Murmuring by Heather
Lately God has been convicting me about murmuring and complaining. While I have learned to guard what I speak in some areas of my life, there are times when I catch myself grousing about things. He is showing me that murmuring and complaining is counterproductive, and only tend to bring more of what I am complaining about into my life. It is something I truly want to remove. Pastor Don always suggests doing a Word study on what you are trying to change in your life. The Word of God is an agent of change.
When my kids were little we went through a period where they were frustrated and I was frustrated. I caught myself saying, “No,” to them way too often and only picking on what they were doing that was negative. Instead of improving their behavior it seemed to get worse. I ended up stopping myself, finding ways to say, “Yes,” more often. And then spent my time focusing on what they were doing good and lavishly dishing out complements and praise for the good that they were doing. Miraculously their behavior improved – or probably more accurately my perception changed. It is the same with grousing and complaining and murmuring. The more we do it, the more we find that there are things to complain about.
Webster’s defines murmuring as 1. A low, indistinct, continuous sound; 2. An indistinct, whispered, or confidential complaint a mutter; 3 An abnormal sound usually emanating from the heart, that sometimes indicates a diseased condition. 4. A mumbled or private expression of discontent.
Strong’s 3885 Hebrew and 1111 in the Greek I was so surprised that 3885 came up for murmuring because it seemed like Strong’s had given me the wrong word, so I went to many sources and came up with the same Strong’s address. Listen to the definition. Luwn – means to remain, lodge spend the night, abide. ..in the figurative use of the worked it often has the connotation of abiding, remaining. ,3886 it also means to gulp, swallow down, to be rash. Comes from 1098 bliyl – feed, fodder, provender The Greek 1111 means to mutter, murmur, grumble, say anything in a low tone, used in conjunction with the laborers in the parable of the householder Mat. 20:11, the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus. (and other places)
Yet, in retrospect, when we complain and murmur, don’t we end up lodging in the situation we are complaining about?
I am going to venture a guess WE HAVE ALL BEEN GUILTY OF MURMURING AND COMPLAINING. Sometimes it is almost comical what we complain about. We ask for more business or ministry and then complain about the workload. We want children and complain about their behavior, a spouse and then complain when they do the things that spouses do. A car and complain about gas mileage, etc.
Let’s face it. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SOMETHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT IF WE WANT TO COMPLAIN. We live in a fallen and imperfect world. Trust me, satan will always make certain there are people and things in our life to complain about. At church we can think the service is too long, the music too loud our not our favorite, how people are dressed, who sat in our seat, or after church we serve up roast pastor for dinner.
Why was this subject of murmuring such an important topic to God, so important that he wrote about it from chapter 11 through 21 in the book of Numbers, and also in the New Testament gave many examples and teachings about murmuring? It is because God knows there is power in words. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
We have been also studying in discipleship how we will have what we say. Mark 11:23-26 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
This is talking about prayer but it also mentions speaking. When we murmur we are speaking negative things into our situation and truthfully we will have whatever we say. I included the verses about forgiving – because forgiving is one of the routes to ceasing murmuring. I will talk about that more later.
Matthew 12:33-37 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
We are held responsible for our words, and will have to give an account of them. But God will help us to temper what we say, if we allow the Holy Spirit to help us to see what we are saying.
Let’s spend some time looking at the Israelites in the wilderness and study a bit about their murmuring. I think we can see it is similar to the things that we murmur about. When the Israelites sent out spies into the land and came back with an evil report, refusing to believe God and go in and claim the Promised Land, we see how much God took to heart the murmurings of his people.
Numbers 14:22 -23 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it.
Who remembers the miracles God performed to bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt? Have them name a few. The plagues, death of first-born sons, the children leaving with riches, parting of the Red sea, etc, are just a few of the signs God showed the people. God demonstrated His power in a big way, kept His promises, delivered the people out of slavery and with riches as well. The people saw many signs and wonders, but still they complained. I used to shake my head in wonder, thinking that if God did so many things in my life, I wouldn’t complain like that. But the truth is, He has done so many wonderful things in our lives and we do complain.
I was reading Ray Stedman’s commentary on Numbers and he broke down the complaints of the Israelites into three categories and they correspond to the various areas we complain about in our lives today.
THE PEOPLE COMPLAIN AGAINST THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES. They complained about the manna, the lack of water, the meat, and the wilderness itself. Nothing was right. It was only three days from the victory song of Exodus 15 and Miriam and the women’s dance and song, until they complained about water. They came to the waters of Marah. They complained against Moses who was their leader, pastor, teacher, judge, appointed by God. God told Moses to cast a tree into the water, and the tree cleared the water of bitterness. Bitterness leads to complaining & murmuring, and even we in our lives have to cast the tree (the Cross) into the waters of our complaints to cease the bitterness.
Sometimes our tough circumstances can be used by God to test us to see if we will choose to murmur or complain – or if we will choose to trust God and speak God’s truth into our situation. Murmuring is a choice.
When God provided water for the Israelites, there were easily 2 million Israelites. So that was a significant amount of water, and the people never suffered from thirst or hunger. God took care of their provision. The people also complained against the Manna, God’s food that He provided every day for 40 years. Manna tasted like oil & honey (symbols of the Holy Spirit), and the people received enough to fed themselves the equivalent of 2 pints a day. If there were 2 million people in the wilderness that would be 12 million pints of manna, or about 4,500 tons of manna daily. If we tried to transport that much Manna to people, it would take 10 freight trains with 30 box cars to do that. But God faithfully provided the manna for the people. But they got tired of it.
Of course they did. It wasn’t meant to be enough to satisfy them, just to sustain them, and that it did. The people were not sick, had no diseases, their clothing and shoes did not wear out in all their years of wandering. But God did not intend them to be in the wilderness for 40 years eating Manna. He wanted to get them over into the land of Canaan and feed on the abundant food there. It wasn’t God’s fault they had manna for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 40 years. They also complained about lack of meat, so God gave them meat for a month until they were sick of meat, then they complained about the abundance of meat. When they were in the wilderness all they could do was think of the food they had in Egypt, meat, cucumbers, leeks, onions, and garlic in Egypt. Exodus 16:3 And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” But did they have that kind of abundance or were their memories faulty – remember they were slaves and the Egyptians were trying to kill them off. I suspect that they built up in their imaginations what they thought they had.
The problem was that they reduced themselves to thinking about their immediate circumstances and the past. Yes, they had ample experience with Egypt, and they were aware of their needs in the wilderness, but they had NO VISION. They heard “sermons” about Canaan, but they had no experience of it, no knowledge about Canaan.
When they murmured about their circumstances they met the judgment of God in three forms – fire, plague, and poisoned serpents. When we complain about our circumstances all we discover is the fire of gossip, scandal and slander, the plague of anxiety and tension that saps us, and the poison of envy and jealousy as we release that in our lives.
THEY MURMURED AGAINST THE BLESSING OF GOD. Imagine, they came to the edge of the land of Canaan, right at the land flowing with milk and honey. The spies went in and brought back samples of the produce of the land, and also tales of the giants, which made the spies feel like grasshoppers. Only Joshua and Caleb believed that if God wanted them to be in the land of Canaan, that God would defeat the giants. But the people refused to go into their blessing, because they believed that the giants were greater than God. They wanted to get out of Egypt, but they were unwilling to take the next step and go into the Promised Land. They feared dying at the hand of the giants. They ended up having what they said, here is what they said so often in their complaints against God, Numbers 13:1-3 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” According to God, 10 times the people complained to God and each time their speech was peppered with the idea that they should have stayed in Egypt, and that God brought them into the wilderness so that they would die in the wilderness. God brought them out of Egypt – but he people refused to leave Egypt in their hearts. So then God replied, Numbers 14:22-24 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.
When we gripe and complain we have the spirit of Egypt in us, but what we really want is to be like Joshua and Caleb and have a DIFFERENT SPIRIT in us – the Holy Spirit, and we want to speak the words that the Holy Spirit tells us, not our circumstances.
We right now are often living in this wilderness, living on a minimum supply of the Holy Spirit, just enough to keep going. We spend our lives complaining and murmuring against our circumstances, but we refuse to move into the land God is providing for us. We can be sustained in the wilderness, but never satisfied. And the wilderness lasted for the Israelites until all those who were over 20 died off in the wilderness. We will stay in our wilderness until we stop complaining, get the vision God intends for us, and move forward in faith. But so often we choose to focus on our circumstances and live in defeat.
It is ironic because the Israelites feared going into the Promised Land because of the giants whom they feared would kill them. But, besides complaining and grousing, the other thing the Israelites spent doing in the wilderness, according to Stedman, is burying their dead. Imagine how many Israelites died in the 40 years in the wilderness. A census numbered the men over 20 at 603,000, and that did not include the women and older girls. It could have been well over 2 million people. One million, two hundred thousand of them died in the wilderness – an average of 82 a day. The wilderness of griping, murmuring and complaining is a huge graveyard, and we need to move beyond that.
MURMURING AGAINST AUTHORITY. They also murmured against the authority of God expressed through Moses. Numbers 16:3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”
Often we think we are holy enough, or we spend our times comparing ourselves against others and begin to resent those who seem to be ahead of us in spiritual growth. That is what the Israelites did. God met this challenge with a severe punishment, Korah was swallowed up with all their families alive into the pit. Numbers 16.
Yet, even with the judgments that God provided to teach his people, the murmuring went on. The leaders of the 12 tribes were asked to bring a rod to the tabernacle, and Aaron was told to bring his rod. When the Israelites came back in the morning only Aaron’s rod had grown branches and fruit – that shows us that when we walk in the fullness and power of God’s resurrection life then we can bear fruit. If our pastor and ministers are showing fruit in their lives, we need to emulate them, not murmur against them.
Yet, in spite of the Israelites failure and murmurings, God still loved His people, preserved them and protected them, ultimately sending His son to die for us and our sins – including murmuring – so that we can bring ourselves into fellowship with Him.
The New Testament also teaches us that we are not to murmur and complain.
Philippians 2:14-16 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Jude 16-23 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Murmuring also was seen in the Prodigal’s son’s brother, and the workers in the vineyard and many other parables of Jesus. The truth is, anytime we murmur or complain, we are murmuring and complaining against God.
In our lives we can see a few truths.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP OURSELVES STOP MURMURING AND COMPLAINING? A few things come to mind. The first is to FORGIVE – as long as we hold unforgiveness in our hearts there is no way God can interact in our situation to help us change the situation. BE THANKFUL FOR WHAT GOD HAS PROVIDED. God does so much for us, and thankfulness will help us to focus on what we do have, not on what we don’t have. WHEN WE MURMUR COUNTER THOSE WORDS WITH THE TRUTH – Pastor Don told us that when we say something negative, immediately repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and start speaking many words of truth that show us the truth of the situation, not the murmuring. FILL YOURSELF WITH THE WORD OF GOD so that we can renew our minds and so that more thoughts of a Godly nature can happen Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. REMEMBER GOD DOES FORGIVE US. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
WE ARE WORKS IN PROGRESS. God will give us things to deal with in our lives because He loves us and He is helping us to conform to His Son, Jesus. We will always have things to work on in our lives, but as we mature and grow in faith, we will find that God will not only remove the rough edges, but then he will burnish and shine us so that His glory will shine forth. As we grow in Him, we will begin to refine those things in us that God does not like, so that we do them less and less.
Hope you have a blessed day,
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