Published: 7 years ago

Guarding Against the Grumbling

I’ve been hanging out a lot in Exodus lately, which is undoubtedly one of my favorite books of the Bible. Behind 1 Timothy. But ahead of Malachi. Maybe tied with Genesis. Definitely more attention grabbing than Leviticus.

I love Exodus because of the narrative, the drama, the view of a sovereign God who would stop at nothing to direct the hand of a Pharoah and the feet of a nation. I love it because of the rich history that’s unpacked around God’s chosen people. I love it because I hear Charlton Heston’s voice every time Moses speaks, and Steve Martin’s voice every time the Egyptian magicians throw down.

But what I read this morning was a great reminder for me, and maybe a great one for you. Picture it: the Hebrews are exactly 27 minutes on the outskirts of Egypt. Their feet hurt. Their stomachs are growling. One of them realized he forgot his phone charger back in Cairo. And the grumbling began:

“What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Exodus 14:11-12)

When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” (15:23-24)

“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (16:3)

Fear. Thirst. Hunger. Those three things and more were the perfect recipe for the Hebrews to get their bathrobes in a wad and start to speak out against their leadership.

And Moses felt that burden.

And so do you.

I have friends in the ministry who have been on the receiving end of the grumbling for years. I know guys who found themselves without a job because they made risky ministry decisions like moving the announcements to the end of the service, installing a video projector in the auditorium, or (gasp!) encouraging the church to share the gospel in their community. I realize that here at the Summit, we are privileged to enjoy a surprisingly grumble-free zone. But I know many of you don’t.

So you need to hear what Moses said. This is what I read this morning. And this is what I hope will be an encouragement to you:

“…the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.” (16:8)

Your grumbling is not against us.

Oh, it feels like it. It feels like that deacon or that Sunday School teacher or that charter member will never allow you to lead. But they’re not grumbling against you.

It feels like the mom of that 7th grader or the WMU president or the disgruntled choir director wants your head on a platter. But they’re not grumbling against you.

If you’re following God’s voice…if you’re acting on his word…if you’re leading according to your calling…if you’re humbly aligning yourself to the plans that God has laid out for you…then they’re not grumbling against you. They’re grumbling against God.

It’s his battle. Not yours.

Now serve that way.


(click for photo credit)

  1. lfaccordini says:

    Great Post! Think about all things people grumble about…money, job, others, etc. I read this excerpt this weekend, it’s a little King James-ish, amazing in perspective! This song has uncanny ability to stay in my head, so I was thinking of reasons WHY it is so well- this answered it!
    “It is so well with him that we could not imagine it to be better, for he is well fed, he feeds upon the flesh and blood of Jesus; he is well clothed, he wears the imputed righteousness of Christ; he is well housed, he dwells in God; he is well married, his soul is knit in bonds of marriage union to Christ; he is well provided for, for the Lord is his Shepherd; he is well endowed, for heaven is his inheritance. It is well with the righteous-well upon divine authority; the mouth of God speaks the comforting assurance. O beloved, if God declares that all is well, ten thousand devils may declare it to be ill, but we laugh them all to scorn. Blessed be God for a faith which enables us to believe God when the creatures contradict him. It is, says the Word, at all times well with thee, thou righteous one; then, beloved, if thou canst not see it, let God’s word stand thee in stead of sight; yea, believe it on divine authority more confidently than if thine eyes and thy feelings told it to thee. Whom God blesses is blest indeed, and what his lip declares is truth most sure and steadfast. ” The Spurge, Morning and Evening

  2. DJ says:

    This is one of the most encouraging posts that I have read in a long time. Grumbling and murmuring has deposed many pastors. However, we pastors need to be reminded of our calling and our responsibility to fulfill that calling. Sometimes this means that we may end up on the curbside, but the God who has called and gifted us is the God who will see us through whatever ministry He affords us to have — whether it is a “good” ministry or a “hard” ministry.

    Thanks for your insight…and your sense of humorous!

  3. ahsido says:

    Well that certainly is convenient. As pastor you set yourself in the role of Moses and anyone who doesn’t toe the line is in the role of grumbling Hebrew. If anyone doesn’t get in line behind you, they are merely grumbling. Your will is indistinguishable from God’s will so if the sheep don’t follow where you lead they are opposing God. I think this is how cults get started….

    • Danny says:

      Ahsido, thanks for taking a moment to leave a comment. Please notice the last full paragraph: “IF you’re following God’s voice…IF you’re acting on his word…” etc. The point of the post is how to follow God’s lead when God’s people don’t want to follow you.

      No pastor should set himself up as Moses. If you’ll remember, Moses was himself a reluctant leader. But God used him. The mark of a great leader is one who listens to his people and loves them well, but first, he must listen to God.

      Pastors who try to lead people without themselves being led by God are indeed poor leaders.

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