Monday, February 29, 2016

Be Careful Little Tongue What You Say

Last week I wrote that we need to be careful about the words that we allow to be spoken into our lives. When destructive words are allowed to take root they can undermine Yahweh's glorious purpose for us. In the same sense, we need to be careful of the words we speak. The easiest thing for us to do is complain. It is the most natural thing for our flesh to do and it does it often.

Our Father hates complaining.

That statement alone should cause us to sit up and take notice. Few of us would want to be engaged in any activity that our Father hates and yet every day we find ourselves complaining about people, situations, our perceived lack or the many great injustices in the world. Consider this one simple example from God's Word:

"When the people complained intensely in the Lord's hearing, the Lord heard and became angry. Then the Lord's fire burned them and consumed the edges of the camp." (Numbers 11:1)

Obviously we live in the age of grace, an age in which we are covered by the grace of our Lord as we grow into maturity. But just because the Lord does not punish us for the things we do does not mean they do not hurt him. Our God takes our complaints personally. That should mean something to us.

What really hurts is when we complain against his goodness. Our flesh has selective memory. It remembers the slavery of sin so much differently than the reality of it. It remembers the pleasure of it and forgets the consequences. It even exaggerates the pleasure so that we will complain about where  we are in freedom in Jesus and long to go back to slavery. Remember this:

"The riffraff among them had a strong craving. Even the Israelites cried again and said, 'Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our lives are wasting away. There is nothing but manna in front of us." (Numbers 11:4-6)

Funny how these complainers forgot about their lack of freedom, forgot the chains, forgot the whips, forgot the hard labour, forgot the thousands of dead. We need to take warning from this moment in Israel's relationship with the Lord. Complaining goes beyond our Lord hating it; these words also have an effect on our trust relationship with the Lord. Every word of complaint is a testimony against the goodness of our God. We hold on to enough of these words and it will erode our trust in Jesus and his promises. We will begin to believe that there is something better for us elsewhere. When we get into a crisis we will try to find help from another source. And when it comes to the good gifts of our Lord, we will reject them.

This complaining generation of Israel is the generation that failed to enter into the land of "milk and honey" that Yahweh had promised them. Because of their complaining attitude they could only see the giants, the fortified cities and the great armies that they faced. Their complaints turned their eyes away from the LORD God Almighty to the things of this world that, in themselves, they had no hope of overcoming. No wander our God hates a complaining tongue; he knows the effect it has on the heart.

If we are to remain his children we need to follow the example we find in the Word and fill our mouths with praise and thanksgiving. We need to put effort into this relationship and cultivate a heart of gratitude in all things. Whether in the desert or the land of plenty, our Lord remains the same, his love remains the same, his promises remain the same, his provision remains the same and all praise is due him. We can trust him. Today, let us sing with the psalmist:

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with celebration!
    Come before him with shouts of joy!
Know that the Lord is God—
    he made us; we belong to him.
    We are his people,
    the sheep of his own pasture.
Enter his gates with thanks;
    enter his courtyards with praise!
    Thank him! Bless his name!

Because the Lord is good,
    his loyal love lasts forever;
    his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.  (Psalm 100)

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