Written For Our Instruction, Pt. 3
Study Guide, March 18, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
This is a diagram of the latest addition to Emerald Isle. It’s the Roundabout. It’s kind of a novelty for many who have not driven around ‘Roundabouts’ very much. And for others who are used to them, no worries. But for many who are not familiar with them, they can be a bit confusing at first, perhaps even a bit problematic. But what it also does is that it provides us with a helpful way to illustrate something about dealing with confusing problems. In other words, something that we are to make a habit of doing is ‘turning confusing problems into clear principles’. For example: If you notice in the Roundabout each entrance into it has a ‘Yield’ sign, which means that as you enter you are to yield to the person already in the Roundabout, which is always to your left, since the Roundabout goes counter-clockwise. Or, to simplify that with a principle we could put it this way: The person to the left of you already in the Roundabout always has the right-of-way. That sounds kind of odd at first, but it just means that you yield to the car that is to the left of you already in the Roundabout. This principle should make using the Roundabout a bit easier, and perhaps even a bit fun.
But back to our point, even though it is a round-a-bout way of saying it: Our point is that we ought to try to develop the habit of trying to turn life’s confusing problems into clear principles…especially clear Biblical principles. For then we will be much better equipped to manage the messes that continually arise in our lives. And if you think about it, God had an entire book of the Bible written to point this out to us. The Book of Proverbs is really a Book of Principles for dealing with life.
Now, we’re not going into a study of Proverbs right now…I was just trying to make a point. We have done some studies in Proverbs before and will do so again sometime, but that was just kind of a ‘beside-the-point’ for now. Actually, we could kind of use even this as a principle that ties into what we were saying: ‘Don’t assume you know where someone is going until they make the turn…even if their blinker is on.’
So where are we going? We’re doing a round-a-bout back to look at a few more episodes in the lives of Moses and Jacob before we move on, because there are some principles from their experiences that are really helpful to use in our own lives. Like what?
Like handling ‘frustration’. Moses had to handle about as much frustration as any man has ever had to handle in dealing with the people in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. Once Moses yielded the right-of-way of his life to God…and by the way, God always has the right-of-way in our lives…but once Moses yielded to God’s right to be in charge of Moses he quickly found out how frustrating it is to work with so many people around him who had not yielded their lives to God for God to be in charge of their lives. And when God is not in charge of a person’s life, then you had better prepare to manage the messes that are coming your way from them.
For instance: How long does it take even people of God to go from ‘gratitude to grumbling’? Moses found out it only takes ‘3 days’ or less. Recall that the Israelites had just witnessed miracle after miracle by God in delivering them from slavery. God had even moved the hearts of the Egyptians to supply them with all kinds of gifts and goods for their travels. One verse says they basically ‘plundered’ the Egyptians. And they had just witnessed the dividing of the Red Sea and their complete victory over the armies of Egypt. But after celebrating these great miracles of God and their victories over seemingly insurmountable odds we come to this in Ex 15:22-24- “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” NASU
They grumbled at Moses, and really at God. From gratitude to grumbling in three days! Here’s a principle we ought to remember: (And this applies to God’s people, too…) Even when gratitude wells up in our hearts, we are to remember that grumbling is right below the surface in our human nature. Remember that the greatest problems are not around us; they are within us. We could also put it this way: There are two things that we can count on in this battle of life: The enemy never changes and human nature never improves. That’s why we have to guard our hearts, not only from what gets into them, but also from what can come out from them, that is, from our old human nature. Remember, the old sin nature will only be removed from us when we leave this mortal life behind for our immortal experience. And then we will have just our new nature for living in the new world.
But back to the grumbling problem: The thing is: If we are not careful, we can go from gratitude to grumbling in no time at all. That’s the strange thing about it. Or, should we say, that’s the strange thing about us…how quickly we take for granted what God has already done for us. The Israelites had just witnessed one of the greatest miracles on Earth, the parting of the Red Sea, which was visible proof of how much God loved them and was willing to do to deliver them and to have them as His own people. But it was now like; “Yeah, but that was ‘so three days ago’. What are you going to do for us today Lord, to prove that You care?”
Remember something about grumbling in particular: Grumbling against God always implies that God doesn’t care as much as He should. Watch out…don’t go there! Remember, that was the charge that the disciples made against Jesus when they were caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee… “Master, don’t You care?” They had already seen His compassion in healing Simon’s mother-in-law, and also His care in healing people from all over that city. They had watched how much Jesus cared for the poor and the demon oppressed and possessed. They had watched how much He cared for those in bondage in their sins and then forgave and delivered them. They themselves were even watching their long awaited Messiah now loving and caring for and delivering them. But then when a storm comes into their lives, from just below the surface of their human nature came the bubbling up of ‘grumbling’: “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
You can ask God a lot of questions…but just don’t ever ask Him that one, especially as believers on this side of the Cross. The Cross of Christ is the greatest demonstration of the greatest love and greatest care that exists in the Universe. And it was all directed at saving you and me because of God’s infinite love and care for us. No other demonstration is or should ever be needed for you and for me to be completely convinced that God loves us and cares for us more than we could ever imagine. The demonstration of God’s love for us through the Cross of Jesus Christ forever settled any question about God’s care for us. God’s love and care for us is a ‘done deal’!
So ‘grumbling’ needs to be resisted at all costs in our minds and hearts. Now remember, God has no problem with us telling Him about our needs and petitioning Him to supply our needs. In fact, God invites us to tell Him about our needs and our cares. Phil 4:6-7- “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” NLT
And did you notice the connection? Always remember to connect telling God what you need with thanking Him for all He has done. That is the key to how you present your petitions to God and to experiencing peace from God. Also notice this: There is a big difference between asking in faith and grumbling with ingratitude. Remember, the Israelites had just been celebrating God’s great love and care for them in their victory of deliverance. And when this need came up they could have continued their praise to God for all His love and for all He had done, and now just added their petition for their need about their thirst. And God’s attitude would have been just what Paul revealed it would be… “Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Remember this principle: Even more important than ‘what you ask God for’ is your ‘attitude toward God’ when you ask it. Do you ask God for things concerning your needs in ways that communicates to God and to others how grateful you are to God for His grace and mercies and love already demonstrated to you? Or let’s take it to the next Biblical level: Are you at a place in your relationship with God that if nothing else ever worked out in your life the way you wanted, that because of the miracle of your eternal salvation already given to you by Jesus that nothing more would ever be needed in order for you to rest in God’s love and care for you?
Or let’s put it like this: Hab 3:17-18- “Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.” NASU Are you there yet? Many of those Israelites weren’t there yet. But that’s where we need to be. That’s the state of mind in which we are to live. And if you’re not there yet, then you need to realize that not even seeing God do miracles in your life, like even parting a Red Sea for you, will satisfy your soul until you learn to rest alone and exult alone and rejoice alone in the God of your salvation. When you reach the place where you can say to God, “Lord, because of Your sacrifice on the Cross and the gift of Your eternal life to me for my salvation You don’t ever have to do another thing for me to prove Your love and care for me”…when you reach that place, then the quality and contentment and joy of your whole life and relationship with God and even others will be changed.
But how like our God, that even with everything He has done already, do you know what God is doing with the burdens that we carry day by day? Ps 68:19- “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. Selah.” NASU And then from another version: Ps 68:19- “Thanks be to the Lord, who daily carries our burdens for us. God is our salvation.” GOD’S WORD You see, even before any burden becomes our burden God has already picked it up and is carrying it, too; bearing it, too. Whatever burden you area carrying, God is carrying it, too. That’s why Jesus said in Matt 11:28-29- “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” NASU You see, God wants us to join Him in His yoke so that He can bear the heavier side of our burdens.
But again, as we pointed out earlier, few things grate on God’s ears like ‘grumbling’. But then, nothing smells sweeter to God than the offerings of gratitude.
But Moses learned a lot about human nature in dealing with the Israelites on a day to day basis. And he also learned something else that I once heard Dr. Howard Hendricks put this way: “The more you try to love and serve people the more they will drive you up the wall!”
I’ve always thought that was one of the most unitentionally humorous things that Moses ever said was when he was telling God about how frustrating it was in dealing with the Israelites complaints every day. Notice Moses’ request: Num 11:13-15- “Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” NASU Now that’s about as frustrated as a man can get. Moses is pleading with God, “Lord, if I have found favor with You, the kindest thing You could do for me is to just kill me now! Then I won’t have to listen to these people any longer!” They had driven Moses up the wall and over the top as well! We could imagine God saying: “Moses, welcome to My world.” Now, God wouldn’t say something like that…that’s something like we would say…but we can feel for God like that. How amazing is the patience and mercies of God!
Do you remember what Jesus said about the things we do for other people? Remember that ‘least of these’ thing? I love how the King James puts it here: Matt 25:40- “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” KJV And the ERV puts it like this: “Then the king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for Me.” Of course, the King here is Jesus Himself.
That’s what even Moses was still trying to get a handle on…’anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for Me.’ Have you learned yet to look past people by faith…and to see Someone else in the same picture with them…to see Jesus behind them? It’s hard to remember that, but since that’s the way it really is, then that’s what we are to try to remember, and then to do. So here’s a principle for that: When it’s hard to do something good for someone who is difficult, frustrating, or hard to deal with…then do it for Someone else…do it for Jesus. Think about how you think Jesus would treat them? What do you think Jesus would do? Remember the wrist bands: What Would Jesus Do?
Now be careful with that. Don’t just do what you think Jesus would do. No, first, find out in the Bible what Jesus actually did in how He related to both co-operative people and to contrary people. It might surprise you. Remember, Jesus did ‘tender love’ with co-operative people, but He also did ‘tough love’ with contrary people. So first learn from what Jesus actually did and then do that in how you relate to and treat other people.
We pray these principles here will be of great help to you in your walk with God and in your dealing with others, even when that does get a bit frustrating. By the grace of God and His instructions for us; it’s do-able! And resist going to Moses’ request: ‘Lord, if I have found favor in Your sight, then just kill me now.’ Hold off on that…God can walk you through it like He did with Moses.