Tag Archives: Old Testament

Preaching From The Old Testament — Victor M. Eskew

When individuals hear that the churches of Christ teach that the Old Testament has been “done away” (2 Cor. 3:11), they often believe that the churches of Christ do not believe in the Old Testament. Such is not true. Too, there are some members of the church who despise any preaching from the Law of Moses since the law has been abolished (Eph. 2:14-15). Again, this is not true. It is true that the Old Covenant has been taken away. Paul wrote: “Blotting out the handwritings of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). But, this same apostle also wrote: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The Old Testament is not the law that governs man today. The law that now governs man is the New Testament, or, the Law of Christ. The Old Testament, however, is extremely valuable to a person’s studies. There is a wealth of information that can be obtained from it. In this article, we want to examine this topic: “Preaching from An Old Testament Perspective.”

There are so many ways that a preacher can use the Old Testament in his preaching. Let’s list several of them. First, the Old Testament has so much to teach us about God. The opening verse of the Old Testament states: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). So much can be learned about God from this one verse alone. Hundreds of others verses also give us insights into the Almighty God (Gen. 17:1). We learn about His attributes, His promises, His faithfulness, His generosity, His longsuffering, His anger, and His wrath from verses of the Old Testament narrative.

Second, Christ is also found in the Old Testament. He Himself affirmed this to the Jews during His earthly ministry. “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah reveal Him unto us. We also seem a glimpse of Him in a figure referred to as “the angel of the Lord” (Gen. 16:7; Exo. 3:2; Judg. 2:4). Several Old Testament characters are types of Jesus: Melchizedek, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon to name a few. Yes, the Son of God is manifest from Genesis to Malachi.

Third, we can study the narratives of the Old Testament and glean the bountiful harvest of lessons that are found therein. Every text taken from the Old Testament has some lesson that can be learned. In Genesis 2, we learn about marriage. In Genesis 3, we learn about temptation, sin, accountability, and punishment. In Genesis 4, we see the difference in the practice God-ordained worship and man-made worship. We could continue from chapter to chapter to chapter noting the storehouses of lessons the Old Law provides for us.

Fourth, the Old Covenant helps us to understand vital principles that are also taught in the New Testament. We often sing the song Trust and Obey. As Christians, we must practice both of these things to be right with God (Eph. 1:13; Rev. 22:14). These principles, however, are not new. They have been around since the dawn of time. A man who trusted God and obeyed Him was Noah. “By faith Noah…” (Heb. 11:7). Noah heard God’s words about the flood and the ark. He trusted everything that God told him…but he also obeyed. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22). It was his faith that moved him to obey. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark the saving of his house…” (Heb. 11:7). Today, God has not warned us of a flood, nor has He commanded us to build an ark. He has given us other facts, promises, and commands that must be trusted and that must be obeyed. Noah encourages us to do these things. He did and was saved from the waters of the flood. If we will trust and obey, we can be saved from the wrath of God at the last day.

Fifth, preachers can take the Old Testament and preach about books, chapters, and verses found therein. There are thirty-nine unique books in the law. Each book has a theme. This theme can be tied to the overall theme of the Bible, “The Salvation of Fallen Man through Jesus Christ the Son of God.” When Christians come to have an overall view of a book, the internal matters of that book make so much more sense. There are many special chapters that preachers can focus upon such as: The Creation (Gen. 1), The Fall of Man (Gen. 3), The Call of Moses (Ex. 3), Blessings and Curses (Deut. 28), The Contrast of the Godly and the Ungodly (Ps. 1), The Shepherd Psalm (Ps. 23), and The Suffering Servant (Is. 53) just to name of the few well-known chapters. There are also individual verses that stand alone. Joshua 24:15 is one of them: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Another familiar text is found in the little book of Ruth. “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). Many others could also be singled out.

These are just a few of many ways that the Old Testament can be profitably used by ministers of the gospel today. If we ever begin to think that we have run out of preaching material, all we have to do is start reading the book of Genesis. We will find enough sermons in the Old Testament to keep us busy for a lifetime. Many of the New Testament writers did not hesitate to use the Old Testament in their preaching. When we read Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 10, and Hebrews 11 we see this to be true. Dear preacher, “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). This includes preaching the wonderful messages of the Old Testament.

Victor is a graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching, University of Memphis, and Ambridge University. He is married to Kathleen, and they have three children and six grandchildren. He preaches for the Oceanside congregation in Atlantic Beach, FL.

The Law Of Moses Doesn’t Apply To Christ’s Church — Travis Main

Perhaps the subject of this article strikes you as something that is obvious. However, there are many religious bodies, proclaiming to be the church Christ founded, which validate some of their religious practices not from Christ’s new covenant, nor from the eternal principles of God, but from the Law of Moses. God gave the Law of Moses to Moses upon Mt. Sinai. Part of the law involved what the world knows as the “ten commandments” (Ex. 20). These are held up by society and many religions as the laws to live by today, but do they still have the authority of God? In truth, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (Matt. 15:1-9), many entities promoting practices from the Law of Moses do not even follow them, but a form of them devised by the traditions of men. Such is the ground they stand upon, leading many to faithfully follow, though the foundation has been swept away by the hand of God. The covenant of Christ cannot be properly followed by those who still seek after the authority of an old law vanished away.

Malachi wrote, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Mal. 3:8). This passage demonstrates the neglect of the people of God. Under the Law of Moses, they were to bring forth tithes and offerings, tithes of corn, wine, oil, firstlings of herds and flocks, and tithes of increase (Deut. 14:23-29). If the Law of Moses applies to the faithful of God today and we are not obeying it, then His words in Malachi 3:8 are applicable to us. We are robbing God! However, if one undertakes deeper examination they will read Malachi 1:1 and 4:4. In these verses it is found that the words of God which Malachi shares are to the nation of Israel. Additionally, it is seen that the Law of Moses was given to the nation of Israel and no one else. The ten commandments? They were God’s law given to a specific people 3,400 years ago.

Many zealously religious individuals and entities declare their usage of musical instruments comes from the Old Testament. They will readily agree they are not Israelites, but are following the example given by Israel’s worship of God. God commanded within the Law of Moses that Israel make two silver trumpets and blow them at the tabernacle for various secular and spiritual reasons, as well as over their worship time of burnt offerings and sacrifices (Num. 10:1-10). Similar, we see the trumpets playing during the sacrifices at Solomon’s temple along with instruments introduced by King David (2 Chr. 29:25-30). Whether the instruments were approved by God is debatable (see Adam Clark regarding the Arabic and Syric texts), but such is not pertinent to our scrutiny in this passage. What is critical is the observation that, as commanded when God handed this instruction down in the Law of Moses, the playing of instruments only occurred during sacrificing. What occurred following these sacrifices? Singing is only seen. In the New Testament, following the once for all time sacrifice of Christ and then the addition of souls to the church in Acts 2, only singing is ever commanded by God for the church. This is an interesting shadowing between the old and new covenants in regard to what happens after sacrifice. Reasoning to justify instrumentation in Christ’s church by going back to the Law of Moses ignores that it was not only not practiced by Israel as it is implemented today, but the first century church by its own example and command (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19) never had a practice of following the Law in this regard.

The Law was given to Israel. There is no example of Christ’s church following the Law by the authority of God. Contrary to those who would follow the Law, the apostle Paul wrote the Galatian churches to follow only the gospel which he had previously delivered to them (Gal. 1). He told Christians that “a man is not justified by the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). He declared, “For if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Why? Paul stated, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). He would later say the Law of Moses was a schoolmaster. The word here comes from the Greek paidagōgos and references one who takes a student from point A to point B. The Law of Moses took the children of Israel from their wanderings in the wilderness to the final fulfillment of the promise to Abraham by God — Jesus the Christ, the seed to bless all nations. The Law was not created to last forever. This is another reason that the church does not follow it today.

We do not follow the Law of Moses today because it was not given to us, the first century church did not follow it, and it was not made to last forever. Long before the New Testament was written, the Old Testament declared the end of the Old was coming. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). Jeremiah is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-13 and it is made clear that the Law of Moses by Jeremiah’s prophecy was already old and vanishing away. This is not the only Old Testament reference to a new covenant to be given. In the messianic passage of Isaiah 42, Jesus, the messiah that Israel was looking to arrive , would be given as a “covenant” to the people (Israel) and to the nations or Gentiles (v. 6). In Isaiah 61, a chapter which also sees messianic text and from which Jesus applies scripture to Himself, it is declared a covenant would be given to the “offspring” of God. Daniel 9:27 speaks of the Messiah establishing a new covenant. Hosea 2:18 speaks of a new covenant. There are other passages, but the point should be clear. Those in generations long before the establishment of the church knew the Law of Moses was temporary.

Once Jesus arrived upon the earth, He shared the good news given him by the Father. That is the “one faith” of the gospel (Eph. 4). He did so knowing His mission upon this earth was short and He was on the way to the cross to be crucified for the sins of mankind. He did so, was buried in a tomb, and arose after three days to be seen over a period of time by many before ascending into heaven (Acts 1). When he died upon the cross, the Law of Moses itself was figuratively nailed to the cross as well (Col. 2:14), taking away the ordinances of condemnation upon those whom it held in its grasp. Jesus shared the gospel in His ministry (Mark 1:1). His focus was not the instruction of the Law of Moses. After His resurrection but before His ascension, He told his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to teach the disciples to follow the things He taught them. Jesus did not teach the Law. He nailed the Law to the cross. He brought a new covenant to mankind. On the day of Pentecost when Christians were added to the church (Acts 2:47), they were not added to the kingdom of God by following a covenant of circumcision but rather a new covenant in Christ. The Law of Moses could not forgive sins (Heb. 10:1-4), but Christ’s blood brought about forgiveness and a new covenant of eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Christ came to take away the first covenant and establish the second (Heb. 10:9).

Why would the church of today follow something that was never intended for them? It makes no sense at all to follow something that the church when it was formed not only did not follow, but was warned against following. The Law was not created to last forever and ample proclamation declared it would end and another covenant would be coming. Only the new covenant based upon the sacrifice and gospel of Christ can provide eternal life. It is the words of His covenant that will judge us in the last day (John 12:48). Knowing these things, why would anyone choose to follow any other teaching and jeopardize their soul for an eternity?

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years. He attends and teaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, OH. He is the creator of churchofchristarticles.com.

Jesus As King: An Old Testament Perspective — Gantt Carter

As Christians, we often sing phrases like, “Jesus is Lord” and “He’s my king.” Jesus is not only our Savior from our sins, but He also the Supreme King we are to submit to in love. The reality of Jesus’ kingship/lordship is set forth throughout the Writings of the New Covenant, the covenant in His blood.

Before the Jewish crowd makes their request, the apostle Peter proclaims that “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). “Lord” can also be translated as “Master” and “Christ” as “Messiah.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Master and the Messiah, and that truth is at the core of Christianity (cf. Phil 2:5-11).

The Perspective

This important concept of Jesus as King/Lord did not begin in the first century A.D. The truth builds on the history of God and Israel and flows out of several passages in the writings of the Old Covenant. In fact, the Hebrew term we translate as “Messiah” refers to one who is anointed, especially as a king. Jesus fulfills the thrust of the Old Covenant and the Scriptures given during that time (see 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Consider Jesus own words and actions:

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27, cf. 32, 44-47).

Please join me now in an overview of the Old Covenant perspective on Jesus as King and Lord.

The Prophecies

The first specific reference to the coming One is in Genesis 3:15, but the first reference to His kingship may be near the end of the same inspired book. Within the blessings of Jacob upon his twelve sons, we find the following:

“Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Gen. 49:9-10).

The lineage of Judah is significant for more than one reason in the history of Israel. David, king of Israel, descended from Judah and all succeeding kings came from Judah. Othniel, the first judge, was of the tribe of Judah (1 Chr. 4:13). The temple builders, Solomon and Zerubbabel, also descended from Judah (1 Chr. 3). King Jesus came as the new temple (John 1:14-18; 2:19), and His people are the temple as they are added to His body (Eph. 2:19-22).

Although dismissed by some, we submit that Genesis 49:9-10 is a foretelling of the timing and nature of the coming One (cf. Num. 24:17). Even many Jews through history believed this text to be about the Messiah. As we reflect on this, what can we see here?

1) He would be a descendant of Judah, the tribe of the kings (Matt. 1:2-3).

2) He would come while the authority of Judah was still perceptible. The last of any indication of royal Judah ceased with the Roman occupation. The Romans removed their authority and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. With the second temple and the genealogies destroyed, there is not even a possibility of rulership out of Judah or someone claiming to be the rightful King of Israel.

3) He would receive tribute (as King). We can translate this portion of the text as “until Shiloh comes” or as a reference to the “ruler’s staff” belonging to Him. “Shiloh” is often considered to be another title for the coming One.

4) All people and nations would submit to Him in obedience, giving Him honor. Jew and Gentile unified as they joyfully submit to their one King (Eph. 1-4).

In 2 Samuel 7, God gives King David a powerful promise about his kingly lineage. The most immediate fulfillment is in Solomon and the succeeding kings from Judah until the exile. However, God later foretells of yet another coming king, a Davidic king who would finally fulfill the ultimate purpose of God for His people. The term “Branch” below may be a technical term for the legal heir to an established royal line of kings.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (see Jer. 33:14-26; Ezek. 34:20-24; 37:24; Is. 11:10).

Gabriel tells the mother of Jesus that He will receive the throne of David and reign forever with His empire never ending (Luke 1:32-33). That parallels Isaiah who observes that the growth of His government and peace will be endless; that He will reign with justice and righteousness forever and ever (note Is. 9:6-7). Regarding David’s own understanding of the promises, Peter states:

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:30-31; cf. Ps. 16:8-11; 110:1).

Zechariah, who prophesied after the return from exile, employs “the Branch” language in the inspired document that bears his name. At first glance in chapter six, God seems to only refer to the then present son of Jehozadak, Joshua (see Zech. 6:9-15; cf. 3:8-10). But we submit that the ultimate application of these words is to the final “Joshua” or “Jesus.” (Jesus and Joshua in English are from the same Hebrew name for “Yahweh saves”). Zechariah refers to a priest also ruling as a king (v. 13; cf. Jer. 33:17-18). Although unlawful under the Mosaic Law, Jesus is the King and the High Priest of His New Covenant and Law.

Zechariah 9:9 foretells of a king who brings righteousness and salvation as he rides humbly on a donkey’s colt. Verse 10 includes a reference to battle and to the extension of his dominion but shows him speaking peace to the nations. Matthew 21:1-11 provides us with a clear fulfillment of this text in the life of Jesus as He enters Jerusalem gently and humbly on a colt. Born in David’s Bethlehem (Mic. 5:1-2; Luke 2:1-7), the eternal Ruler shepherds His flock “in the strength of the Lord, and in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God” (Mic. 5:4a).

The last chapter of Zechariah gives us a (at least slightly) different portrayal of Israel’s coming king. First, a terrible and violent battle scene is picture (14:1-2), and then Yahweh Himself goes to war with the nations on behalf of His people (v. 3; cf. 9:14-17). If the Lord is the King after all, then what does this say of Jesus? Jesus is a member of the Godhood. Yes, He is the Great I Am (Ex. 3:13-14; John 8:58; Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus is the Lord, the Master of the universe.

The language of Zechariah 14 relates well to the second Psalm and the lyrics about the possession and the wrath of the King and Son (Ps. 2:6-12). Let there be no doubt, this Messiah is a force to be reckoned with (cf. Ps. 102:25-27; Heb. 1:10-12). But as the battle smoke clears, note the beautiful and powerful words below:

“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zech. 14:8-9).

On one hand, the Messiah meekly rids a donkey into town and suffers terribly for His people (Zech. 12:10-11; Is. 53). On the other hand, He proudly marches into battle and crushes His enemies with comprehensive authority. This seeming oddity led some Jews to conclude that there would be two different Messiahs: Ben Yosef (the suffering son of Joseph) and ben David (the ruling son of David). Others saw and continue to see this as either different possibilities or different points in time.

The Point

We know that Jesus became King by means of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne in heaven. The good news is “Your God reigns” (Is. 52:7). The Messiah was and is the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King (Heb. 1:1-13) of the true Israel (Gal. 6:16).

Zechariah 14 may refer to the gospel even in a certain sense, or perhaps it pictures the final coming of the Messiah. A time when He will deal with evil and suffering once and for all and rescue His people by granting them life forever with Him (Heb. 9:28; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 1 Thess. 4:13-5:6).

Jesus was and is the long-awaited King that the people of Israel were longing to come and bring them final deliverance and peace. Of course, the fulfillment of these promises did not always match their perceptions of what He would be and how He would accomplish His work. As noted above, the true messiah (anointed King) is far more than a mere earthly king. For example, examine the way Jesus quotes and applies Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:41-45.

As the Prince of peace (Is. 9:6), He is their security and He is their peace (Mic. 5:4b-5). His peace is a different kind of peace than that of the world (John 14:27). His peace is about finding rest for our weary souls (Jer. 6:16; Matt. 11:28-30; Phil. 4:4-9). He reigns in our hearts as we delightfully obey His commands.

As Christians, we eagerly await the return of the King. He will quiet us by His love and sing loudly to us (Zeph. 3:15-20). We shall see the King someday!

Gantt resides in Elk City, Oklahoma, with his wife and two children. He is the preaching minister at the 2nd & Adams congregation.

 

Complaining and the Christian — Stephen Hughes

When I was a teenager, I hated doing chores. My parents would tell me to clean my room, wash the dishes, or mow the lawn. I would eventually do it, but I would grumble and complain the whole time. The problem is I did not fully appreciate Paul’s exhortation: “Do everything without complaining and disputing” (Phil. 2:14, NKJV). Unfortunately some Christians ignore this exhortation, too.

The purpose for doing things without complaining and disputing is so “that [we] may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2:15). We need to be bright, shining beacons of God’s truth in this world. When we complain and dispute amongst ourselves, we tarnish that light and threaten to put it out—this harms our evangelistic efforts immeasurably. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus also tells us that we are lights to the world, a shining city on a hill, and that we should shine our light before men for the purpose of glorifying God in heaven. We cannot do this if we are complaining and disputing.

Earlier in that passage, Paul says that we should be humble toward one another, fulfilling his joy by being like-minded (Phil. 2:1-4). As we continue reading, Paul calls to mind the example of Jesus since “in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). When we get to Philippians 2:14, Paul has already exhorted us to be humble, and the image of Jesus’ perfect humility is fresh on our minds. If our Lord can be humble and not complain as He is being led to the cross to suffer and die, then we also can be humble and cease our complaining and disputing in our lives.

When we complain about things, we send a message to those who hear it. It shows a lack of humility and a lack of respect for those in authority. Peter offers his own exhortation in regard to church conduct: “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet. 5:5). With pride comes a lack of humility. When we complain and dispute with those in authority, whether it be in our local congregations, our jobs, or even our government, we are in danger of losing the grace of God.

Such an exhortation is not limited to New Testament times. The Israelites in the desert after their exodus from Egypt constantly complained and disputed with Moses and the Lord. Paul tells us about his ancestors, “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not … complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer” (1 Cor. 10:6,10). Throughout the books of Exodus and Numbers we see how much and how often they complained to bring about their destruction.

There are six main instances in these books, three in Exodus and three in Numbers, where the Israelites complained and disputed. On the fourth occasion in Numbers 11, Moses found it difficult to continue as their leader through the desert since he had to bear the brunt of their constant complaining. This time they were complaining that they only had manna to eat—manna that they did not have to plant or harvest, but that the Lord provided for them. This trap of ungratefulness and taking things for granted is unfortunately easy to fall into; I am sure many of us would feel the same way if we had only one thing to eat for several months. In the very first verse of Numbers 11, we see the Lord’s anger was kindled due to their complaining. “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”

Even after Moses pleaded on behalf of the people to cease this destruction, their complaining did not end. They craved meat despite their constant supply of manna. We see in Numbers 11:11-15 just how much the people had driven Moses to anger and despair, to the point of praying for his life to end. As a result of his pleading, the Lord told Moses to set up a group of seventy elders to handle the day-to-day affairs of the people, to take the bulk of the burden off Moses’s shoulders. One wonders if this is a reason for a plurality of elders governing the church today.

Regardless, God sternly granted the Israelites’ prideful demands. “You shall eat [meat] … until it … becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you …’” (Num. 11:19, 20). We see in this passage that God did this, not because of their complaining, but because they despised the Lord. Therefore we can conclude that the Israelites despised the Lord through their complaining.

After the Israelites complained again and threatened to stone Moses, Aaron, and even Joshua when they heard a negative report from ten of the twelve spies sent into Canaan, the Lord appeared to Moses and said, “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?” (Num. 14:11). Once again, we see that complaining is not mentioned here, but rejection and unbelief. The Lord equates such complaining and disputing with rejection of God and a lack of belief and trust in Him.

The Lord then said, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me?” (Num. 14:27a). Those who complain against God are called an evil congregation. A few verses later, God informs Moses and Aaron that because of their complaining and disputing, because they have despised and rejected the Lord, because they do not believe and trust in Him, and because they are an evil congregation they will be forced to wander the desert and never enter into the Promised Land. No one twenty years old or older will be allowed to enter, except for Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who offered a favorable report of Canaan.

Sometimes, however, the Israelites complained for very legitimate needs such as food and water, but they did not make their requests humbly and respectfully. There will be times when we may have a legitimate need that we must take before the elders. In Acts 6:1, we read, “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” Here we see that the Hellenists had a legitimate need, and that they presented it to the Twelve, who did not chastise them for this complaint, but instead tended to their needs (Acts 6:2-6). It is not recorded how the Hellenists made their needs known, but because the response was not like that of God to the Israelites when they complained, we can conclude that there is an acceptable way to make a complaint.

If a congregation has qualified elders, they must “be blameless, … of good behavior, … able to teach, … gentle, not quarrelsome, … not a novice” (1 Tim. 3:3-6). These are qualities an elder must possess; therefore if one has a complaint, the elders will listen. If the complaint is just, they will follow the example of the Twelve by tending to one’s needs. If the complaint is not just, they will be able to teach the individual gently why it is not just. It is each elder’s responsibility to “[hold] fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Tit. 1:9).

When we complain and dispute with our elders and those in authority, we must not do so in the manner the Israelites complained to Moses, with a lack of humility and respect. If we do, we would be in danger of bringing anger and despair to our elders just as the Israelites did to Moses. We would also be in danger of despising and rejecting God, showing a lack of belief and trust in Him, and being an evil congregation. My brethren, we ought to avoid this at all costs. Sometimes, however, we do have legitimate needs that must be heard. These must be made humbly and respectfully before the elders, and we must adhere to their scriptural decisions.

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