Pentecost – A LSB #497
Text – Numbers 11:29
But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!”
An Ancient Prayer Of Grumbling
Oh, Lord, why is everyone cutting me off in traffic today? And why do all the traffic lights have to turn red just as I reach them?
LSB #780. “O Lord, hear my prayer, I Lord, hear my prayer; when I call answer me. O Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord, hear my prayer; come & listen to me.” This was sung by a cantor after each prayer petition.
Dear Lord, what have You done to me, sending me so far away from anyone I know, to such a strange people, in a peculiar place, in order to serve them as their pastor?
Lord God, why have You brought cancer upon my child? She is so young & so precious, but You have allowed her to suffer so much loss & so much pain.
Especially in Michigan, we grumble about the weather. As Americans, we’re fed up with our politicians. Then life happens & next thing you know, you’re old & complaining about everything. Grumbling is very, very common in our world. We hear it with our ears. We feel it with our heart & soul. Life in a sinful world doesn’t just wear us down. It changes us.
At least, that’s what we like to grumble about, how life wears us down & wears us out. Woe is me! The Israelites of God were also well-known for their grumbling ways.
Let’s listen: “Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, & they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness & found no water. 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?’” (Exodus 15:22-24 ESV) After numerous other incidents, God finally brings judgment upon the people: “In this wilderness your bodies will fall – every one of you 20 years old or more who was counted in the census & who has grumbled against me.” (Numbers 14:29 NIV) It’s clear that grumbling is not always as light an offense as we often casually consider it to be.
Because we’re remembering the day of Pentecost, let’s compare our words of grumbling to what was happening that day a few thousand years ago as Luke recorded it: “‘We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’ And all were amazed & perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’” (Acts 2:11b-12 ESV)
That’s kind of the far end of the spectrum from grumbling. How do we connect the two in our daily walk with our heavenly Father? One way is to consider the words of the sermon text as an ancient prayer of grumbling. What I mean by that probably isn’t obvious so let me help you connect the dots.
After crossing the Red Sea, Moses leads the people of Israel away from the land of Egypt. Along the way he faces constant grumbling & complaint from the Israelites. In turn, Moses frequently takes his complaints to the Lord. Here’s an example that comes shortly before the OT reading of today:
“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease You that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their ancestors?” (Numbers 11:11-12 NIV)
You see, Moses is doing too much of the work. The people he’s leading have to start picking up the slack, so God tells Moses, “Bring me 70 of Israel’s leaders & I will put the Spirit on them.” For some reason, two of those men didn’t make it to the meeting, yet received God’s Spirit anyway. Joshua tells Moses, “Make them stop prophesying,” & having dealt with the constant frustration of leading a grumbling people, Moses grumbles right back to Joshua, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” It’s possible to interpret that as an outburst of frustration, yet it is directed to the Almighty God.
That makes it a prayer, a prayer from about 3400 years ago. That qualifies as an ancient prayer of grumbling. Our Lord Yahweh answered that prayer of Moses about 1500 years later as Peter & the Apostles were gathered together in Jerusalem:
“…suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, & it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them & rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit & began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4 ESV)
When the weather is bad, or when people we love are suffering, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing the negative effects of sin. It’s not ungodly of us even to point them out & complain, but we should take our grumbling directly to our heavenly Father & then release it there. We surrender our grumbling & our very selves that His will be done, not ours.
The grumblings of those we serve can take on the sounds of beautiful prayer if we listen with ears that love the people whom God created to be in relationship with Him. In the person of His Son, God died in order to be relationship with them.
It can be frustrating when a pastor cannot please the people because what the pastor has to give the people do not want, & what the people want the pastor does not have to give. We are tempted to side with Moses & add our displeasure to what pours out from the heart of God’s servant. Moses is charged with leading these people & yet they do not respond to him.
We naturally wonder, & even demand to know, what God is going to do about it. If He
doesn’t give me what I want, why do I need Him? Our ingratitude leads to that kind of doubt, as we’ve been learning of in the Sunday morning Bible study. The story of God’s chosen people is not an epic of national heroism; it is not the glorious record of a people willing to suffer hardship for the sake of freedom.
Rather, they complained & grumbled, they wept over the food & rebelled against Moses. They disobeyed a direct command to enter the Promised Land, & so it is with us. Only because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, because His mercies are new every morning, do we remain His children & not turn back to the slavery of self, materialism & the demonic bondage of Satan.
Because Moses turned to the Lord in his feeling of inadequacy & frustration, his complaint did not degenerate into rebellion. That’s where so often we go wrong – in not turning to our Lord & Savior. He longs to come to the aid of his weak & distraught brothers & sisters.
Today we celebrate God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, to Moses, to His Church throughout the ages. We rejoice that God continues to gift His Church with all the things we truly need. We repent for being ungrateful when God’s hand stretches forth & provides abundantly all that we need for body & soul.
It’s true. The world we live in is fallen, broken & twisted. The fact is this world is hell-bound. Living in this world does wear us down & wear us out. However, God’s children are also aware that our heavenly Father will never forsake us nor leave. Jesus is Immanuel. He is God with us. He took on human flesh to change us.
For now that change is partial. On the day of the resurrection it will be complete. In this life, through our trials & struggles combined with the power of God’s love, the Holy Spirit is working to shape & mold us into the image of Christ. We lost that image at the fall into sin. Jesus restored that image through His life, death & resurrection. You & I will wear it fully, for all of eternity, once the Last Day arrives. Given that, when life’s frustrations arrive, don’t hesitate to take them to the Lord in prayer, even if it is a prayer of grumbling. Amen.
Come, Holy Ghost, God & Lord, with all Your graces now outpoured on each believer’s mind & heart; Your fervent love to them impart. Lord, by the brightness of Your light in holy faith Your Church unite; from every land & every tongue this to Your praise, O Lord, our God be sung. Come, holy Fire, comfort true, grant us the will Your work to do & in Your service to abide; let trials turn us not aside. Lord, by Your power prepare each heart, & to our weakness strength impart that bravely here we may contend, through life & death to You, our Lord, ascend. Alleluia, alleluia! Amen. LSB 497:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet