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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

November 28, 2014

Modern Israelites?

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

"And the people complained against Moses": This was not a one-time occurrence in the history of the Israelites in the wilderness after the exodus. In reality, though, the people were not complaining against Moses, but against God.

The complaining climaxed when ten of the twelve spies who were sent to check on the Promised Land returned with doubts about the Israelite's ability to occupy the land. Their doubts infected the entire nation.

God's response was swift: "As I live, says the Lord, just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above" (Numbers 14:28-29).

We all know that there were two spies who did not complain. Instead, they were confident that the Israelites could occupy the land:

"Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in" (verse 30).

In their generation Joshua and Caleb shone as lights of confidence and faith.

What is our situation today?

The apostle Paul admonished the Philippians about complaining, and his words can be seen as a reference to the experience of the Israelites: "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:14-15).

"Complaining" in verse 14 is translated from the Greek word "goggusmos", which is directly related to the verb "gogguzo", which Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 10, verse 10 in describing the Israelites ("Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer").

According to the "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament" the word "goggusmos" describes "grumbling dissatisfaction at disappointed expectations. The idea is that a supposedly legitimate claim is not met. What is denoted is a strong personal attitude."

"K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Studies in the Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament" adds the following: "The word was used of those who confer secretly, of those who discontentedly complain."

Ever since the garden of Eden human beings have lived in an environment of their imperfect peers. For thousands of years people have had reason to complain because of the shortcomings of their fellow man, whether it was their civil leaders (for whom we are to pray, see 1 Timothy 2:1-2) or within the fellowship of those called by God.

In their generation of Israelites Joshua and Caleb were the exception. Paul tells us, that if we "do all things without complaining" we will "shine as lights in the world" of our contemporaries.

The complaining of those Israelites over age 20 prevented them from entering the Promised Land.

What do we want to be? Modern Israelites? Or modern examples of confidence and faith, as Joshua and Caleb once were?

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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