Tuesday, July 28, 2009

People Grumble- Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending August 2, 2009

Purpose: To discern how disordered desire can lead to complaint and dissatisfaction

Scripture Text: Numbers 11:1-6, 10-15 (NRSV)

Numbers 11:1-6, 10-15
(1)Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. (2)But the people cried out to Moses; and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. (3)So that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned against them.

(4) The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! (5)We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; (6)but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.’

(10) Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. (11)So Moses said to the Lord, ‘Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favour in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? (12)Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child”, to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? (13)Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” (14)I am not able to c
arry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. (15)If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once—if I have found favour in your sight—and do not let me see my misery.’

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

Many Bible scholars complain about the “Old Testament”, they feel it is not relevant and is too harsh for consumption by today's Christians. I liked what the current head of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church had to say in a recent article. In an E-Review com
mentary by Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker on July 14, 2009 (1046), I quote Our study of the Old Testament causes us to pay attention to what God is doing in history and God’s call to us to practice righteousness, justice and peace. When we just hear God’s Word in the New Testament, there is a tendency over time to overly spiritualize our understanding of the Christian life and ignore our responsibility to be a responsible participant in history.”

In our text for this lesson the people of Israel were only three days from Mt. Sinai, and already they wanted out of this relationship. Today we see that same cowardice attitude, in many aspects of our lives. We want happiness, now, not later and certainly we are not willing to suffer or give up anything to obtain it. If we are not happy in our marriage, we want out, if we are unhappy with our church, we want to either change churches or change pastors.

The great Germany Lutheran pastor that was killed by Hitler in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his book "The Cost of Discipleship" about what he called “cheap grace”. He said Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.... In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model him
self on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin....

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

As I read our text, I find God's anger a proper response to the complai
ning, grumbling, ungrateful Israelite's. They had been redeemed from slavery, but they were more than willing to turn back to that life, than to persevere for a better life. They had no desire to follow God's commands now that they had won their freedom, now they wanted the riches of Egypt without working for it or living in obedience to the one that redeemed them.

How many of the Saints of the Church can you name that did not suffer? The grace that God extends to us is not “cheap”. It cost, a cost He was willing to pay, but we must react to His grace with our obedience, not for His sake, but for ours. We must be willing to be a missionary to His creation, point others towards the “Creator God”. Disobedience expressed through ingratitude and grumbling has consequences.

In today's world, some of our state and federal leaders think the lottery or gambling is the fix for our budget shortfall. That is a short sighted solution. It has been said the lottery is a tax on stupidity. What do you think? Are there quick solutions to our problems today?

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