Memphis Belle

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Philippians 2:15, “that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world…”  This verse encapsulates who we are and what we’re supposed to do.  But verse 15 cannot be read without verse 14.  The two verses are really part of one sentence.  Verse 14 says, “Do all things without murmurings and disputations…” and then continues on into verse 15, “that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world…”  “Murmurings and disputations” means “to grumble in a low tone, mutter, talking about those who do this as they discontentedly complain, to lodge a complaint.”  But this is not talking about lodging a complaint in a proper manner.  This type of complaining, murmuring, involves coercive complaining with others to subvert (often done behind the backs of others, who are unaware of it until the whole thing explodes in their faces later on).  Satan is the master of murmuring, Revelation 12:3-4, “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.  And his tail drew the third part of the stars [“stars” is symbolic language for “angels” in the Bible] of heaven, and did cast them down to the earth.”  The sin of murmuring began with Satan, and he used it to draw one third of the angels to rebel against God.  People who murmur almost always have an “agenda.”  Murmurers develop followings and followers (often secretly).  1st Corinthians 10:1-5, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink:  for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them:  and that Rock was Christ.  But with many of them God was not well pleased:  for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”  Now Paul goes on to explain why these things were written down in the Torah, in the Book of Numbers.  Verses 6-11, “Now these things were [written] for our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.  Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples:  and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”  Then Paul warns in verse 12, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 


How and Where Can Murmuring Begin?


Murmuring was a problem in ancient Israel, and it is a problem today. We see it all the time on the job.  Jesus gives us a prime example of how it occurs on the job through this parable.  Matthew 20:1-16, “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.  And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market place, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you.  And they went their way.  Again he went out about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, and did likewise.  About the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?  They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us.  He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right that shall ye receive.  So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.  And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.  But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.  And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.  But he answered one of them, [“one of them,” implying many more of them were murmuring and grumbling under their breaths behind the boss’s back] and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong:  didst not thou agree with me for a penny?  Take that thine is, and go thy way:  I will give unto the last, even as unto thee.  Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own?  Is thy eye evil, because I am good?  So the last shall be first, and the first last:  for many be called, but few chosen.”  The landowner did nothing wrong, and yet they went behind his back to complain.  This employer (Christ) was a real attitude-tester.  Jesus gave a perfect parable to describe murmuring and what can bring murmuring into our lives.  It happens all the time in the course of our normal employment lives.  I can remember a situation in my own life where I had a close friend on the job (we were electronics techs) and this friend was intuitively at the level all the engineers were at, he was brilliant well beyond his schooling.  He was really smarter, intelligence-wise, than the boss and as smart as the engineers, smarter at times.  So as time went on he and another employee would start to critique and criticize the boss in these bull-sessions, the three of us.  Before this I had never been critical of my bosses, and after awhile I started to realize these “roast the boss” sessions were spiritually unhealthy.  So I backed out of the group quietly. 


Murmuring Leads To Rebellion


Murmuring was a common trait in ancient Israel, and it is in America too.  It leads to rebellion and strife, this complaining about our bosses and leaders behind their backs in groups of murmurers and grumblers.  The American Revolution (which the British called “The Rebellion”) and the American Civil War (which the northern states called “the Rebellion of the Cotton States”) were brought on by murmuring, essentially.  We have an example of murmuring in the books of Exodus and Numbers.  Exodus 15:24-26, “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?  And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet:  there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians:  for I am the LORD that healeth thee.”  So we see, whenever the Israelites encountered a hardship, the very first thing they would do was murmur, complain by murmuring about the hardship their leaders (Moses and ultimately God) were putting them through.  Numbers 12:1-10, “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married:  for he had married an Ethiopian woman.  And they said [obviously behind his back, amongst themselves, which equates to murmuring], Hath the LORD spoken only by Moses?  Hath he not spoken also by us?  And the LORD heard it.  (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the earth.)  And the LORD spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation.  And they came out.  And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam:  and they both came forth.  And he said, Hear now my words:  If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.  My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.  With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold:  wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?  And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.  And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow:  and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.”  Now verses 11-15 show she was healed after having to remain outside the camp for three days, thinking about what she had done, and then she was healed.  That is what God, Yahweh, Jesus Christ thinks about talking behind someone’s back, which murmuring equates to.  Notice also how rapidly God squashed murmuring when it raised its ugly head within his top leadership structure in Israel.  What does murmuring do?  Why is it so dangerous?  Turn to Proverbs 6:16-19, “These six things doth the LORD hate:  yea, seven are an abomination unto him [ie. the 7th one God really hates, and number seven is what murmuring does]:  a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that diviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”  How do you think “discord” starts?  “Discord” starts with murmuring.  Luke 5:29-30, “And Levi made a great feast in his own house:  and there was a great company of publicans [tax collectors, despised by the Pharisees and scribes] and others that sat down with them.  But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?”  They murmured against Christ, in reality, and murmuring always results in contentions and strife.  Notice the scribes and Pharisees murmured with Jesus’ disciples, trying to draw them into their circle of influence and way of thinking, behind Christ’s back.  1st Timothy 6:3-5, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness:  from such withdraw thyself.  But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conduct be without covetousness:  and be content with such things as ye have:  for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” 


Murmuring Cancels Out Faith and Causes Division


Another cause of murmuring is rebellion against authority.  Deuteronomy 1:26-27, “Notwithstanding ye would not go up, but rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God:  and ye murmured in your tents, and said, Because the LORD hated us, he hath brought us forth out of the land of Egypt, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”  When we murmur we no longer trust God or have faith in God.  It cancels out faith, not something you want to do.  Murmuring also causes division.  1st Corinthians 1:10-15, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; I am of Cephas; and I am of Christ.  Is Christ divided?  was Paul crucified for you?  or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.”  How did these factions develop?  Through murmuring.


How Do You Deal With A Murmurer?


How do you deal with a murmurer ?  We as Christians all tend to be nice, we hate to cut someone off in conversation.  Murmuring, if you look throughout the Bible, is an Israelite/Church of God problem.  God is saying to us, “You ought to know better.”  Three points:  1.  Realize that murmuring is actually an affront to God.  Exodus 16:7-8, “And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD:  and what are we, that ye murmur against us?  And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him:  and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.”  2.  Realize God deals harshly with those who murmur against him.  Numbers 14:1-12, 22-24, 26-33, “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.  And the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron:  and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt!  or would God we had died in this wilderness! [And God was thinking, ‘That can be arranged.’]  And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey?  were it not better for us to return into Egypt?  And they said to one another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.  Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.  And Joshua the son of Num, and Caleb the son of Jephuneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes:  and they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.  If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land that floweth with milk and honey.  Only rebel not ye against the LORD, [rebellion and murmuring are related, one gives rise to the other] neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us:  their defense is departed from them, and the LORD is with us:  fear them not.  But all the congregation bade stone them with stones.  And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.  And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me?  and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them?  I will smite them with pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they…Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:  but my servant Caleb [and Joshua too], because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it…And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?  I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.  And say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you:  your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephuneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.  But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.  But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.  And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.”  God takes this murmuring stuff pretty seriously.  3.  Question, How do you deal with someone who murmurs (say murmuring to you)?  1st Timothy 6:3-5, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness:  from such withdraw thyself.”  Listening to murmuring puts you at risk.  Don’t give a murmurer an audience.  Cut them off, walk away---disagree with them.  When you resolutely disagree with a murmurer he will walk away from you.  But be wise and careful.  The Israelites tried to stone Joshua and Caleb when they disagreed with the Israelites who were murmuring.  So finally, back to Philippians 2:14-15, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings:  that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world…”  [Taken from the notes of a sermon given by Pastor Len Martin, pastor of the Worcester, Mass and Seabrook, NH United Church of God congregations.] 


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