Chukat - חוקת - Statute
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy. (Numbers 20:10-13)
From the time Israel left Egypt back in Exodus 12 all the way up to this point, there has been a major theme when it comes to understanding the character of God. Without fail, when Israel did this one act God’s wrath flared up and Israel suffered. If you haven’t guessed it by now, the act that I’m talking about is the act of complaining. None of us are in a position to look down on Israel when it comes to this subject because we all have fallen short in this area even after coming to the knowledge that Yeshua is Lord.
God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If God hated complaining in the book of numbers, guess what? He still hates it today. The Cross did not change who God is, if so then what is written in Malachi is a lie and the Bible cannot be trusted.
For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob (Talking to the Jews), are not consumed. (Malachi 3:6)
Loving God is not just about acknowledging His existence and it is far more than just confessing your love verbally; loving God is about knowing who He is, hating what He hates and loving what He loves. You cannot walk with God unless you are in harmony with Him. When it comes to complaining we need to understand just how serious of an offense this is to God and how it takes us out of harmony with Him. Throughout Torah it has become very clear that if God has a pet peeve, it would be complaining.
Up until this week’s Torah portion, Moses never retaliated against the offenses of Israel. He has had some serious complaining sessions with just him and God, but never out in the open towards Israel until now and there could be some valid reasons (from a human point of view) as to why Moses finally blew up.
Last week we talked a little bit about Israel being bitter, but what about Moses? It is safe to say that Moses was not happy with the idea of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, probably more so than anyone else because 1) he did not seek to lead Israel in the first place, and 2) it wasn’t even his fault. Moses was not the one who doubted God; he wasn’t the one charging into the Promised Land after God said no. Shortly after all that took place, Moses had to deal with Aaron and Miriam complaining about his wife, and then Miriam dies. To make matters worse, Israel simply did not seem to be getting it. Every time they complained, there were negative repercussions, but for some reason Israel kept failing to put 2 and 2 together. Moses even told them, “Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord, (Exodus 16:8)” but his pleas only fell on deaf ears.
Throughout the Bible we have examples of righteous individuals placed in situations where complaining would have been understood (by other people), but they did not. Moses gave us a lot of examples and last week we looked at an example from David, but here are a few more examples.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8)
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60)
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed. (Matthew 27:11-14)
Examples of righteous men not retaliating or complaining in the face of adversity are all over the Bible. These great men are testaments given to us by God to follow. We offend God when we complain to others, but He has no problem with us complaining directly to Him.
Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23)
The above verse is one of the few examples of Moses complains to God. Throughout the book of Psalm we also can see David pouring out his heart to God. Being the analytical person that I am, such verses lead me to ask, “Why does God hate it when we complain to others but not to Him?” I pondered and prayed about this for a while and the Holy Spirit answered me.
The reason why God hates it when we complain to others goes back to the concept of Him being in complete control. God is not in a battle against evil; to entertain such an idea would imply that there is a force out there that can possibly rival God, that there are certain things He might not have control over. God is in a class above all others, all by Himself and He alone is in complete control of everything thing that happens both good and bad.
The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these. (Isaiah 45:7)
Many times we hear believers blaming Satan for the troubles they face, but according to the book of Job chapter 1, Satan cannot do anything without God’s command. We do have an enemy in Satan and he might have a level of power but he cannot do anything unless God allows him to do so, we often give Satan far too much credit. God is in control of everything from blessings and droughts, those who are rich and those who are poor, rain storms and earth quakes, awesome surfing waves and terrifying tsunamis, those who are rulers and those who are not; God is in complete control of it all. As believers in the God All Mighty of Israel, we should accept everything that He places in our paths on a day to day basis; we should accept the good and the bad because He is in control of it all.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)
If we are His people and He is our God then we must live by the fact that all things, good and bad, not only works for our benefit (even if we do not understand it nor see the benefits at the time) but also for His glory. If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word then we must accept that even the bad things that happens to a believer will lead to good results, this message is all throughout the Bible. This is why James said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).”
When we complain to others we are doing 1 of 2 things. The first thing we do is take away the fact that God is in control and give controlling authority to the individual(s) that we are complaining to, that is, if we believe they can fix the problem. Many times, we do not complain directly to the person(s) that we feel is responsible for our grief. At times, we want someone to comfort us or reaffirm our stance, however, shouldn’t it be God who comforts us and reaffirms us? When we feel the need to vent to others, we are allowing them to fill a void (or try too) that God wants to fill.
From a spiritual stand point there are no good benefits to complaining, it is an action that is mainly in the flesh. When we complain, it not only makes us look small to others, it does not bring glory to God what-so-ever. When we complain to others we are telling the world that we do not trust God in that situation, in fact we take Him out of the picture all together. When we complain, we are rejecting the test or the refining that God is doing in our lives, we forfeit our faith in Him, we totally forget that with God all things are possible, and we discredit God to our hearers; especially if they know we are believers.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Messiah I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. (Philippians 2:14)
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
This is a hard topic to discuss. I do not speak as someone who has mastered this part of my walk with God and I do not know of anyone who has. I’m speaking as someone who is striving to get there and I truly believe that we can get there in this lifetime. This is not a matter of being perfect because imperfect individuals have reached the point of not retaliating or complaining in front of people and we see these accounts in the Bible.
Is it possible for us to never complain? I’m not sure myself and I’m not sure if God expects that either, that is not what this message is all about. Next time someone offends you, something/someone causes you to doubt God or if someone/something gets under your skin, do not retaliate and do not complain in public. Understand that God allowed it to happen and trust that somehow it will work out in your favor and bring Glory to Him in the end. As Job wisely asked his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? (Job 2:10)” He is our God, He is on our side and He is in complete control; so in your quit place, bring your petitions to Him and Him alone and He will bless you for it. Let us all strive for this together, let us hold each other accountable to this and watch as God gets the glory.