Exodus 16:2-3 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
Psalm 78:32-33 For all this they (the Israelites) sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.
God performed amazing miracles in order to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and out of bondage. They watched as He brought the ten plagues upon the Egyptians, yet they remained untouched by any of them. They witnessed the parting of the waters at the Red Sea. Each day they were escorted by God’s manifested presence in a cloud and each night they were assured of His protection and presence through a pillar of fire. He fed them – angel’s food fell from Heaven every morning. He opened rocks and poured out streams of water in the wilderness for them to drink.
We read these Biblical accounts and we wonder how they could have been so hard-hearted…or should I say hard-headed? How could they have had trouble trusting in God to take care of them after all the miracles they witnessed Him perform on their behalf? For forty years they wandered around in that wilderness. Most of them never got it right – they died there and never saw the Promised Land that God wanted to take them into. Sadly, Psalm 78:33 tells us that “their days did He consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.”
They were certainly guilty of sins warranting a wilderness wandering – worshipping the golden calf, sexual orgies, unbelief, breaking God’s commandments, etc. These sins were easily recognizable; however, there was a less visible underlying transgression that was potentially the root cause of all the more obvious sins. Perhaps we would not even identify it as sin – the Israelites had a bad attitude. They were the most ungrateful, murmuring, complaining group of sojourners to ever set sandaled-foot upon the wilderness sod.
Every time things got a little difficult, what did they do? They whined; they spoke against Moses and Aaron; they wanted to go back to Egypt; they forgot about all the miracles that God had performed; they accused Moses (actually they accused God Himself) of bringing them out to the desert to let them die of hunger and thirst; they were so exasperating that they even angered Moses to such a degree that he sinned and was banned from the Promised Land as well.
Let’s look at a passage from Deuteronomy that I believe expresses just how seriously God considers the attitude of our hearts.
Deut. 28:47-48 Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until He have destroyed thee.
Deuteronomy, Chapter 28 is a description of the blessings for following God’s laws (vss. 1-14) and then the curses of failing to keep His commands (vss. 16-68). We have now (through Jesus) been redeemed from these curses (Galatians 3:13). However, the law is still relevant in our lives and the passage above clearly indicates how important it is to God that we keep a good attitude and a heart of gratitude.
We often do not view our bad attitude of unbelief, discouragement, worry, even depression or fear as sin. But, it is!
Paul tells us in Romans 14:23 that whatever is NOT of faith is SIN.
Romans 14:23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.
Unbelief, discouragement, worry, depression, and fear are certainly NOT of faith.
It is a “sin” to allow these things to dominate our heart and life because they reveal an ungrateful attitude and a failure to trust God for His best (ref. Deut. 28:47-48 above). God allowed the Israelites to be overcome by their enemies, to go hungry and thirsty and in WANT (they were never satisfied) simply because they did not serve Him with joy and were not grateful for the abundance of all He had provided.
God’s punishment is reiterated in Psalm 78:32-33. He allowed the unbelieving, complaining, ungrateful Israelites to spend their days in vanity and their years in trouble.
The idea that it is a sin to allow ourselves to be discouraged, to worry, be depressed, or simply to live a joyless Christian life is a foreign concept to most of us. We tend to think that as long as we steer clear of obvious sins like adultery, fornication, lying, stealing, etc. we are doing well – but God is just as concerned about how we handle our attitudes and our emotions.
Could our deficit of faith and lack of joy be the underlying cause of so many downtrodden, defeated Christians in the world today? It is clear from Deut. 28:47-48 and Psalm 78:32-33 that when we fail to trust in the Lord’s goodness and to serve Him with gratitude and gladness in our hearts, He will allow us to be overcome by trouble and vanity all the days of our lives.
To me, these scriptures make it very clear that God expects more from us, and that our ungrateful, joy deficient, unbelieving heart is possibly at the root of the vain, trouble-laden lives we are living?
But, life is hard and we are not promised that it will be easy nor without its trials and troubles – so how can a just God hold us accountable for these negative emotions when life gets difficult? Aren’t these emotions simply a natural reaction to trouble?
The truth is, even in the midst of trouble and trials, we are called to a higher standard of living. Let’s consider Jesus, Who is always our prime example: during His ministry, He didn’t even have a bed to sleep in most nights; He was ridiculed; He was rejected; all of His friends forsook Him when He needed them most; He was unjustly accused; He was beaten; He died the worst type of death known to man. Yet, even though He was constantly and fully aware of the suffering to come, He experienced more joy than anyone (Hebrews 1:9).
“Well yes, but He was Jesus!” you may say.
But, Hebrews 4:15 tells us this:
For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus experienced the temptation to be sad, to be worried, to be fearful, etc. He was touched with the same feelings and was tempted in all points as we are. He was faced with the same options and the same emotions and every time He chose RIGHT – He chose faith; He chose joy; He chose the correct attitude. Even in the garden of Gethsemane (in view of the cross) when sorrow threatened to overwhelm His soul, He chose courage and finished the work His Father sent Him to do.
We have been given the same options as He. We must CHOOSE how we will react – how we want to feel. We have the power to CHOOSE. And because we are renewed and reborn “in Him” we can choose right. Otherwise, God would never condemn, punish or hold us accountable for unbelief or for a lack of joy and gratitude – it would be unjust for Him to hold us responsible for something we have no control over.
I have much more to share on this in Part 2. Please check back for more.
Copyright © 2017 Sandra J. Briggs