EXPLORING THE WORD
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"When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, 'Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him"' (Exodus 32:1).
The people did not consider how extraordinary it was for their leader to be literally talking to God in His presence. They were ready and willing to exchange God for a golden calf made from their own gold earrings, which Aaron (of all people!) melted down and fashioned for them (Exodus 32:2-4).
Naturally, God was infuriated with them for worshiping the golden calf instead of Him. He punished many of them with death. But when Moses interceded for the people, God forgave them, and they continued on their journey.
However, God's patience was steadily wearing thin. Each time discontentment erupted, the punishment was more severe. After listening to endless rants about the hardships of the Israelites' journey, God released fire to rage among them and consume part of the outskirts of the camp (Numbers 11:1).
The final insult came when they refused to enter the wonderful Promised Land that God was giving them as a gift. Ten of the twelve scouts who spied on Canaan discouraged the Israelites from obeying God and taking possession of the land. They reported seeing huge, dangerous 'giants' (called Nephilim) there, once again overlooking the many obstacles God had already removed from their path and accusing Him of bringing them there to die.
They said, "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them…If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?...We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt" (Numbers 13:33b, 14:1-4).
DISCONTENTMENT LEADS TO REBELLION, RESULTING IN JUDGMENT
After years of seeing God miraculously meet their every need, the Israelites learned God's true purpose for their lives — but they still rejected it. They forgot the agony of slavery and foolishly yearned to be back in Egypt when the "land flowing with milk and honey" (Deuteronomy 26:9; Jeremiah 11:5) was right in front of them. Perhaps one reason this happened was because they were still slaves at heart — slaves to their desires.
Their perpetual dissatisfaction and constant complaining led to rebellion and rejection of God's wonderful gift. The Promised Land is a metaphor for salvation and eternal life. By rejecting God over and over, they had used up all their chances. God was finished with them.
Moses pleaded with God once more to forgive them. The Lord responded, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times — not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it" (Numbers 14:20-23).
Anyone who treats God in a like manner can expect the same outcome.
(Note: Joshua, Caleb, the Levites, and all those under 20 years of age were the only ones allowed to enter the Promised Land. There is some question among Bible scholars about the elderly, the handicapped and women over 20. You can read more about it here.
DISCONTENTMENT PREVENTS US FROM RECEIVING GOD'S BEST
The generation of Israelites who were denied entrance to the Promised Land wandered in circles for another 40 years without anticipating anything but God's dissatisfaction with them and ultimately, death. The people's dissatisfaction with God's purpose for them, their disdain of His bountiful provision, their disregard of His mighty power, and their distrust of His great love brought them to a point of no return. They were alive, but they looked at a bleak future that led nowhere but to the grave (Numbers 14-26-35). God gave them what they dared to accuse Him of: a Divine sentence in which they ultimately dropped dead in the desert (Numbers 14:28-29).
Why should we study this ancient story? Maybe you've already noticed that it bears a striking resemblance to our own emotional behavior. Discontent lurks in each person's heart. If it existed in Eden, it exists everywhere. That's why God tells us we need to carefully study Israel's experiences with God.
As Paul wrote, "Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did…We should not test the LORD, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel" (I Corinthians 10:6-10).
DISCONTENTMENT IS A SIN
The temptation to sin usually begins with discontentment about what we are, who we are, what we have or what we don't have. How much grief would be avoided if we were satisfied with our income? If we didn't crave more and more of the things money can buy, would we enslave ourselves to creditors? "Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income" (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
Discontentment can manifest itself in all kinds of ungodly thoughts, attitudes and actions. An ungrateful, discontented spirit is an open door to demonic intrusion and influence, causing us to turn our backs on God and take matters into our own hands.
This kind of rebellion doesn't have to happen. God is faithful, and we don't have to yield to the temptation to be discontented with our families, salaries, jobs, or life in general. Temptation is not a sin, but yielding to it is.
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life" (Philippians 2:14-16a).
GODLINESS WITH CONTENTMENT EQUALS GREAT GAIN (I Timothy 6:6)
The verse above continues with, "For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (I Timothy 6:7-8).
The Greek word for "content" is also translated as "sufficient" or "enough". We don't want to admit it, but we really can live with just the bare necessities — food, clothing, and shelter. In fact, in many parts of the world, people are relieved to have that and can't imagine having anything more.
But our greatest and most priceless asset is the heavenly Father who will not abandon us. He knows what we need, and He has promised to supply it. What He wants most from us is simple, childlike trust. That's not always easy for us because it doesn't come naturally.
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Photo credit: timlav; Creative Commons
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