We have been looking at the sin of complaining by looking at the children of Israel in Numbers 21. We looked in the last two posts at verses 4 and 5 which say: 4 Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food. Today let us look on and see what happens in verses 6 and 7.
There is a price to pay for sin and now we will see how God chooses to deal with the children of Israel and their sinfulness and rebellion toward Him as heard in their complaining. 6 The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
We see here that in all truth – God killed the complainers. The Lord sent the serpents and He was punishing them for their sinfulness toward Him and Moses. When I look and see the punishment, I see three things.
Divine – Their punishment was definitely from God. You hear of venomous reptiles all through that area they were walking but there is no reference to anyone being bitten till here. The verse tells us that God sent the serpents – these are from God – He is judging their sinful complaining!
Just – They had unjustly complained against God and Moses. Many of them concluded that they should die in the wilderness and God justly gave them what they thought would happen but not the way they thought it would happen. God was just in the punishment He gave.
Severe – The bite of the serpent caused a fiery and intense burning and filled the body with poison which resulted in death. Many died in this painful way because of their complaining.
We need to be so very careful about our complaining. I do not necessarily believe that God will send serpents among us but I do believe that God takes it seriously and he will still bring about chastisement upon those who do it and if you want to see if God does such a thing, read about God chastising in Hebrews 12 of the ones he loves.
What did this punishment bring about? It brought about a change in the peoples thinking and their attitudes. Verse 7 says: So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people.
Punishment came and their attitudes changed and their thinking changed. People are dying because of their sinful attitudes and their complaining. You might not die physically but emotionally many of you have died because of your sinful attitudes and sinful speaking! You need repentance and that is the point that the children of Israel come to here – they come and repent of their sinfulness.
Look at how repentance was brought about in their lives: first Repentance came about by the punishment. – When God began to kill them he got their attention. God will do what it takes to get our attention because He loves us and desires that we repent of our sinful attitudes and ways and turn to him.
Secondly their repentance led them to appeal to Moses for help. Their request had implications. We see that they believed in intercessory prayer – having others pray for you. Then they also realized that effective prayer comes from those who are excellent in character and conduct like Moses was.
Thirdly, Moses prayed to God on their Behalf. He blessed them that complained against him. Look at the type of man that Moses was, he treated with love and respect, those who treated him with disrespect. An example for us all us!
As we pause again and reflect on the last couple of verses do you see any changes you need to make in life? Does God need to bring about fiery serpents in your life to bring you back to him? Do you have the character and conduct that people will come to you for help even after they treated you poorly? Do you have faith in intercessory prayer – are you willing to ask others to pray for you when you are going through a hard time? These are questions that you should be answering with God. Today is the day to make changes if there are changes in your life that need to be made. The way to start is seeking God in prayer and He will answer and begin to help you to change and get away from your complaining ways.
What are your thoughts on all this? How do you think God deals with complainers these days?