Today during my Bible reading, Numbers 21:4-9 really stuck out to me: “[The Israelites] traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole;anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Get your eyes off your problems and put them on Jesus. Stop looking down at the wound and finding things in your life to complain about. Look up. Just as the Israelites had to look up to the serpent to be cured, we need to look up to Jesus. In John 3:14-15 Jesus says, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
Matthew Henry says, “Compare their disease and ours. Sin bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder. Compare the application of their remedy and ours. They looked and lived, and we, if we believe, shall not perish… Whosoever looked, however desperate his case, or feeble his sight, or distant his place, was certainly and perfectly cured. The Lord can relieve us from dangers and distresses, by means which human reason never would have devised.”
John Piper says, “Their complaining wasn’t rooted in their scenery, but their heart… A heart of gratitude and thankfulness isn’t dependent on your bank statement, doctor’s diagnosis, or the praise you receive for a job well done. Thanklessness and grumbling — regardless of your situation, even your suffering — reflect your heart.” Piper goes on to say that the reason we complain is because we forget.
We don’t remember God’s gracious forgiveness, unfailing love, and abundant mercy. We forget his redemption and sovereignty. He doesn’t follow our plans for our life and we forget that His ways are best. So we complain. We murmur. We grumble.
When we remember God’s faithfulness, I think it should look something like Psalm 77: “I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth. Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
The sentence I love the most from this chapter is “though your footprints were not seen.” I think that’s when we often complain. When we can’t see God’s hand in our life. When His presence isn’t felt. It’s easy to be thankful and joyful when life is going well but when it feels like everything’s crumbling in around you, when His footprints aren’t seen, that’s when we grumble. But it’s important that we never forget that although we may not see His footprints in the moment, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. Remember His faithfulness.