Friday, February 1, 2019

Exodus 14:10-12, 15:22-24, 16:1-3, 17:1-4

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

I have a surgery scheduled for Monday (Feb. 4, 2019) to remove some nasal polyps and correct a deviated septum. The doctor explained the process to me, and he went over the risks. Honestly, the risks scare me. 

As a pastor, I have walked alongside individuals going through cancer treatments. I have met to pray with individuals about to go into surgery for a litany of other reasons. In every medical situation - whatever it might be - I read Scripture to and over the individual (sometimes with an entire familial unit) and encourage him/her that "God's got this." 

Yes, I proclaim that to others. Yet, I am frightened for me. Perhaps there's a degree of normalcy to that, especially in light of the age of my children. Nevertheless, it also reflects my lack of faith that "God's got this:" that I can indeed trust His plan for my life.

Let me shift gears now for a moment. I serve as an Associate Pastor in a great church, and I am surrounded by many opportunities to make a difference. But I would be lying if I did not admit to certain frustrations. (I think just about everyone experiences some frustrations in his/her vocational setting). 

If I am not careful I can easily lose track of the blessings and focus more on the frustrations and difficulties. In light of grievances that I might perceive as incredibly justifiable, I find myself grumbling. My grumbling can erupt internally, basically aimed at God, or my grumbling can spill out externally, basically aimed for someone else to hear. 

I wish I could limit my grumblings to my occupation. Alas, I cannot: I find various matters about which to grumble. 

Before you altogether disqualify me from ministerial service, what if I suggested that it's the truthful acknowledgement of my periodic lack of faith and grumbling spirit that helps me lead others effectively during their seasons of faithlessness and murmuring? It seems to me that this is, in fact, a lesson of leadership we learn from Moses. 

In Exodus chapters 14-17 (see also Numbers 14 and 16), time and time again the people grumble against Moses. Often, their grumblings emerge from a lack of faith in God - in both what He has already done and in what He has promised. 

For the most part, Moses is incredibly patient with the disgruntled spirit and complaints over those whom God has given him charge (we witness a measure of his frustration with them in 17:4). I contend that Moses maintains such patience with others because he could identify their temperament in himself.

Return to Exodus 5:22-23. That text reveals Moses' lack of faith and his grumbling spirit. Douglas Stuart rightly observes, "By concluding this prayer with You have not rescued Your people at all, Moses showed what he had actually been thinking: that God's promised deliverance would occur relatively quickly and would not involve setbacks or disappointments. From a literary point of view, Moses was telling this story on himself. That is, writing for the wilderness generation and beyond, Moses included a detail that shows how he himself was unreasonably impatient for God's deliverance."

In other words, Moses wrote down how he had lacked faith in God's plan for his life and how he had grumbled about a grievance that he perceived entirely justifiable - God's failure to act as he expected, when he expected. Therein, I believe, is a crucial lesson in leadership:
     How as leaders are we to best deal with lack of faith and/or persistent grumblings of people? By first identifying those same traits in ourselves. 

To advance this discussion further, we must keep in mind that Moses was a work in progress at the start of the exodus. As he became more intimate with God, his measure of faith grew leaps and bounds and his grumbling spirit disipated significantly. 

So, too, if I am to be an effective leader I must become more intimate with Christ. Only as my intimacy with the Lord grows will my faith flourish and my murmurings diminish. Take a moment to read 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 and Colossians 1:9-14, 2:6-7. 

Even so, let us never forget how we too have walked through seasons of doubt and how we too have grumbled about inconsequential matters in the eyes of the Lord. Such a remembrance will help us to more graciously handle people walking through similar seasons and/or who grumble about various and sundry things - especially when, like in the case of Moses, we are the object of their complaints. 


TAKE TIME TO RESPOND:

How can reflecting on times when you have lacked faith and times when you have grumbled at God or at others help you to more graciously handle people who might make things difficult for you:

_____________________________________________________.


TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - "The next three narratives - Marah (15:22-26), the provision of manna (16:1-35), and Rephidim (17:1-7) - are linked by the idea of 'testing' or 'proving' (15:24; 16:4; 17:2, 7). The people 'tested' the Lord, and He tested the people, which according to the Bible are two sides of the same thing. At the place named both Massah and Meribah, Psalm 81:7 says, 'I tested you at the waters of Meribah,' whereas Psalm 95:9 says, 'Your fathers tested and tried Me.' Testing God involves putting Him on probation, withholding trust pending evidence. For the Israelites it meant doubting whether He who had proved sufficient in the past was still sufficient, now that things had taken a different turn (17:2-3). There is also an element of challenge to God, demanding that He prove His worth all over again: if, against all probabilities, He gets us out of this mess, then we will consider believing, but in the meantime we will suspend both faith and obedience. For these reasons testing - or in the older translations tempting - God is deeply sinful" (Motyer).

from Best Academic Commentary - (Ex. 15:22-24) "Their question, 'What are we to drink?' was not in itself outrageous or even unfair. Their sin manifested itself rather in their attitude, which is suggested in the statement at the beginning of v. 24, 'So the people grumbled against Moses.' Moses was, of course, God's human representative among them and a likely target for blame. What is noteworthy, however, is that the people were following the pillar of cloud and therefore knew perfectly well that it was Yahweh who had led them to this location. But since Moses was the Lord's spokesman, they expected the answer to their complaint to come from him. The people did not have what they had expected and failed to trust God to provide it. Since the Garden of Eden that has been a formula of disobedience" (Stuart).

from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - (Ex. 15:22-24) "There are several ways to characterize Israel's sin. The people were forgetful. ... Sure, God had delivered them from Pharaoh, but that was days ago. What had He done for them lately? The Israelites were also selfish. Their primary concern was what God could do for them. They were ungrateful and immature. But their deepest spiritual problem was a lack of faith. The Israelites simply did not believe that God would take care of them. They did not trust in the faithfulness of God.
     This is a strong warning to anyone who has a complaining spirit. Remember, what happened to Israel is an example for God's new Israel, the church. Here the lesson is obvious: '[Do not] grumble, as some did' (1 Corinthians 10:10). It is not a sin for us to bring God our problems. He invites us to talk things over with Him through prayer. What is a sin, however, is to have a complaining spirit that poisons our communion with Christ and thus robs us of the joy of serving God.
     Sadly, grumbling is all too common. We live in a culture based on instant gratification. We do more than try to get what we want - we demand it. So we are always thinking about what we don't have and foolishly thinking that if only we had it, then we would be satisfied. But to do that is to locate the problem on the outside rather than on the inside. The real problem is our own dissatisfaction, the grumbling of a complaining heart.
     Many Christians complain about the little things. We don't like the way a ministry is being handled, or we disagree with something in the worship service, or we have a problem with one of our spiritual leaders. So we grumble" (Ryken).

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