In Exodus 15 we read about the song of victory that the people sang after God had delivered the people from Egyptian slavery. God had worked a miracle, causing the Red Sea to part and the people walked across on dry land. Not only this, the Egyptian army that was pursuing them was washed away as the Red Sea crashed down upon them. Verse 22 of Exodus 15 tells us that three days had passed since that great miracle of crossing the Red Sea when they came to Marah, but could not drink the water because it was bitter. The scripture says, “And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?'” (Exodus 15:24). God solves this problem with another miracle, making the bitter waters sweet. The people depart and grumble against Moses and Aaron again, wishing they had died in Egypt where they had food to eat (Exodus 16:2). We read these events and we are stunned by their grumbling and complaining. How can they complain and grumble when you consider all that God had done for them? Do they really think that God brought them out of slavery only to let them die on the way to the promised land? Do they really think that God would not provide for them?
Do All Things Without Grumbling or Disputing (2:14)
What have we complained about just today? What do we grumble against God about our lives? Maybe we are not happy in our job. Maybe we are not happy with our marriage. Maybe we are not happy about our family. Maybe we are not happy with where we live. Maybe we are not happy with how much money we make or how many possessions we have. But listen to what the apostle Paul says. “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” That is a showstopper command. Everything we do must be done without complaining. Tie this back to our context in Philippians 2. Count others more significant than yourself without grumbling or disputing. Put the interests of others ahead of your own without grumbling or disputing. Sacrifice yourself like Christ sacrificed himself without grumbling or complaining. Do your work without grumbling or disputing. Be husbands and wives who yield to the other without grumbling or disputing. Oh, how we criticize and are amazed at the Israelites who are grumbling in the wilderness just days after God had delivered them. Yet we have experienced a far greater deliverance than them and, with all our prosperity and wealth, we may be the most discontent people on earth. We have become so prosperous that we complain and grumble about every little thing that does not go the way we want it to go. We look like spoiled brats, turning our anger against the Lord, because we do not get every desire that comes to our hearts.
We really must consider the poison that grumbling is. First, grumbling is an accusation against God’s provision whether we realize it or not. If a child is complaining about his or her circumstances, this is ultimately an accusation against the provisions of the father. In the same way, being discontent is a declaration against the goodness of God. We are choosing to not be happy with our present circumstances. I hope that we will consider that discontentment is a choice. You and I are choose to not be happy with our present circumstances. We know this is a choice because the apostle Paul later in this letter will say that he has learned contentment (4:11). So grumbling is a poison that seeps to infect our minds so that we are not happy with anything in life. Have you ever met someone who seems that he or she cannot be happy no matter what happens? We might be that person that someone in this room is thinking about. Our hearts can become so poisoned that we enjoy complaining. We enjoy being bitter about the good others enjoy and how we think we have been shortchanged. Please consider this question. What exactly does God owe us in this life? What exactly must God do for us while we are on the earth? Does God owe us a good job? Does God owe us wealth? Does God owe us possessions? Does God owe us health? Does God owe us a long life? Does God owe us a marriage? Does God owe us a happy marriage? Does God owe us children? Does God owe us healthy children? Grumbling is saying that God owes us something that he is not presently providing! Grumbling and discontentment is such a poison that it takes us out of fellowship with God. Look at verse 15.
Be Blameless and Innocent (2:15)
God is working these changes in our lives in us so that we can become blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish. Grumbling and disputing shows us to not be blameless and not be innocent. Grumbling shows that we are not children of God. The world is crooked and twisted and they are not children of God which is seen in their grumbling and disputing. We are not to be that. Your Bible may note in the margin that the apostle Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 32:5. Deuteronomy 32 records the Song of Moses after the reading of the law to the people.
The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation. (Deuteronomy 32:4–5 ESV)
God is faithful and upright. However, the people have dealt corruptly and are no longer his children because they are blemished. They are a crooked and twisted generation. Bring this idea to Philippians 2. Paul is telling us that grumbling and disputing means we are no longer his children. We are blemished when we grumble and dispute with God or others. We should listen to this command and take it seriously. Grumbling disqualifies us from being children of God because we are blemished and no longer stand out from this crooked and twisted generation. Faithlessness is the root of complaining and grumbling. Israel grumbled because they did not trust God. Grumbling means we do not trust in God to care for us.
This identification of the world also gives us a proper perspective of this world. The world is crooked, that is, out of line with God’s law. This world is twisted, distorting what is true and good. Peter told the people in Acts 2:40 that they were being saved from this crooked generation. The world is not the light. The world does not provide us the right direction for life. They are in moral darkness. They are in the darkness of unbelief. They are in darkness because they exclude God for their ways. The world distorts the truth. This is what Isaiah said in his prophecy in Isaiah 5:20-21. They regard goodness and truth as evil and proclaim evil to be good.
Rather than belonging to the world and looking like the world, Paul says that we are to shine as lights in the world. We shine by pointing the world to Jesus, who is the true light. Think about what Paul is saying. We are a light to the world when we do not complain or grumble. We are a light to the world when we are not disputing or arguing. Complaining messes up the light that we supposed to be shining in our lives. The world is not the light. We are to be the light shining to them. Remember that Israel was supposed to be light to the nations and be a blessing to the ends of the earth but failed. Isaiah declares that Jesus and those who will belong to him will now be the light to the nations and blessing to the ends of the earth (cf. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Daniel 12:3).
Holding Fast To The Word of Life (2:16)
Further, we bring the light to the world by holding on to the word of life. We cannot be lights if we give in to the ways of the world. We cannot be lights in the darkness if we accept the definitions of truth that the world gives. We must hold tightly to the word of God because this word is life itself. The word contains life and gives life. The world does not have life. You must cling to the word of God because it is life. It is your life. It gives life. It is by clinging and loving the word of life that we will be found acceptable and without blemish before the Lord in the day of Christ.
I want to bring our minds back to the grumbling that Israel did against the Lord after the Lord had rescued them from Egyptian slavery. Listen to what the apostle Paul says about why those things were recorded for us to read.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:6–12 ESV)
Listen to the grave sins that are listed. In verse 7 Paul says that they were idolaters. In verse 8 we read that they indulged in sexual immorality and God killed them. In verse 9 they put the Lord to the test and were destroyed by serpents. In verse 10 they grumbled and were destroyed by the Destroyer. We think of idolatry and sexual immorality as grave sins worthy of judgment. But notice that the apostle Paul puts putting the Lord to the test and grumbling on the same level, receiving the same outcome. These things were written down so that we would not grumble like they did. Be careful because anyone who thinks they stand will fall.
Grumbling is a poison in your life. Reject the urge to dispute and complain. Recognize that we are with blemish and are worthy of blame when we complain about our circumstances. When we grumble, we are failing in our mission given to us by God to be lights in the darkness of this corrupt world. Overcome grumbling and disputing by holding fast to the word of life. Let God’s graciousness and goodness infiltrate your heart and mind so that you will be glad with what God has done for you. Be content. God has been good to us for he owes us nothing but has richly blessed us.