Why do we grumble?
Isn’t it obvious? We’re unhappy. Our situation is unbearable. We’ve been hurt; treated unfairly; everything’s turned against us. Out it comes. We grumble against those who had a part in it and God for allowing it -- maybe even causing it.
That’s the story of Numbers 21. The Israelites knew exactly why they were grumbling. Their needs were not being met.
Enter: The fiery serpents.
The wilderness was full of “fiery serpents and scorpions” (Deut 8:15). Up to that point, God had prevented them from hurting the Israelites. But now, in one sense, He withdrew His protective grace, allowing the serpents to attack. In another sense, He sent them in by an act of His will to bite, poison, and kill.
Our sins have consequences.
But why send in serpents? He could have done whatever He wanted. Why choose this? Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the gospel of John, will explain it in great detail. But even here, even now, it is clear the Lord had a bigger purpose in mind. We think our grumbling has to do with our present situation and all that’s going wrong.
God sees it differently.
He takes us back to the Garden of Eden and “that ancient serpent who is called the devil and Satan” (Rev 12:9). It’s our involvement with him that’s the root cause of it all. Back in Eden, the devil came to Eve in the disguise of a beautiful serpent. He questioned God’s word, “Did God actually say?” (Gen 3:1) He made her see the forbidden tree as desirable to eat; something that will make her “be like God” (Gen 3:5).
She ate. Adam ate, and the Bible says “sin entered into the world, and death through sin” (Rom 5:12). From then on, we’ve been in the serpent’s kingdom. By an act of our will, we’ve been bit. In this kingdom, God is not first. God is never first – we are.
Does it surprise you that Job’s wife, suffering unspeakable tragedy, told her husband to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9)? Isn’t that our natural reaction when bad things happen? We immediately blame Him, “God did this. God allowed it. God caused it.”
We don’t turn toward Him. We turn against Him.
If we’re going to stop grumbling, we’ve got to break from the serpent’s kingdom. We need his poison out of our system. No matter what we’re going through, we need to do what Job did in the hour of his greatest need. He worshiped God. He did “not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:20-22). But how did he do that? There’s only one way. Job knew his Savior. He’d been given power to break from that fiery serpent.
It’s what you and I need. Without a Savior, we will never be free from grumbling.