Jump Start # 2588
1 Corinthians 10:10 “Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
The other day, my wife made for dinner, what we commonly called, “Chicken in a pot.” Chicken, carrots, potatoes, and onions all cooked together in the same pot. It’s good. But oh the memories that meal brings back. When we were a young family, with four little ones at home, and not making much money, we lived on a very, very tight budget. Going out to eat with that many mouths to feed was a rarity. We could get more than one meal out of the “Chicken in the pot.” So, on the way home from church services, back then, the kids would beg us to go out to eat. My wife would say that she already had lunch cooking at home. And, then it came, “Please, not chicken in the pot again!” Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth! They remember that. And, we remember that.
And, that ties in to our verse today. Israel was released from Egyptian slavery. Freedom! On to the promise land. No more bricks to be made for Pharaoh. They belonged to no one, except God. But the journey soon turned into weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. The nation quickly became tired of manna from Heaven. They remembered what they thought was better food in Egypt. Oh, they wished that they were back in Egypt. Their bellies had fogged their memory and their minds. They forgot about oppression, cruelty, and their tears to Heaven. Complaining turned to thoughts of rebellion. Ditch Moses and get a new leader. That didn’t go well. And, for that thankless generation, the wilderness became their cemetery.
We need to think long and hard about this. Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth or thankful, respectful and helpful? Many states are beginning to open up on crowd gatherings, especially for church services. Shepherds, deacons and preachers are scrambling as to how things need to be cleaned, organized, passed out, and run efficiently, yet safely. What about the older crowd? Do we still continue to make videos? Do we live stream? Do we hold off on that for a while? What about Bible classes in small classroom settings? And, while all of these zillions of details must be thought out and carefully planned, some folks at home just want to get back to worship. They want a magic wand to be waved and suddenly everything is just as it once was before all of this Covid-19. But it won’t be that way. It can’t be that way, at least at first.
Some may have to sit every other pew. It’s best not to shake hands and hug, for the moment. Water fountains are a no-no. Hand sanitizers everywhere. Some may be wearing masks. Some may remain at home for safety reasons. Suddenly, it’s just not the same as it used to be. And, that’s all it takes for the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth to begin.
Complaining about this. Complaining about that. Why don’t they do this? Why don’t they do that? Why can’t we do this like we used to do this? And, complaining gets weary. It beats down those who are trying to lead. There are so many things to think about. We often forget about that. We only see things from the perspective of ourselves. We forget about young mothers and their little babies. We forget about door handles, the back of pews, collection plates, songbooks and a room filled with our breathing and singing. How to keep people healthy? How to keep people safe? How to still obey and honor God?
There are a few things we need to keep before us.
First, as our verse reminds us, God wasn’t pleased with the complaining. Remember the serpents? Many in Israel died. Then there was a bronze serpent that gave life. Complaining sees problems. Complaining isn’t thankful. Complaining wants changes and they want someone else to make those changes. Just about anyone can be a backseat driver. It’s different when you are sitting in the driver’s seat. At home, sitting on the couch, everyone can coach the team better than the guy we are watching on TV. It looks easier than what it is. The same for leading God’s people. We don’t realize all the factors that they do. We don’t understand everything that they do. We just want something besides manna and we want it now! So, rather than picking up stones to throw at the leaders, why not drop to your knees and thank the Lord that they are thinking about you and everyone else.
Second, God expects us to be different. The Corinthian passage follows with these words, “Now these things happened to the as an example and they were written for our instruction, upon which the ends of the ages have come.” God told us about complaining Israel. He wants us to be different than that. He wants us to learn. And, when we start on the warpath of complaining, God must think, “These people haven’t learned a thing.” Israel had no examples before them, either good or bad. But we do. These things have been written for us. God expects better out of us. Patience, love and being a team player makes all the difference. What other congregations do is between them and the Lord. It’s not our business. We cannot do just what others are doing. We don’t do that in our families? Our circumstances at home are unique to us and we set forth the direction that we want to go. So, God’s leaders must look within the congregation, not the brotherhood, and make the best choices for that group based upon the word of God. Others may disagree. Others may point fingers. Others may complain. Others may do more and faster than what we do. It’s not a time to turn against our leaders who have been there all this time. They have proven themselves before us. And, we must add, it would do a whole lot of good if each congregation minded their own business and just please the Lord. This includes all the ugliness that is found on Facebook by brethren.
Thirdly, what Israel initially wanted, freedom, they never fully embraced. They became slaves to their foul moods and complaints. They became slaves to disobedience and sin. They became slaves to themselves. They never enjoyed what they could have. Forty years as nomads. Forty years of marching about in a desert. Forty years of complaining. I’ve found that for some people complaining is their nature. They are not happy unless they complain. On a sunny day, “It’s too bright.” On a rainy day, “It’s too wet.” Food is never just right. The temperature of the room is never just right. Church services are never just right. Nothing is ever just right. And, if somehow these folks ever made it to Heaven, they’d find something to complain about up there. A complaining heart and a thankful heart don’t fit together well. The more we complain, the more miserable we are. And, the more miserable we are, the less thankful we become. And, like Israel of old, we become our own prisoner. Miserable, unhappy and like a spoiled child that can’t make up it’s mind whether to go outside or come inside. Don’t be that way! The choice is yours.
A funny thing about “chicken in the pot.” A while back we were celebrating one of the kids birthdays. My wife asked, “what would you like for dinner?” The reply, yep, ole’ chicken in the pot! After all these years!
Be a blessing to your congregation, not a stick in the mud. Be helpful. Be understanding. Be patient. These are difficult times and there is so much to consider.