Deuteronomy 20, Jeremiah 12, 1 Corinthians 16

Read Deuteronomy 20, Jeremiah 12, and Proverbs 15:1-17 today. This devotional is about Jeremiah 12.

Yesterday, in Jeremiah 11:18-23, the prophet seemed grateful that God had revealed a plot against him. He asked for God’s justice to punish those who sought to kill him and God revealed to Jeremiah that He would punish them.

In the early verses of this chapter, however, Jeremiah started complaining about God’s justice. God told Jeremiah to prophesy punishment for those who were sinning in Israel. But no punishment was visible. These people were thriving, as far as Jeremiah could tell (v. 2a-b). Jeremiah was eager to see God’s judgment fall and was put out with God for not delivering already on the promised punishment (v. 4a).

How did God answer this complaint? By telling Jeremiah that he was way out of his league: “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” The rest of this chapter reaffirms God’s promise to bring judgment, first on Israel (vv. 6-13), then on the nations that defeat Israel (v. 14). The final verses allude to the salvation of Gentiles (vv. 15-16) but the chapter ends with another promise of judgment (v. 17).

So what exactly was God’s reply to Jeremiah’s complaint? It was to tell Jeremiah that His ways were too high for Jeremiah to understand. God would bring the judgment he promised. When would he do it? Why did he delay? The answers to these questions belong to the Lord. Jeremiah needed to stop complaining and just trust him.

We can relate to Jeremiah, right? If God is sovereign and holy and just, then why is there so much sin and evil in the world? These and other questions bother us and sometimes even challenge our faith God. If we knew what God knows and were as wise as he is, we would understand. Lacking his omniscience and wisdom, however, leaves us asking questions we can’t answer and even accusing the only just one in the universe of injustice.

This is how God always answers us when we challenge or question him. He doesn’t try to explain his ways; he reminds us that his ways are beyond our understanding. This is what he told Job and what he tells us. It is what he said to Paul when he said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” The lesson for us is to commit to God the things we can’t understand and be faithful to do what he’s commanded.

Numbers 11, Isaiah 36, Proverbs 12:1-14

Read Numbers 11, Isaiah 36, and Proverbs 12:1-14 today. This devotional is about Numbers 11.

EVERYBODY had something to complain about in Numbers 11:

  • The people of Israel complained about how hard it was living in the desert (11:1)
  • They also complained about the food that God graciously, faithfully, and miraculously provided for them (vv. 4-9).
  • Moses complained to God about what a burden it was to lead God’s people (vv. 10-15).
  • Even God himself had complaints, both with the ungratefulness of the people (vv. 1b-3) and also with the unbelief of Moses (v. 23).

There are legitimate complaints, of course. God certainly had legitimate reasons to complain. But let’s consider the roots of illegitimate–that is, sinful–complaining. What causes it? This chapter reveals some common causes such as:

  • Discouragement. Verse 1 says the people “complained about their hardships….” Often our complaining is really a symptom of discouragement about our lives in other areas.
  • Entitlement. This is the attitude that says, “I deserve better.” Verses 4-6 reflect this. The people completely ignored the fact that they were slaves in Egypt. “At least the food was good,” they said. Their diet in captivity caused them to feel that they should always eat that way, even on a long trip to a home where better food (“flowing with milk and honey”) was waiting for them.
  • Nostalgia: The people remembered the past fondly (v. 5a). They conveniently forgot that things “cost nothing” (v. 5b) because they were slaves.
  • Unthankfulness: God provided food for them and made it easy (vv. 8-9). He had liberated them from slavery in Egypt was taking them to a promised land. Yet they were so obsessed with their desire for variety that they felt no gratitude for God’s daily provisions.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

If you are a leader, people will complain to you. So how do you deal with complainers and complaining?

  • Pray for the complainers (v. 2). Admittedly, Moses’s prayer here was for the end of God’s judgment but praying for complainers–preferably before God punishes them for complaining–seems like a very good strategy to me.
  • Pray for the needs you see but cannot meet (vv. 10-15). The burden of leading God’s people and providing for them was too much for Moses. Instead of complaining to his wife or his brother or Joshua, he took his burden to the Lord. Again, a good strategy.
  • Pray for God to empower the leaders you already have. God told Moses in verses 14-16 that he would provide help for the leadership burden. But notice that the help God provided came from “Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people” (v. 16). The leadership Moses needed was already waiting for him. All they needed was God’s power (vv. 17b, 28-29).

God did punish some of the people for their complaining but he was mostly patient in this passage. He was patient with Moses’ unbelief and provided the month’s worth of meat that he had promised (vv. 18-19, 31) even though Moses threw a fit when God made the promise, as if God would require Moses to do something that only God himself could do (vv. 21-23). He also provided the elders of Israel to share the leadership load with Moses (vv. 24-29).

Complaining comes so naturally to us, doesn’t it?

And why do we complain? Because we think we deserve better—a better job, a happier life, a better spouse, more obedient children—whatever.

Complaining is a symptom of an entitled heart; it demonstrates a heart that envies others, that lusts after things God has not willed for us. It rises from a mind that is focused on what we don’t have but think we deserve instead of seeing all that God has already faithfully given to us.

Instead of complaining, let’s learn to ask God for the things that we want and need in life (see James 4:1-3) and to be thankful for all that God has done for us (Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Exodus 17, Job 35, Luke 1

Read Exodus 17, Job 35, and Luke 1 today. This devotional is about Exodus 17.

If the Jews who were delivered from Egypt are known for anything, it is their complaining.  They complained and worried about how they were going to be fed and they complained here in Exodus 17:2 about the lack of water.

It is easy to dismiss them as ungrateful people. God had miraculously delivered them and miraculously provided for them already in the desert. So why would they complain again at Meribah instead of waiting to see how God would provide them with water?

The answer is that their complaints were a symptom of a lack of faith (v. 7). But, how often do we complain and question God when we have to wait on him? And, the things we need and want from God are so often less critical than the water and food the people of Israel needed to survive day after day. If you’re anxious about something in your life and asking “is the Lord among us or not?”, then be encouraged by this story from Exodus 17. Not only did God provide for the Israelites, despite their complaints, but he also protected them from the attacks of the Amalekites (vv. 8-16).

Philippians 2

Today’s reading is Philippians 2.

What makes believers in Christ distinct from the world around us? We have different beliefs about the past and the future, for one. We have different morals that cause us to make different choices and respond differently when we sin. We spend our time and our money differently. We certainly have a different understanding of who God is and what he’s done for us in Christ. These are all important differences, but maybe they don’t distinguish us from the rest of the world as much as we’d like to think that they do.

Here in Philippians 2, Paul invited the believers and us to consider the immense humility and sacrifice of Christ to save us. He urged us to follow Christ’s example by “looking to the interests of others” (v. 4). But when he wanted to teach us how to stand out from the unredeemed people around us, he commanded us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (v. 14). Living this way “in a warped and crooked generation” would cause us to “shine among them like stars in the sky.” (v. 15).

Let’s face it–people complain a lot. We complain about the weather, about relatives and friends, about bosses, about what’s required of us in our jobs, about how little we’re paid and how much we pay in taxes. We complain about having to fix our cars or stuff that breaks at home, about traffic jams and long lines at the grocery stores. People argue a lot, too. Look at your Facebook feed; you probably don’t even have to scroll more than once or twice (or at all) before you see two or more people arguing about politics or sports or something else.

Complaining and arguing are symptoms of discontentment. [After I wrote that last sentence, I complained to my dog about how he just came in but wanted to go back out again.] When we complain to someone about their behavior, we’re showing our discontentment with them. Complaining like that is about trying to change them, to control them into acting differently or becoming different in some way. It is an expression of our discontentment with them or at least their behavior is some way. But, if they do change that behavior, then we move on and find something else about them that makes us discontent. Complaining about the weather or the traffic, or something else is an expression of discontentment with our circumstances.

Arguing is about being discontent with what we’re getting or not getting. If I argue with a clerk in a store about the price of an item, it is because I am unhappy about the price. If I argue with a co-worker that I’m doing too much of the work on a project that we’re both assigned to do, that’s an expression of discontentment. Arguing comes from having a different point of view in some instances—like sports or politics but it often results from a feeling of injustice.

Jesus was treated with extreme injustice. He had no sin but was made a sin offering for us. It was quite inconvenient (to say that least) to give up the worship of heaven for the scorn of humanity. If anyone had the right to complain or argue about the glory he wasn’t getting (or the mistreatment he was getting), it was Jesus. But Jesus never complained about anything nor did he ever argue with anyone about anything but truth.

There are many differences between believers and unbelievers but verses 14-15 tell us that the most obvious difference to an unbeliever between us and them is our contentment. As we saw yesterday, Paul was content to live and minister for Christ or die and be with Christ. He was content to remain in prison and give the gospel to the guards or be released to witnesses to another city about Christ. Instead of complaining or arguing, we should find something to give thanks for. The traffic that frustrates me so much is no fun, but I’m thankful that a car can take me long distances much faster than I could walk them. If you want to shine brightly like the North Star on a pitch black night, learn to speak words of thanks and contentment instead of complaining and arguing. This is a very specific, daily way we can show the difference Christ and faith in him has made in our lives.

Numbers 11, Psalm 48, Isaiah 1, Hebrews 9

If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 11, Psalm 48, Isaiah 1, Hebrews 9. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Numbers 11.

EVERYBODY has something to complain about in Numbers 11. The people of Israel complained about how hard it was living in the desert (11:1) and then they complained about the food that God graciously, faithfully, and miraculously provided for them (vv. 4-9).

Moses complained to God about what a burden it was to lead God’s people (vv. 10-15). And, of course, God himself had a legitimate complaint not only with the ungratefulness of the people (vv. 1b-3) but also with the unbelief of Moses (v. 23). Although God did punish some of the people for their complaining, he was mostly faithful and patient in this passage. He was patient with Moses’ unbelief and provided the month’s worth of meat that he had promised (vv. 18-19, 31) even though Moses threw a fit when God made the promise, as if God would require Moses to do something that only God himself could do (vv. 21-23). He also provided the elders of Israel to share the leadership load with Moses (vv. 24-29). Complaining comes so naturally to us, doesn’t it? And why do we complain? Because we think we deserve better—a better job, a happier life, a better spouse, more obedient children—whatever. Complaining is a symptom of an entitled heart; it demonstrates a heart that envies others, that lusts after things God has not willed for us. It rises from a mind that is focused on what we don’t have but think we deserve instead of seeing all that God has faithfully given to us. Instead of complaining, let’s learn to ask God for the things that we want and need in life (see James 4:1-3) and to be thankful for all that God has done for us (Colossians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.