WILDERNESS: The Pivot from Grumbling to Groaning

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April 17, 2020

Exodus 16:1-3 (NIV)

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

CONSIDER THIS

In case there was ever any doubt, the honeymoon is now officially over. 45 days in and the wheels are falling off. 

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.

Grumbling. What a word. It’s the place where griping and complaining meets mumbling. It implies a speaking “against” someone rather than talking to or with them. Worse, it really takes two to grumble. It’s something two or more people do together “against” someone else who is usually not present. Children grumble together against their parents. Parent’s grumble together against their parents (and their children too). Management grumbles together against labor. Employees grumble together against the boss. Parishoners grumble together against the pastor. Pastors grumble together against their flocks. Citizens grumble together against the mayor or governor or president or any number of their other duly elected representatives.

There is simply no end to our grumbling. Why do we grumble? We gripe and complain because are expectations are not being met. We mumble because we don’t really want the people we are complaining about to hear us– otherwise we would be talking to them instead of each other. Why is it that it feels so much more satisfying to commiserate with fellow dissidents than to confront directly? Grumbling is a very contagious infection. In this situation, the text tells us the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. Finally someone ponied up the courage and obedience to actually talk to them.

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Read that bit again and note how grumbling is filled with criticism and blaming, and in full bloom it becomes open contempt. Most of the time, grumblers play the victim card and they tend toward passive aggressive behavior patterns. And truth be told, we have all done it and are prone to do it again. Why are we grumblers? Better question: why am I a grumbler? 

Here’s my take. It’s because I tend to live at the level of my needs and wants driven expectations rather than the deep seated, God-given longings of my soul. I must get beneath the shallows of my needs and wants driven expectations and entitlements I so readily foist on other people. This is why I grumble against them. Our needs and wants will lead us like bread crumbs to our deeper longings. Because our core longings are God-given, they can only be God-filled. Here is the wilderness pivot. The shift from wants and needs driven expectations to core God given longings will mean the movement from grumbling against people to groaning with God. Get a load of this: 

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies… 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:22-23, 26. 

How about that; from grumbling against Moses and Aaron to groaning before God? Sounds simple? It is simple. And hard. It will take them years to get it. This is  wilderness life, remember. We have a major league unfair advantage, though. The Spirit is on constant standby, ever ready to help us. 

THE PRAYER

Father, reveal to me the deeper wisdom of your will and ways in the wilderness. I confess, I can be a grumbler. I don’t want to be, and I know I will not cease to be by mere effort. Something deeper must shift within me. Would you show me, yes reveal to me, the deepest longings you have placed at the core of my being. Turn my grumbling against others into groaning before and with you. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

THE QUESTION

I want you to get still today before the Lord and ask him to reveal the core longings he has put within you. See what comes to mind. They likely won’t be unique to you, but common to us all. I would welcome you to join our Daily Text Facebook Group where I suspect this conversation will be illuminating. 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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