Grumbling in your tent

Over the past few weeks, a student of mine and I have been meeting together to read Deuteronomy together in Hebrew. Our goal is to keep our Hebrew language skills sharp. It’s a fine balance between treating the Scriptures as a mere text to be translated and sitting under its authority as we read the Word of God in its original language. We pray each time that our reading would be the best of both worlds – that we would fine tune our language skills so that we can read and understand God’s revelation better. It usually takes us about an hour and a half to read and translate ten verses. The time goes by so fast! I feel like I could just sit and do that all day…
Just last week, we were reading through Deut 1:26-27. If you’re not familiar with Deuteronomy, think of it as Moses’ final instructions, his last sermon so to speak, to the Israelites as they were about to enter into the promised land. It reads:

“But you were not willing to go up and you rebelled against the mouth of the LORD your God, and you slandered in your tents and you said, ‘in the hatred of the LORD towards us, he has brought us out from the land of Egypt in order to give us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us.'” (my translation)

I was shocked. After recounting all of the blessings and ways in which God had moved in their lives, Moses exposed what was really going on. The people rebelled and they complained/slandered/murmured in their tents. This was no open rebellion. It was insidiously subversive, quiet, and under the radar…or so they thought. The omnipresence of God means that God is fully present everywhere. The Israelites complained at home, in private, when they thought that no one was looking, but God knew.
Even more shocking is what they complained about. They complained that the LORD hated them. They accused God of evil motives, bringing them out of Egypt in order to kill them at the hands of the Amorites. This God that they had cried to for a generation in the midst of their cruel slavery to the Egyptians; this God who performed miracle after miracle to demonstrate to the Egyptians and to the Israelites who was truly God; this God who took the firstborn son of the Egyptians, who drowned all of Pharoah’s army in the sea – they complained that this God hated them.
Could anything be more tragic, yet more relatable? From the outside, I look incredulously at the situation of the Israelites. How could they be so blind, so foolish? How could they forget the Exodus? God’s faithfulness and power? How could they accuse God of hateful motives? From the inside, I look shamefully at my own situation. How many times am I blind and doubting? How often do I forget the Cross? God’s faithfulness and power? How could I accuse God of holding out, not knowing what’s best, even hating me or overlooking me? The sad fact is that I am more like the Israelites than I wish to admit. I complain in my house thinking that no one hears, but God does.
This short verse made me repent and return to the God who has done nothing but love me. It caused me to confess my unbelief in his love, the unbelief that often times drives me to sin and self-preservation. God has done nothing thus far that I should question his motives, yet I do so all the time. I’m grateful for the gentle reminders from His Word in the most unlikely of places. I’m challenged and moved to remember the Gospel hourly – that God does indeed love me, no matter what my situation and world should look like.

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