way, but to do all things without murmuring, so that we would carry His banner and not the banner of this world.
Now, I have purposely painted an ugly picture of this thing of murmuring to show you that it’s not a good thing to have, even anywhere close to you. But it does bleed into our lives from time to time, and that’s why the Bible addresses the goodness of God that leads you to repentance, to show you; and this is part of what this message is today, to show us where we ourselves may be guilty of it in ways that we don’t even realize that we’re guilty.
As I say, you can turn a television on today and you can watch a certain program; and many times you will hear murmuring going on, on that program. It’s done in such a skillful way, it is done to make you laugh. It’s done in comedy. But there’s murmuring going on. And, see, people today, they watch things for entertainment. They don’t watch with a discerning mind to say, “What’s going on here? Why did he say that? Why did she say what she said?” And back and forth it goes. So today people have just become so comfortable with murmuring that it’s just normal. What’s wrong with murmuring? Oh, God says there’s an awful lot that’s wrong with murmuring; and that’s why He addresses it.
So let’s take a look at the scriptural admonition and see why we need to stay clear of this phenomenon as much as humanly possible and cry out to God for His guidance and help so that this thing does not encroach into our lives, because we can be caught in a spirit of murmuring.
I wonder sometimes when I read some of these scriptures if all these things that you and I are admonished to stay clear of are not some of the things that originated with Satan himself, and he was the first murmurer. He began to murmur among the angels against God. “I don’t think we’re getting a fair share. I think God is not dealing with us fair here and I don’t think this and that,” because something spurred out of his heart; and from that point on, that poison began to go and, you know, it attacked and literally went against God Himself. So murmuring attacks God Himself. This is what we’re going to discover, that when we murmur in any way, shape, or form—soft, medium, very agitated—we can be in hot water in a hurry. And so, we need to take a look at that from that standpoint.
In light of that, let’s turn to I Corinthians, chapter 10, and that’s where we will begin here in getting into what the apostle Paul had to say about this very, very important subject. He gives you a backdrop and takes you back into the Old Testament. Sadly, so many people today think the Old Testament is done away; and, therefore, they don’t learn what the Old Testament has to give as far as lessons and examples to help and give understanding to where we are today in our present time.
The apostle Paul takes us back, and he said in verse 1:
I Cor. 10:1 – Moreover, brethren…so he is talking to God’s people at that particular time in the Corinthian church. They weren’t a perfect church. They had problems, difficulties, like any Church of God would have down through time. Remember, you’re not a part of a perfect church. You’re a part of a church that’s striving to become perfect like our Father in heaven, which is perfect. In His mercy and His grace, He allows us to become part of the body of Christ; but He commands us to begin to overcome and, with the power of God’s Spirit, clean out these areas that are not acceptable in His eyes. So Paul says here, Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant…this is something we need to know about, not to be in the dark about.
And he goes on and he talks about the different elements of how God worked with them in the Old Testament, the Israelite people. They are the ones that God chose to be a role model nation for the world, and they were supposed to bring glory and honor to God. Remember, they were the ones that entered into a covenant and said, “All that the Lord hath said, we will do.” Then they proceeded to demonstrate they weren’t going to do it. But they said they would. Because they said they would, God held them accountable to what they said they would do; and, therefore, we have the case histories of what happened as a result. Remember, when sin is evident, God must reveal Himself. He must deal with the consequences of that sin. And that’s what you see as you study the Old Testament. We see the Israelites, and they began to have their problems. It addresses some of them. I’ll just cut in right here in verse 9. It says:
I Cor. 10:9 – Let none of us tempt Christ, he says, as they tempted and were destroyed by serpents.
And then in verse 10, notice: Neither murmur you as some of them also murmured and were destroyed of the destroyer.
So murmuring was a problem in ancient Israel. It’s a problem among the descendants of ancient Israel, the modern-day descendants of America and Britain and all the Israelite nations, as well as the world we live in. Murmuring has become just something that people do. But the Israelites must be extremely careful about this; and especially when we apply this to the Church of God, the spiritual Israelites, because we have a heavy responsibility on our shoulders.
I Cor. 10:11 – Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, so you and I are supposed to learn from this; and it says, this is because, upon whom the ends of the world, or the age, are come.
So we are living in some very powerful prophetic times, and all these things that happened way back there are not to be distanced away but to be brought to us so that we don’t learn to repeat the mistake. The Old Covenant, remember, had many physical promises, many wonderful blessings that God offered to His people. He didn’t offer them salvation at that point; but He did offer them many wonderful blessings, such as the promised land and many wonderful things He would do for them if they would embrace that covenant. When they did not, then God obviously had to make a New Covenant. We are part of that New Covenant. That New Covenant under Jesus Christ makes it very plain, that many of those elements that were given in the Old Covenant now are transferred into the New Covenant with greater emphasis. Remember, when Christ came…Moses only brought the law, but when Christ came, He what? He magnified the law. He made it more binding, so under the New Covenant, we find that there is a greater admonition to adhere to those spiritual guidelines that God has given in outline. The physical things that applied only to physical Israel at that time, they’re done. They’re gone away. But the essence of God’s spiritual law pervades into the New Covenant, of which we are a part.
Now he goes on and he says, under this New Covenant, you and I are commanded to be careful that we don’t end up falling into the trap of murmuring as they did. I will just submit to you that we have gone through a period of time in the Church of God where there has been…you know, I think Jerry Lee Lewis had a song called, “A Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On.” Well, there’s been a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on; but in this particular case, there’s been a whole lot of murmuring going on, too. And this murmuring was designed to bring chaos and upheaval to the people of God. The Sabbath of God was murmured against. The holy days of God were murmured against. The dietary laws of God for health and well being were murmured against. And so, people today are free! They’re free to get disease. They’re free to get sickness. They’re free, as never before, to do everything that God says they shouldn’t do. This they have forgotten, and this is why it is extremely dangerous when we talk about the sin of murmuring, because today we see that murmuring brings contention. That’s one of the areas that we will examine. If you’ll take a look at Exodus, chapter 15, you will notice how it began to create problems in the nation of Israel at that time. Exodus 15, and verse 24. It says:
Ex. 15:24 – And the people murmured against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
Now they had just come out of Egypt. They had just been made free from their slave condition, and what were they concerned about? Something to drink. “I’m thirsty.” And so they began, instead of asking God for something, they just complained about what they didn’t have. I just submit that in the world we live in today, it’s so easy for us, if we’re not careful, to complain about what we don’t have instead of being thankful for what we do have. So, again, this subject of murmuring touches a very powerful nerve in every one of us, because murmuring against God shows a lack of faith. It shows a lack of faith and trust in God, that God can’t do it. I mean, here God delivered the Israelites, brought them out of Egypt, brought them out of slavery, and moan, moan, groan, groan.
This murmuring, it gets noticed. I want to show you in a little bit how it gets noticed. But every time we find ourselves in this day and age murmuring over something, whatever it might be, we are testing God in this area where we’re murmuring; and we’re guilty, in most cases, of unbelief. We’re saying that God can’t do whatever He said He can do; and especially if we’re asking God to do something and then we murmur about it, then we’re saying, “I don’t believe He can do it.” Think about that a moment, if you say to yourself, “When I’m murmuring, as an individual, I’m telling people that I don’t believe in God, because God said He would, but I’m murmuring He can’t.” God is the supplier of our every need; but here the Israelites were murmuring that He can’t even supply water.
All these things are written for a reason, because God, again, is not interested in watching His sons and daughters go off the cliff to destruction. He is trying to keep us on that straight and narrow path that leads to life, and few there be that find it without the help of God. You cannot find it on your own. It’s not there.
Murmuring reveals something about our makeup in terms of rebellion. Murmurers reveal in their nature a spirit of rebellion when they get into a murmuring frame of mind. In a relationship of husband and wife, when the husband murmurs against the wife and the wife murmurs against the husband, you’re causing a strain in the relationship. God didn’t intend it to be that way, but it could happen. And so, one must be extremely careful of guarding those very, very precious relationships.
To show you how these things can get out of hand, let’s go to the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses, then, begins to reiterate some of these things that were going on in the past, just to remind the people; and in Deuteronomy, we begin in chapter 1, and in verse 26. He’s reminding them, telling them in verse 26:
Deut. 1:26 – Notwithstanding, he reminds them, “Remember when you were told to go up?” Notice, he says, you would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and, notice verse 27: And you murmured in your tents…we would use the term today, “You murmured in your homes. You go home and murmur.” And that’s where a lot of it begins. Things will start, “Murmur, murmur, murmur,” and people start moaning and groaning about things. That’s usually what gets people up in the air, things… and said, “Because the Lord,” and this is what the murmuring in the tents was, that “Because the Lord hated us…” Well, have you ever heard people say, “God doesn’t love me”? Have you ever said to yourself, at times, under certain duress, “God doesn’t love me. If He loves me, this wouldn’t be happening”? It’s easy to have happen. It happens to people all the time. “…he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt…” What was the purpose? You know, people want to know, why? Why? Why? We don’t always know the whys, brethren. There’s just no answer to all the whys. Only God knows the whys. But He has told us how to react, the proper response when faced with situations. Otherwise, we might react in a wrong way; and He doesn’t want us to react in a wrong way, so He tells us how to react to the whys. And sometimes we say, “But why?” He says, “Don’t worry about the whys. You worry about the how, because if you don’t respond properly, you won’t get the right result that you’re looking for.”
So Moses tells us here that they were all up in the air, and he says, “You forgot that I [God] delivered you from Egypt and [you say I] delivered you ‘into the hand of the Amorites to destroy us’? Listen, now, that’s what you’re saying. ‘God went through all this for the purpose to destroy us’?”
He says, “Where can we go up? Our brethren,” verse 28, “have discouraged our hearts, saying…” Because of all this negative murmuring going on, he says they’re all discouraged. “…The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are walled up to heaven and they have the Anakims there,” which were the giants.
So he’s merely reminding the people, he said, “Look, this is what went on in the past and this is what you don’t want to happen again.” Then in verse 29:
Verses 29-30 – Then I said, “Dread not, neither be afraid of them…” and here’s what they forgot to remember, and this is what we must remember, that “the Lord your God which goes before you,” God goes before us in leading us into the plan of His salvation into the Kingdom of God. He’s the only one through Jesus Christ who can lead us to the Kingdom of God. And so here we’re told, “He shall fight for you.”
And so we have the wonderful promise that God will fight our battles if we exercise our faith and confidence in Him; but He is not duty-bound to fight our battles if we don’t trust Him, if we murmur against Him.
Well, let’s see what happens. Did He fight the battle for these people that murmured against Him? Let’s take a look at that in just a moment, but in verse 30, “He will fight for you according to all that He did for you in Egypt before your eyes.”
So here we see that they murmured in their tents and also that they forgot who was in charge, who was fighting the battles for them, who was leading the way; and so, we have to ask ourselves, who is our leader? Well, our leader is Jesus Christ. They forgot the Rock who was Christ who was leading them. You and I must not forget the Lord Christ who is leading us today.
Let’s go to the book of Exodus, chapter 16, if you would. Exodus, chapter 16, verse 8. This is the account where they were murmuring and grumbling. They were tired of manna, “What’s it?” They didn’t know what it was. They couldn’t care what it was. They wanted meat. “Give us meat!” You know, like Wendy’s commercial, “Where’s the meat?” that was so popular back a little while ago.
Well, Moses said, “There’s where the Lord shall give you in the evening fresh meat to eat. In the morning, bread to the full.” And this is the part I want to stress. Notice this and mark it in your Bible if you haven’t done so because this is something you don’t want to forget.
Ex. 16:8 – “…for the Lord hears your murmurings.” God has very good hearing, and He hears grumbling and murmuring. And he says, “the Lord hears your murmurings which you murmur against Him.”
He takes it personally. People get so upset about things and they get worried about this and worried about that, but they forget that the one thing you don’t want to do is to forget about the relationship with God, to murmur against Him. Moses is saying, in essence, “And what are we? Your murmurings are not against us but against the Lord. You’re looking at us and you’re throwing all your bricks at us, but you don’t see the hand of God in this matter. He’s the one that delivered you, not me. He’s the one that sank the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. He’s the one that’s given you the manna. He’s the one that’s given you all this stuff. He’s the one that’s preserved us all this way, and yet you’re throwing bricks at us, as if we did it somehow.” He said, “I’ve got news for you.” He says, “You did it unto God.”
And that’s why murmuring is such a delicate issue here that we all need to look at because we can slide into a murmuring spirit if we’re not careful. Things can get under our skin ever so quickly because we live in a world where this kind of thing goes on all the time, and it becomes almost second nature. He says, “For the Lord hears your murmurings…your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord.”
All right, let’s move, if you would, back, please, to the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 1. Deuteronomy, chapter 1, and in verse 28. No, we already read that. Let’s move on from that. We’re past that point. Basically what we have to remember here is, again, it is the Lord, verse 30, who’s going to fight for us. He’s before us. He fights for us as He did, and it says, “before your eyes.” Now we have to remember and stop and consider, there are times when God has come to our aid in the past, too, in our converted life. He has fought our battles for us, and it is easy to forget those things, just like the Israelites forgot all that He had done bringing them out of Egypt. And we forget the times He did this for us and that, and so forth; but then we get hung up on something over here and we forget all these things and we start moaning and groaning and murmuring. It’s easy sometimes to do it. And, of course, don’t forget, we’ve got that sinful element in our nature that Satan can stir. “Yeah, go at it. Go at it!” And you can just really start moving in that direction. There are other scriptures that we’ll talk about later that also show very plainly that that’s not something that you with your free moral agency want to give in to.
There is a terrible penalty that is paid, a terrible penalty when we rebel against God. In Numbers, chapter 14, we see a reaction that takes place. Remember, God listens to everything we say; and when it falls into a category of murmuring, what have we learned? He takes it personally when it’s directed toward Him and that which He is doing. Now God is working in our lives, and there are many things we don’t fully understand about what is going on in this process. We have to walk humbly with our God. We have to be seeking mercy and we have to walk with a compassionate heart and understanding, because if we don’t, then it’s too easy for us to rise up and get ourselves in the way and then say something we wish we hadn’t said.
Have you ever heard the old saying about a person putting his foot in his mouth? We’ve all done it. Thankfully it’s not something we practice. It’s not something we’re doing intentionally, but it does happen; and people who practice it are the ones who God is really addressing—people who really give themselves over to murmuring. He was really tongue lashing Israel because they were just constantly picking at God, murmuring at Him; and remember, please, that the gospel in the New Testament that we received is the same gospel that the book of Hebrews says was preached unto them. They didn’t get short-changed. The gospel was preached to them. They were told that they were going to go to a promised land. We’re told in the New Covenant we’re headed for the promised land of the Kingdom of God. Seek first the Kingdom of God. They were told that wonderful blessings would come their way in a physical area, but we were blessed with the true riches of spiritual things that would come. And when you compare the two, the New Covenant is so much better than the Old Covenant; but only Christ can make that happen in our lives. But even in the New Covenant, God still brings many physical, wonderful blessings that we can all attest to in our lives. The wonderful blessing to live in the greatest country on the face of the earth in your lifetime, to be there with your friends and family and not living in some of these other places that people will actually use the term, a “God-forsaken” country, because God is not there in those countries. Those countries are not being blessed. That’s why they’re going to learn about the great God of Israel who will bring blessing to all countries when the Kingdom of God is established. But God got a little perturbed, or we might use the term, He got “hot under the collar.” Now, God is a very patient God, but He gets hot under the collar about certain things. The sin of murmuring is one that gets Him hot under the collar, if I’m reading these scriptures correctly; and I think I am, because you’re going to read it with me now, so let’s go to verse 27. He says:
Numbers 14:27-28 Numbers 14:27-28 27 How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
28 Say to them, As truly as I live, said the LORD, as you have spoken in my ears, so will I do to you:
American King James Version×– “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation…” Now, what made them evil? “…which murmur against Me?” That’s what was evil about the congregation. The people, He loved them. They were His people. He saved them. He brought them out of slavery; but they were turning on him, every which-way, and reading the wrong response to what He was trying to accomplish. He says, “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel which they murmur against Me.” God took it very personally in this matter. And He said unto them, “As truly as I live…” You can’t get a more powerful statement than that. He is the Eternal, Ever-living God, the God who inhabits eternity, and He says, “ ‘As truly as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘as you have spoken in My ears, so will I do unto you.’”
Question: Can a person say something in a murmuring spirit in such a way that God could take that and reverse that and say, “Oh, is that the way it is? As you have spoken unto Me, so I will do unto you”? My knees tremble at the thought of that. I don’t want to ever say anything that would cause God to say, “Because you opened your mouth, I’m going to do that to you,” because God takes it personally.
So this sin of murmuring becomes a very serious thing, and what was it that got Him so upset? Here, God, a God of love, was going to bring them into this wonderful land, He was going to preserve their families, take care of their children; but they turned it all the way around. They were saying, “Oh, God has brought us out here. He’s going to kill us and He’s going to do this and He’s going to do that,” and so He said, in verse 29:
Numbers 14:29 Numbers 14:29Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward which have murmured against me.
American King James Version×– “Your carcasses shall fall in the wilderness and all that were numbered of you according of your whole number, from twenty years old upward,” notice, twenty and upward, “which have murmured against Me…” He says, verse 31, “But your little ones, which you said, and I heard you say it,” He says, “You said they would be a prey,” He says, “them I will bring in and they shall know the land that you have despised.”
What a powerful statement and a record of history to tell us. Maybe that’s why the psalm is written like it is that says, “God is in heaven, you are on earth. Let your words be few,” because when we start mouthing about this, that, and what-have-you, we get into trouble. We get into trouble because we start murmuring about this and that, and some of these things we can’t control. We have no say-so about certain things, and as they say, “Is that the hill you want to die on?” I don’t think so. You want to give your life of service to the living God in the things that really count; and it showed a terrible penalty that was brought down upon the Israelites for murmuring. Therefore, we don’t want to be caught in that area.
Murmurers also do not heed the word of God. Let’s notice Psalm 106. Now, they can claim that they love God and they can say this and they can say that. They can say a lot of things, as we’re going to see in a little bit. But murmurers who practice murmuring…and God forbid any of us be practicing that type of thing, but, nevertheless, we are guilty from time to time of doing things and saying things that we shouldn’t say. God help us in this battle of overcoming. In Psalm 106 and verse 5. Excuse me, verse 25, I stand corrected. He goes on and he talks about the wonderful things…the psalmist is giving a review again of the wonderful things God did and how God intervened for the Israelites, and verse 21, says:
Psalms 106:21 Psalms 106:21They forgot God their savior, which had done great things in Egypt;
American King James Version×– They forgot God their Savior. You see, there was something they forgot. The admonition is so much written in the book of scriptures and in Deuteronomy, “Forget not the Lord your God when you enter the land, when you’ve been blessed,” and all these things, because the adversary is always trying to get us to forget who’s the one who blessed us in these things. It’s not by our hand. They forgot their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt. Yeah, they saw it. They witnessed it. Wondrous works in the land of Ham [Egypt], terrible things by the Red Sea. Things that you would say, “Oh, I’ll never forget that!”
Look what’s happened today. Sixty years after the Holocaust of World War II, there are people walking the earth today who say and honestly believe with their whole being that IT NEVER HAPPENED! That’s just the physical people of the physical world. And they don’t believe physical things that they’ve lived through have happened; and so some people are dedicated to trying to show and to say, “No, these things happened all right.” Well, these things happened to the Israelites, and you would think that would be burned right into their brain so strong, “Oh, man, I’ll never forget that!” Yet, look what happened. They did forget these things and then they turned away. In verse 24 it says:
Verse 24 – They despised the pleasant land. They believed not His word, but, verse 25, murmured in their tents. When they got away, they started their murmuring. And then, hearkened not to the voice of the Lord.
So there we see again that God’s word produces happiness, like Jesus said in the book of John. “Happy are you if you do the things that God has outlined.” If you’ve ever been around a murmurer or if you have been guilty of murmuring yourself, were you in a good attitude when that was going on? I don’t think so. I don’t think you had a smile on your face, and I don’t think your spirit was happy if you were murmuring at any given point in time over anything. If you’ve been around murmurers, you want to get away from them as fast as you can because you just know there’s something bad here going down. Just the way they talk, the attitude, [in a complaining voice], “Murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur…” And that gets too you in a hurry. You know, you don’t want that kind of stuff. And so, very clearly then it shows that when we draw close to God, then that’s when His Spirit produces happiness in our heart, in our minds and in our spirit. The more we allow ourselves to get caught up in murmuring, it brings a different response.
Let’s notice now in the New Testament some of the things Jesus contacted in terms of His earthly ministry. He came in contact with a certain spirit and attitude demonstrated by those He interfaced with. Let’s notice Matthew, chapter 20, verse 11. Here He gives a parable and He talks about individuals who are called and given a penny for work, and it’s like, again, the contract is given. “Hey, would you work for me?” “OK, I’ll be happy to do that.” Then another group comes and another group, and then, of course, the eleventh hour comes, and these individuals come and he gives them the same thing, a penny, a penny—likened unto salvation. Whether you were called early in life, whether you were called late in life—it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re called and you come to salvation by the grace of God. That’s what matters. But notice as it goes on to say, something happened here in verse 11. Verse 10 says:
Matthew 20:10-11 Matthew 20:10-11 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the manager of the house,
American King James Version×– But when the first came, they supposed…now God didn’t say anything about this in the parable, that they had a right to suppose, but they supposed…they supposed that they should have received more. Now why is that? Likewise, they only got a penny. And when they had received that penny, they murmured against the good man of the house. Now, who in the parable is the good man of the house? It’s Jesus Himself. It’s God the Father. And so, when this murmuring was brought forth, he went on in verse 12 saying that the last wrought the same for the hour, and he said, verses 13-15, Friend, I do you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a penny? He says, Take that which is yours and go your way and I will give the last even as unto you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with my own?
Sure it is. God is working out a plan of salvation according to His purpose which will be the best for all parties involved. Can any of us, then, be unhappy with somebody at the very last when things are coming down to the final wire and somebody walks through the door that God has called, can we be unhappy? “You weren’t called back in 1950 like I was.” Is that going to cut any mustard? Or should we rejoice and say, “Another brother and sister in Christ. That’s all that matters.” That’s all that God is talking about. He’s the “good man.” He’s calling people as He sees fit. That was their best time to be called, or He might have called them earlier; but He called them when it was best for them, and we should be happy for them. But the point of this parable is this: what did they do? They compared themselves among themselves, and you’re told in the scriptures that that is not a wise practice, in the book of Corinthians by the apostle Paul.
So that comparing brought murmuring out of their hearts. God does not want murmurers in the Kingdom of God. Murmuring shows ignorance. It shows speaking against things that we do not understand. Let’s take a look at the book of Luke, in chapter 5, and verse 30. Jesus went into the home of a publican. Oh, now, that was a dirty word in those days—publican. They…excuse me. This was not the one. I’m looking at the wrong scripture. He went forth, He saw a publican named Levi sitting on a seat, and He said unto him, “Follow me.” Well, then, as He came down, Levi made Him a great feast, and, verse 30, it says:
Luke 5:30 Luke 5:30But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
American King James Version×– But the scribes and the Pharisees murmured against His disciples, saying, “Why do they eat and drink with publicans and sinners?”
OK, they put the publican in the same category as sinners. And, “Hey, what are you doing here? We represent the standard of righteousness, and you people are walking around with sinners. Why are you doing that?” Jesus, then, of course, said, “The whole don’t need a physician but they that are sick, and I came to call not the righteous but the sinners to repentance.” So here is a classic example that these individuals thought they were righteous by their conduct. What it is showing us is a clear example that Jesus often ran into conflict with the Jewish community at that time.
Let’s take a look and move through several other scriptures here in the book of Luke. Let’s go to chapter 15 and verse 2. And here in chapter 15 and verse 2, we see that the Pharisees and scribes, here again, murmured. This thing of murmuring pops up all over the place…saying, “This man receives sinners and He eats with them.” And so He, then, again, gave another parable to help clarify the situation.
Chapter 19 and verses 6-7. And here, this is the one I thought of before. I was ahead of myself. Jesus was going to abide with Zacchaeus, and he made haste to do that and he received Him joyfully. So Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully, and look at what the reaction was with the followers of Judaism. And when they saw it, they all murmured saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner.” How dare He do that, to go with a sinner, of all things!
Well, the book of John adds another dimension to this. Let’s go to the book of John, chapter 6 and verse 41. Jesus had made some statements concerning His mission, that He was the bread of life. They took exception to that. Notice in verse 41:
John 6:41 John 6:41The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
American King James Version×– The Jews then murmured at Him because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” How dare He say that!
Now, it’s interesting to note that, you know, these individuals never once questioned Jesus from this perspective. They never once came to Him and said, “Rabbi, what do You mean by these things that You say? This has been our schooling and this has been our teaching. This is what we believe to be correct, but it sounds like You’re saying something totally different. Where are we wrong, if we are wrong?” Never addressed it that way. Never questioned, could they possibly be wrong. They were right, and they knew they were right; and as a result of that, they murmured against Him because He said what He said.
Murmurers generally think they are right and that everyone else is wrong. That’s their modus operandi, and we see that many of the ungodly characteristics of those who practice murmuring shows up as spoken of in the book of Jude. If you will turn to the book of Jude, chapter…there is only one chapter, isn’t there? That’s always a fun book to go to. Which chapter in the book of Jude? There’s only one! And so we go to verse 12. We start there, and it says:
Jude 12 – These are individuals who are spots in your feasts of charity, that’s your love feasts, or, in other words, like our holy days; and we’ve had murmurers in our midst over the years. Down through time, I’m sure they’ve always been there. They feast with you, feeding themselves without fear…and then it goes through and explains a little bit more. Now, notice in verse 16:
Verse 16 – These are murmurers. They come with their own personal agenda and they murmur. They are complainers, walking after their own lusts, or desires, and their mouth speaks great swelling words. They sometimes know all the right words to say, but they’re still a murmurer at heart. They know how to fake it when they’re with people, and the reason they do that is because they have men’s admiration because of advantage. So this is, again, showing the more human, carnal side, the sin side of human nature at work; and it produces this murmuring. That is what is defined as people who are walking on an ungodly path, and that’s not what you and I have been called to walk. So that is why we have to fight against this tendency that the world has embraced so wholeheartedly.
Murmurers will do anything to turn you away from God. You and I are warned in the book of Revelation. We are told, Hold fast to what you have that no man take your crown. How will they take it? By murmuring against it. How do they murmur against it? “Oh, you don’t have to keep the Sabbath. The Sabbath is done away. That is Old Covenant. That is Jewish. We observe the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week.” But your Bible research will show there is no express biblical command to observe the first day of the week. If you’re going to follow Jesus, if you’re going to follow Paul, you have to walk the way they walked. What did they keep? The Sabbath, which is the seventh day. So you know by God’s very instruction how the path is defined. Whether you walk the path or not is free moral agency. God tells you, “Don’t let anybody take you off that path.” But the murmurers who murmur against the ways of God call the holy days wrong and not to be observed, and want to do away with this. You know, “I can eat anything.” Sure you can. Go ahead and have porcupine stew. If that’s what you want, you know, I see an awful lot of road kill that’s been going to waste that they could use. But if that’s what they want, they can eat anything. I’m a little more selective in what I eat, and I’m grateful for that because the living God says, “Here, if you eat this, you eat this, you eat this, you’ll do better. If you eat that, you do that, take your chances!” And just because the human body was so fearfully and wondrously made and people can endure an awful lot of punishment doesn’t make it right. It’s what God says that makes it right, when it’s all said and done.
All right, in conclusion, I want to remind again what we read at the beginning, in Philippians 2, verse 14, that God has commanded us to “do all things without murmuring.” That’s so important. So important. And He said, “all things,” not just some things.
The Christian is encouraged not to be a murmurer. The Israelites fell into that trap. You and I are told beware of it, because we can fall into that trap as well. If we sin, we must repent and we must pray and ask God for forgiveness. And that’s what Passover preparation is all about. This is not, again, throwing stones at anyone. We all have to examine ourselves. Are we in the faith? If we’re falling short, ask God to please forgive us and help us never to say anything that He would take personally and have to react accordingly. We saw what He did in the Old Testament. He is capable of doing things like that even today. May God have mercy on all of us because none of us need that kind of thing.
One final scripture in the book of Romans. Romans, chapter 6, verse 16. This is a wonderful chapter to review prior to baptism, and it also gives you an example of what we are supposed to be doing. For example, in verse 12, it says, Let not sin reign in your mortal body. Sin reigns in our body; and by overcoming it through the precious blood of Jesus Christ and the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we refuse to cave in to that. But if we don’t stay close to God, it’s easy to fall back into the old way. That’s what Paul said. “Oh wretched man that I am.” It can happen so very, very quickly. So he goes on to say, in final analysis, he says:
God doesn’t want it to have power over us. He doesn’t want His children to be murmurers, complainers. God is going to have many things on the drawing board for eternity for us; and it would be terrible if we lived in the Kingdom of God for all eternity and all we heard was, [a whiny voice] “Oooh, do I have to? Uuuh, why that? Why has it got to be this way?” On and on. And when I see these kinds of stories and these references and these pictures given, I just see Satan all over the place becoming just immensely dissatisfied with God, unhappy with what he thought he should get. Again, comparing himself, his brightness, among themselves, among the other angels, “I want to be the best. I want to be like God.” And so, we are learning all the things that have come from Satan’s nature that you and I don’t want. This is certainly one of them. No man enjoys a complaining wife. No wife enjoys a complaining husband. The Bible has a lot to say about this nagging, nagging. It’s about water dripping, like a faucet. It gets to your nerves after a while. You can only take so much. Israel kept dropping that water on God, and God says, “That’s enough. I’ve had it. I’ve had it. Remember, I’m married unto you. I’m the husband, and you’re the wife and you’re nagging at Me.” We don’t see it sometimes in that context, but that’s Satan’s way. Now, that’s not a put-down on you ladies, please understand. It’s just, again, a reality. Many women can fall into that trap just as much as men can fall into that trap. And so, this is why the scripture gives us these admonitions. But notice verse 16, and we end on this point:
Romans 6:16 Romans 6:16Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?
American King James Version×– Know you not…don’t you understand this critical point…to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are… You are either serving God in this matter or you are serving Satan. If you serve God, do all things without murmuring. If you serve Satan, you will murmur like crazy. You will find every cause under the sun to murmur. Why? Because you’ve got somebody cheering in your corner. He’s saying, “Murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur.” And you pick up on that spirit. After awhile you begin to feel justified in it. “Yeah, I have a right to murmur, and I’m going to murmur if I want to.” And you can murmur all you want. God says, “Yes, you’re free to murmur, but now you’re going to pay the penalty for murmuring.” And so, this again, is why he says, to whom you obey, whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness.
Which will it be? You are free to choose, and that’s all you are given—freedom of will, freedom of choice to choose the right way or the wrong way. God’s admonition is, choose life, that both you and your children and your children’s children will be blessed and live happily, as the little fairy tales used to be: “And they lived happily ever after.”