sermon preached on Friday 11-06-2010
Praise YHWH tonight, it is always so great to come together. I know that world cup fever has hit with it starting today, but come on we have more to celebrate, amen! We have the privilege of being in YHWH’s presence together. Shabbat Shalom to you all as we remember to ‘keep’ His Sabbath ‘holy’.
Illus: A man went to a monastery and spoke only 2 words a year! 1st year – “bed’s hard”; 2nd year – “food’s cold”; 3rd year – “I quit”. The father of the monastery replied, “No wonder, all you’ve done since you got here is complain!”
How many of you like to complain? Now I know you won’t admit it, but boy do we all love to complain!!! My message tonight is called, “Complaining by Numbers!” Does that mean a lot of complaining or what – well if the shoe fits then listen carefully! We are going to look, listen and learn from the book of Numbers tonight and see how Israel too just loved to complain, and a little more than 2 words a year I might add!!! I am certain that most of you never like to complain, right? But you just can’t help it! Today people are complaining as much if not more than the Israelites did in the Wilderness. Today people complain in their jobs – about their bosses, their pay, their hours, their bonuses and benefits etc.
Illus: in Mexico there are regions where you will find hot and cold springs side by side, and this very convenient natural phenomenon has caused many women to come and bring their laundry, where they boil it in the hot spring and rinse it in the cold one right beside it. A tourist remarked one day that this is surely a much appreciated blessing from Yahweh, that He would provide so much free hot and cold water. The guide replied, “No, senor, there is much grumbling because He does not supply the soap!”
No soap – how is that! Well Israel was not much different – they were constant grumblers and yes they complained by numbers! I want us to briefly look tonight at some of the grumbling that took place in Numbers and learn from these examples.
1 Corinthians 10:10-12 “And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
Do not grumble – do not complain Paul instructed the Corinthians as he reminds us of how serious complaining is. Oh boy did you have to talk about complaining? Come on how many of you have complained lately?
Numbers 16 is part of this weeks Torah reading and there was a whole lot of grumbling going on in the Wilderness. One thing we have to admire as we read these accounts is the sheer humility and meekness of Moses who put up with a whole lot!
Let’s briefly look at some of the grumbling that led up to our passage for tonight –
In Numbers 11 the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of YHWH and the fire of YHWH consumed the outskirts of the camp. Moses cried out to YHWH and interceded for the Israelites and the fire died down at a place called ‘Taberah’ meaning ‘burning’. They complained when it got hard – now I know none of us do that, right? In the same chapter they also complained about their food conditions – they longed for the food from Mitsrayim (Egypt) where they remembered the fish they ate and the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic etc – listen you got to be desperate to remember how good veggies taste!!!
Now they were complaining about the manna they had to eat every day! Once again Moses cries out to YHWH and intercedes and they get quail, and a whole lot a quail too – they ate until it came out of their nostrils and became an abomination before YHWH, after which He sent them into a plague at a place called “Kibroth Hattavah” meaning “graves of craving’, because they buried the people who had lusted, craved and were killed in the plague!
These Israelites were just never happy – I mean you could have given them steak and they probably would have wanted roast chicken; they were not happy because they focused on what they couldn’t have. How true that is today –people are constantly moaning about stuff you cannot have – isn’t that coveting!!!
In Numbers 12 - Miriam and Aaron complained against Moses and what happened – Miriam became leprous, again Moses cried out after Aaron pleads with him and she is shut out of the camp 7 days before she can return healed.
In Numbers 13 the Israelites complained after the bad report they received form the 10 of the 12 spies that came back from checking out Canaan. We know that Joshua and Caleb were the only two that brought back an encouraging report, yet the people listened to the 10 and feared because of the giants! You see complaining is often a simple cover up for fear. When we are afraid, we tend to complain and grumble to justify the reason not to do something we should, am I right?
In Numbers 14 – the whole community raised their voices against Moses and Aaron, wanting to appoint another leader to lead them back to Mitsrayim (Egypt), Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes. YHWH told them they would now spend 40 years in the Wilderness 1 year for everyday they spied out the land and that generation except Joshua and Caleb would perish and not see the Promised Land. The 10 who gave the bad report died from a plague from YHWH!
This is some serious complaining going on – and yes complaining is serious and it is contagious! I mean if you just let 1 disgruntled employee get upset about something and start grumbling about and stirring up the rest, and soon you can have a strike on your hands. Just think about it 12 spies go out – 2 give a raving report and the other 10 a bad cowardly report and from the influence of 10 around 2, 4 million people complained!!! Complaining by Numbers is an understatement!
Now let us turn to our reading for tonight – Numbers 16 – and yes you guessed it – more complaining!! (Read)
Wow, these guys were seasoned complainers, I mean they have seen people die, seen people consumed by fire, swallowed up by the earth, they have seen the hand of YHWH in miraculous ways and they still complain – I would have kept my mouth shut and obeyed – how about you?
Now the people were complaining about their leadership. One of the biggest targets of complaints in any group of people is the leadership. Let me tell you if you want people to say untrue stuff about you, just become a leader, become a supervisor or a manager or shift leader etc. Leaders complain about their leaders! How many of you are in a leadership role of some sort? You know the reality is that as disciples of Yahshua Messiah we are all leaders – for the commission He has given us is to go and make other disciples, baptising them in His name and teaching them to obey His Torah as He promises to be with us and is with us by His Spirit – we are to lead people to Messiah! Well now you know you too are not just a potential leader – you are one - so start leading people to the Truth, amen! Try being a Pastor – you will get all sorts of criticisms – I know!!!
There are many out there, again it is always those out there – that will never submit to any form of authority and refuse to follow any form of leadership, and not allow anyone to lead them or tell them what to do – they just want to be left alone. They can never hold down a job or relationship too long and struggle to subject themselves to the leadership of another, and in their lack of submission can even cause others to follow their ways – like I said we are all leaders – are you aware of who or how you are leading others?
Ezekiel was told by YHWH twice in chapter 2 of Ezekiel to go and speak to the Israelites what YHWH had told him to whether they would listen or whether they would refuse for they were a rebellious house! We must realise that we may not always be well received when conveying the Truth, but that should not stop us and we do it in love! Today it is pretty much the same as in the Wilderness and in Ezekiel’s day, while they were in exile – people still today do not want to listen – especially to the Word – they want their ears tickled with lies as they bury their heads in the sand refusing to see the Truth that is right in front of them – and when they do see a glimpse of truth they complain about it, instead of embracing it and moving in the promises of YHWH.
In this chapter we see a two fold rebellion united into one. Korah, a Levite wanted more than what he had – he wanted the priesthood – he wanted to be high priest – he wanted Aaron’s position! He took with him Reubenites - Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliyab, and On son of Peleth and they rose up against Moses with another 250 leaders of the council. They assembled against Moses and Aaron and defied their leadership! Now again you have too admire the meekness of Moses – because this rebellion would have driven many a men to throwing in the towel, exhausting them beyond repair – but they failed to break Moses – why? Because Moses was the most humble man on the earth, but more than that, he was humble because he fully trusted in and fully obeyed YHWH and he showed great restraint and compassion in the face of much opposition! Enduring patience of this servant of YHWH shone brightly in the way he encountered these rebels.
What is it about the human heart that makes it so easy to simply ‘follow the crowd’ and disobey YHWH? YHWH had made it very clear who His appointed leaders were and that they were to accept that and respect their authority. It is a very dangerous thing to challenge YHWH’s order and promote themselves into premature leadership.
Jude 11 mentions the rebellion of Korah as one of the marks of false teachers in the last days – and we can all certainly agree that we see a united rebellion against the authority of Moses and the representation of the Aaron priesthood – which was a foreshadow of YHWH’s salvation by Blood. To top this rebellion off – Korah was a cousin of Moses!
To put this story in a nutshell it is plain to see that rebelling against Moses meant rejecting the Word of YHWH – and symbolises for us a rejection of the torah of YHWH. To rebel against Aaron meant rejecting the work of YHWH on the altar – symbolically for us today – rejecting the work of Yahshua in giving up His life as the Sacrificial Lamb!
Korah coveted Aaron’s role – he was not satisfied with the fact that he was already a Levite called out and separated from the congregation and brought near to YHWH, and serve in the dwelling place and stand before the congregation and serve – he wanted more! Moses then put this rebellion to the test by telling them all to bring their fire holders and to burn incense before YHWH. Moses knew what happened before with Nadab and Abihu when they offered profane fire before YHWH – they were struck down by YHWH! This offering of incense was the most coveted service of the high priest before entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement – so this was no simple task that was being used as a test to show whom YHWH had chosen! It was here that Moses exposed the hearts of Korah’s intentions – he was looking for the role of high priest. He wanted position and prominence and power – his heart was full of pride! YHWH gives grace to the humble but rejects the proud!
There was also a rebellion against Moses’ leadership like I said – Dathan and Abiram:
• They were upset that Moses took them from a land flowing with milk and honey – they twisted the words of YHWH and were saying Egypt was the land of milk and honey and they wanted to go back
• They did not want to die in the wilderness
• They did not like Moses’ leadership
• They wanted land, their inheritance promised and their vineyards Now!
In other words Dathan and Abiram were concerned with earthly matters. So we see hear two contrasting rebellions occurring simultaneously together as one! Korah wanted the priesthood and Dathan and Abiram wanted the good life on earth – two agendas joined into one – and may I say this still happens today as we see through the history of the Catholic Church in how the blending desire to hold the power of spiritual matters as well as the wealth of the world in one setting was birthed, in their plot to build a One World system of economics and worship! We see this today in the lives of many believers – they reject the Word, although they may confess that they accept the Word as all authority, yet do not obey it and they then trample on the work of Yahshua by walking wilfully in disregard for His commands. People today too want the world and all its desires and they want the power to tell others what to do. Let me tell you what happens with coveting what is not yours to take:
Dathan and Abiram had a problem with Moses and in their evil desires they were only interested in fulfilling the flesh and its desires – wanting wealth and pleasure no matter the cost or consequences of how they would try to get it and you know what? They wanted earthly desires and the earth swallowed them up!
Those 250, who were offering incense, seeking heavenly aspirations, although very misguided, were consumed by fire from YHWH for profane worship, just as Nadab and Abihu were previously – YHWH is consistent – He does not change! He is the same yesterday, today and forever!
These men had scorned YHWH, they treated YHWH with contempt – to know the will of YHWH and wilfully refuse to abide in it is rebellion against YHWH – Korah had rebelled against a divine order as laid down in the Torah. Today we see the same thing – people wilfully disobeying the Torah and unless they repent they will face the consequences of their rebellion!
As if enough hadn’t happened to these people that in verse 41 they end up complaining about the consequences of complaining! They blamed Moses for the 250 that were killed! They wanted to complain but did not want to be corrected! Boy is that true today! These accusations against Moses were so ridiculous – Moses didn’t kill them! YHWH opened up the ground and YHWH consumed those who sought premature positions of prominence.
Sadly the spiritually blind will always misinterpret the Word and Work of YHWH and come against YHWH’s own – take heart for we see how people treated Moses and how he handled the pressure. What we can also learn is that we cannot expect to sin wilfully and avoid the circumstances, we cannot expect to walk in wilful rebellion and think it is ok, we cannot reject the Word and expect to be blessed; although we do have a High Priest who intercedes for us and YHWH has promised us that if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. These guys wanted to complain but didn’t want to accept any responsibility for their actions – no accountability – sounds familiar to many today! Let’s face it they complained a lot, but what did they want?
• Provision and plenty of it – they wanted to stock up and not rely upon YHWH – Yahshua tells us not to worry about tomorrow, about what we will wear or what we will eat or where we will sleep etc.
• Prestige – positions of prominence – they wanted to be looked up to – they wanted to be known and have an esteemed position – Yahshua says that we are to become the least and serve, be able to wash others feet!
• Peer approval – they wanted to fit in with the crowd – ‘keep up with the Jones’’ – They wanted to be popular and liked – Yahshua says that the world will hate you because it hated Him!
• Power – they wanted to tells others what to do and not be told – They wanted to shout the orders but not receive any – we are to be led by Yahshua – the very Living Word and abide in it
• To Place the blame on others – did not want to bear responsibility for actions – Yahshua tells us to carry each others burdens and we are told that by bearing each others burdens – that is loving each other we too fulfil the Torah of Messiah! Let us encourage each other and not blame each other!
Their complaining was a result of wrong motives in their heart. All they wanted to do was complain instead of seeking YHWH. What advantages are there of just complaining without cause – None! Again I say None!
The problem with simply complaining is that we tend to get into our own pity party and never take our cares to YHWH. Yahshua tells us that all who are heavy laden should come to him and He will give them rest. When we have a complaint or burden, we must take it to Him in prayer and allow his peace to fill us to overflowing joy that we may praise Him!
What were the consequences of their complaints by Numbers?
• Fire from YHWH destroys outskirts of camp
• Plague falls and grumblers are destroyed
• Miriam turned leprous and expelled for 7 days
• 40 years of Wilderness Wanderings – 1 year for every day the spies checked out the land!
• 10 negative spies killed
• 250 profane worshippers consumed by fire
• Dothan and Abiram and Korah swallowed up by the ground
• Plague destroys 14700 before Aaron stood in the gap to stop the plague
Warning regarding complaining:
As I looked at this passage this week, I thought that it was about leadership and following leadership – which it is but it also about a whole lot of complaining! These two go hand in hand:
Complaining happens when we don’t accept YHWH’s appointed leadership, be it in the assembly or in the work place, and we know that all authority is given by YHWH. We also find that leaders too complain and set bad examples for others to follow. We read that 1 Corinthians 10 reminds us that if we think we are standing we must be careful lest we fall!
Don’t let others pull you in to complaining, be content with what you have – Paul said that he had learnt to be content in every situation and we would do well to do just that! Be grateful for what YHWH has given you – he has given you eternal life in Yahshua and we are to live the abundant life of worship right here and now no matter what we face, expressing our gratitude and thanks in loving obedience to his Word – His Torah, declaring an offering of praise from our lips as we proclaim His name!
General lessons for us to from Complaining by Numbers:
1 – The greatest storm of trial will not overthrow the one who makes YHWH his strength! Moses began, carried on and finished his conflict with Korah with prayer, and hence his unfailing meekness – he truly was the most humble man!
2 – Sympathising and joining those who are walking in error and unrighteousness brings guilt on the whole community, and this displeases YHWH for it shows lack of faith – for without faith it is impossible to please Him and may bring down His discipline. YHWH disciplines those he loves – amen!
3 – Moses and Aarons endurance of abuse from the rebels and their successful and continued intercession for those who attacked them is for us a picture of our Messiah. Yahushua endured the contradiction of sinners against Himself and He prayed, “Father please forgive them” and thousands were forgiven. Messiah’s priesthood which men despised – is always greatly glorified in their salvation! Look at Shaul (Paul) –at one time against Yahshua and the Way, then touched by grace became a champion for Yahshua, bringing glory to His name!
4 – The best answer we can give to those who laugh at the legitimacy of our obedient worship unto YHWH is to stand in the gap in prayer as Aaron stood between the living and the dead. We have one who intercedes for us – Yahshua our High Priest forever and in Him we too can intercede for others.
Ok so a lesson on complaining – the key to avoiding the trap of complaining by numbers is the attitude of the heart! What is to be upon our heart – well as children of the Most High, we have written on our hearts His Torah and we are to walk in it, guarding our hearts in His grace! Whatever is in your heart will be evident in your life:
Proverbs 23:7 “for as a man thinks so he is”
1 Samuel 16:7 “…YHWH does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outside but YHWH looks at the heart.”
Proverbs 20:27 “The spirit of man is the lamp of YHWH, searching all his inmost parts.”
We must guard our hearts and have attitudes of rejoicing and thankfulness as we look forward to the blessed hope of the return of our Messiah.
Let me end with these encouraging closing remarks from:
Hebrews 13: 5-9 &15 “Let your way of life be without love of silver, and be satisfied with what you have. For He Himself said, “I shall never leave you nor forsake you,” 6 so that we boldly say, “YHWH is my helper, I shall not fear what man shall do to me.” 7 Remember those leading you, who spoke the Word of Elohim to you. Consider the outcome of their behaviour and imitate their faith. 8 Yahshua Messiah is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. 9 Do not be born about by various and strange teachings. For it is good for the heart to be established by favour, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied by them. … 15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a slaughter offering of praise to Elohim, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
Let us confess His name, worship his name, revere His name, love His name, and proclaim His name, amen!
No more complaining by Numbers but instead let us adopt an attitude of praising by numbers, can you say with me halleluYah! HalleluYah!
What complaints do you have? What have you been complaining about lately? Your boss, your pay, your work, a relationship? What about obedience to the Word of Elohim? What about total submission to the work of Yahshua? Have you too been in rebellion against the very Word of YHWH, wanting prominence, position, power and prestige no matter the cost? Have you sought to ‘lord’ over others and refuse to be led grace in to obedient living? Take this time to allow your hearts to be open before YHWH and surrender your all to Him and allow your lips be turned to praise for His name as He fills your with His unfailing love! The Israelites complained by numbers as they went through the Wilderness, let us today learn from these events and as we look forward to the hope and glory of the return of our Messiah Yahshua, let us drop the complaining and rather praise by numbers, amen!