Then Moses heard the people of family after family weeping at the entrance of their tents, and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly, and Moses also was displeased.
Distrust is a root-sin from which different kindred evils spring, such as discontent, dissatisfaction, disgust, disobedience, and other disagreeable states of mind. But "those that know thy name," &c. (Psalm 9:10; Lamentations 3:24). From these strange cairns in the wilderness, "the graves of lust," we hear a voice (1 Corinthians 10:6).
I. THE DISCONTENT OF THE ISRAELITES.
II. ITS DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES.
1. Its disgraceful origin: "the mixed multitude," "hangers-on," "rift-raft." The chosen people of God listened and sympathized with them rather than with Moses and God. Apply to worldlings grumbling about weather, homes, situations, incomes, &c. (Proverbs 1:10; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 6:14).
2. The gross ingratitude of it. They were dissatisfied with the manna, which was wholesome, abundant, and adapted to various uses (verses 7-9), as though Hindoos should quarrel with their rice or the English with their wheat (1 Timothy 6:8). They recollect certain casual sensual advantages of past bondage, but forget its cruelties and degradation (verses 4-6). Why not remember the whips and fetters and infanticide? They think of suppers more than sufferings, of full stomachs rather than of famished souls. Let Christians beware of hankering after the indulgences of their old life (Proverbs 23:3; 1 John 2:15). And they complain of temporary deprivations, though hastening to a home of permanent and abundant good. They were passing through "that great and terrible wilderness" (Paran) because it was the direct route to the promised land (Deuteronomy 1:19; cf. 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 2:11).
3. The aggravations of it. For they had seen God's power already (Exodus 16:13; Psalm 78:19, 20). And have not we? (cf. Psalm 22:4, 5, 9, 10). And they overlooked recent chastisement (verse 1). God forbid that Isaiah 26:11 should be true of us, lest Proverbs 29, I should be also.
II. The disastrous results of their sin.
1. They angered Jehovah. Discontent in the guests of his bounty dishonours their generous host, as though Reuben bad complained because Joseph gave more to Benjamin (Genesis 43:34).
2. They grieved Moses, and even infected him with their own desponding spirit (verses 11-15; see sketch below). Note how sin may become epidemic, spreading from the mixed multitude to the Israelites, and thence to Moses, like a disease introduced by foreign sailors spreading to our homes and palaces. Beware of carrying infection (Illustration, Asaph, Psalm 73:11-15).
3. They got what they desired, but are ruined thereby. Moses' prayer for help is answered in mercy (verses 16, 17); theirs for flesh, in judgment (verses 18-20). They probably added gluttony to lust, and perished in the sight of plenty and at the moment of gratification (cf. Job 20:22, 23; Psalm 78:30, 31). Learn -
1. Prayers of discontent may bring answers of destruction. E.g., Rachel demanding children, and the Israelites a king. Greater wealth but worse health (Ecclesiastes 6:1, 2); worldly prosperity, but leanness of soul (Psalm 106:15; 1 Timothy 6:9; James 4:4).
do see what there is to be seen, for in every dispensation there is the hand of a Divine purpose, full of love, and wisdom, and grace.
I. THAT THE POSITION OF LEADER OR GOVERNOR OF MEN IS A VERY TRYING ONE.
Wherefore hast Thou afflicted Thy servant?I. Look at the afflictions of godly men in the path of duty AS A FACT.
1. Good men suffer afflictions.
2. Good men suffer affliction in the path of duty.
II. Look at the afflictions of godly men in the path of duty AS A PROBLEM.
1. A difficulty. Moses felt it.
2. Faith in the power of God to remove the difficulty.
III. OFFER SOME HINTS TOWARDS THE SOLUTION OF THE PROBLEM. The afflictions of the good in the path of duty, under the blessing of God, tend.
1. To test their faith. "Character," says Dr. Huntington, " depends on inward strength. But this strength has two conditions; it is increased only by being put forth, and it is tested only by some resistance. So, if the spiritual force or character in you is to be strong, it must be measured against some competition. It must enter into conflict with an antagonist. It must stand in comparison with something formidable enough to be a standard of its power Suffering, then, in some of its forms, must be introduced — the appointed minister, the great essayist — to put the genuineness of faith to the proof and purify it of its dross."
2. To promote their perfection. "As the Perfect One reached His perfectness through suffering," says Dr. Ferguson, "so it was with His servant. It was through the fire and the flame that the law of separation and refinement acted on the whole nature, and gave to it higher worth and glory. Trial ripened his manly spirit and made it patient to endure."
4. To promote the good of the race. The Christian is called to "know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings" — to suffer vicariously with Him that others may be saved and blessed. In the privilege of this high fellowship the sharpest sufferings become sacred and exalting services.Conclusion:
1. Severe afflictions in the path of duty are in full accord with the character of God.
2. Such sufferings are quite compatible with the favour of God towards us (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11).
3. When severe suffering leads to sore perplexity let us seek help of God (cf. Psalm 73:16, 17).
1. Because of the responsible nature of the duties of leadership.
2. Because of the interest which the true leader takes in his charge.
3. Because of the intractableness of men.
II. THE TRUE LEADER OF MEN MUST OFTEN BE PAINFULLY CONSCIOUS OF HIS INSUFFICIENCY.
III. THE ABLEST AND HOLIEST LEADERS OF MEN SOMETIMES FAIL UNDER THE BURDENS OF THEIR POSITION. Conclusion:
1. Great honours involve great obligations.
2. A man may fail even in the strongest point of his character. Moses was pre-eminently meek, yet here he is petulant, &c. Therefore, "Watch thou in all things," &c.
3. It is the duty of men not to increase, but if possible to lessen the difficulties and trials of leadership.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(T. L. Cuyler.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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