Is grumbling that bad?

John 6.41-43, 61

Are you a grumbler? If not, I bet you know someone who is. Come on, what is it that gets you going? Is it other people’s failings? The absolute fact that life isn’t fair? That people in power cannot be trusted? Perhaps it is because you cannot stand it when someone claims to be what you are certain they are not.

Probably most of us have a grumble at some time or another. Why is it then that the bible takes grumbling so seriously? To understand we need to ask who is being grumbled about and who is doing the grumbling, why people are grumbling and what they are grumbling about. Biblically grumbling can be a dangerous thing to do. Paul summarized a number of incidents during the Exodus where the people of God complained, grumbled and rebelled against God in 1 Corinthians 10.1-9 as a warning to the church. The ancient Israelites’ complaints and lack of respect for God’s holiness and awesome authority, in addition to all that God had done for them, led to them setting their hearts on evil things. 1 Corinthians 10.6 Their grumbling led to idolatry, sexual immorality and various forms of rebellion that brought on them God’s judgement. Who then were doing the grumbling, it was the people of God. Who was being grumbled about it, it was God himself. Why were they grumbling, it was because they did not like the means by which God was providing for their freedom. In the case of the Exodus, it was the journey to freedom from 400 years of slavery and to the promise of a land of their own. They did not recognize their own culpability in prolonging their time in the wilderness through their own lack of faith.

Paul makes clear that the people of Israel were testing Christ when they opposed Moses as God’s prophet and agent in the wilderness. ‘We should not test Christ, as some of them did – and were destroyed by snakes. And do not grumble , as some of them did – and were killed by the destroying angel.’ 1 Corinthians 10.9-10Paul adds the warning that the church through grumbling against God when times are difficult is liable to fall into the same sin as the Israelites in the wilderness.

When Jesus said to the crowd who were grumbling about what Jesus had just said, ‘Stop grumbling among yourselves,’ John6.43 he was also addressing the historical people of God. Despite the signs Jesus had given them as to his identity as the Son of God they could not accept his teaching. They were stuck in the knowledge of who his human mother and father were and could not see the spiritual truth. The crowd were not able to discern that Jesus was fulfilling God’s promise of direct, personal, divine teaching prophesied in Isaiah 54.13. ‘All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace your children.’  The demand that they believe in him and understand the sacrifice he was going to make was too difficult for them to accept and many left, missing out on God the Father’s promise. Jesus called on them to remember their own spiritual history and understand how God the Father’s provision of manna in the wilderness was in itself foretelling his coming. John 6.55-58 Even Jesus’ immediate disciples found this a hard teaching and themselves joined in with the grumbling. John 6.60-61 However despite their difficulty in understanding and temptation to leave with the majority of the crowd, the Spirit convicted them of the authenticity of Jesus. Peter answered for them when challenged by Jesus. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.’ John 6.68 We see in Peter’s reply the impact of what Jesus had said to them in their time of temptation to reject him, ‘The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life.’ John 6.63

Is there any aspect of our calling that we are prone to grumble about?

Do we recognize Jesus lordship over all of our lives?

Jesus is Lord

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