“But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’” — Numbers 21:4-5
Basketball coaches try to build their teams into cohesive units before the season begins. When positive energy is maximized, and negative vibes are discouraged from taking root amongst the players, a team will likely improve and tend to accomplish its goals and win more games. If coaches can convince players to put away pettiness about playing time or who gets to take the shot, and focus more on getting rebounds and playing defense, everybody gets better.
When we stop to think about it, we all usually get irritated for selfish reasons — because we are inconvenienced or someone doesn’t do exactly what we want them to do.
When the apostle Paul tried to reduce problems in local churches, he urged the members to seek common ground and to be unselfish. It’s important to have common beliefs centered around Christ and to conduct ourselves in an orderly manner, and we should not nitpick or be too harsh in our dealings with others. We need to understand how the devil seeks to divide people by using our natural selfishness to get us at odds with one another. The following words are helpful in all situations: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Philippians 2:14, ESV).
During the wilderness wandering of the Israelites, it was easy for them to get frustrated, and they doubted the Lord even though God responded to every one of their needs. “But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’” (Numbers 21:4-5). They had perfected the art of grumbling.
The Lord had been very patient with the people up to that point, but He punished them by sending poisonous snakes to get their attention and bring them to repentance. And it worked: “Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people” (Numbers 21:6-7).
God was once again merciful and responded to their repentance by providing a brass serpent and requiring a choice from His people. They only had to look toward the brass serpent and would live (Numbers 21:8). It was their choice to remain in their selfish grumbling and die (from a snake bite, in this case), or they could look away from themselves and toward their Provider for life.
In the New Testament, Jesus compares this event to us looking to the cross when we believe in Jesus and receive His salvation. “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven — the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:13-15).
So what’s your choice going to be? Succumb to the trap of grumbling and selfishness, or look to the Giver of Life for all you need, even when circumstances are hard?
— Bill Kent, Pastor of Memorial Baptist Church, Sylvania, Georgia
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