If you are a regular reader of the Word of God, or even an occasional listener or peruser, you have probably had the opportunity to think about the ways of the children of Israel, and think that they were ninnymugginses. Seriously. God delivers them from slavery in Egypt and they complain and want to go back. He parts the Red Sea to deliver them from the Egyptians who are pursuing them, and demonstrates His care for them by providing food for them to eat every day, but they question Him and question Moses and complain and complain and complain and complain. And complain.
Itâ€™s easy to read their stories and think â€œI never wouldâ€™ve been such a cotton-headed ninnymuggins. If God had delivered me from slavery like that — I wouldâ€™ve been totally obedient and surrendered to Him.â€ I was reading another ninnymuggins story this morning. It seems to be shortly after the other ninnymuggins incident where the people are afraid and donâ€™t want to enter the Promised Land and then they are remorseful when God tells them theyâ€™re going to wander in the desert 40 years. (And then they try to go into the land anyway, when itâ€™s too late. Cotton-headed!)
Two chapters later we find the Sons of Kohath, some of Eliabâ€™s sons, and a few other cats have gotten together to complain — this time about Moses and Aaron. The background you need to know on these guys is that God set them apart for a special work in the tabernacle — Numbers 4 will give you more details about their duties, but they basically had work to do related to the most holy things. They were supposed to pack up and transport the most holy articles of the tabernacle when it was time for Israel to journey. This was a pretty big deal — taking care of the stuff that represented the sacrifices and offerings to God for the sins of the people.
As I read it last time I thought … hmm, I wonder if that gets kind of monotonous. Apparently, it did. When they began questioning Moses and Aaronâ€™s work and authority in the tabernacle, it was clear that the heart of the matter was that they werenâ€™t happy with the duties theyâ€™d been assigned and they would prefer more â€˜gloriousâ€™ work. It gets downright frustrating reading this kind of thing because we have a different perspective — God gave them work that actually kept them close to Him and His presence. They were set apart and chosen ministers of God! Why did they have to get so high on the horse??
I then realised that, rather than this being a ninnymuggins characteristic of the Israelites, it is more rightly recognised as a ninnymuggins characteristic of all of us. How many churches have we heard of where the congregation began questioning the pastor and eventually ousted him? How many junior ministers have downright led a rebellion against senior ministers in the church which has divided a congregation — literally split a church in two? And how many times in our own hearts do we question the decisions and actions of our pastors and stand in judgement over them?
Hereâ€™s where I want to make an important point of division: It is healthy, and good for you to not take every sermon your pastor preaches, every sentence he says as full gospel truth. He is human and falliable. Your decisions and your walk with God need to be based on the will of God, and the Word of God, as Paul commended one of the churches for searching the Scriptures to make sure what he was preaching was true. That being said, there is a difference between giving deep thought to the truth of a sermon, and questioning the placement and authority of a man God has placed over you. Do you see the difference?
Even when King Saul was hunting David down and trying to kill him, David refused to hurt Saul, to lay a hand on him, because he recognised Godâ€™s authority — God is the one who places people in authority. Even if you donâ€™t think heâ€™s the best orator, the most friendly guy, the most personable character, or whatever else, you would do well to trust that God has sovereignly placed your pastor as the leader of your church, and to respect him because of it.
It is easy to justify rebellion. We can easily find fault with anyone. And we will quickly find people to come to our side and join us in the rebellion, because we all have a sinful nature. But if youâ€™re in a situation where you question the leadership that has been placed over your head — at church, at work, at home — donâ€™t lead a rebellion. Bring this before God and allow Him to remind you of His sovereign authority — that He places kings on their thrones. That He could take President Robert Mugabe out at any moment if He so chooses.
We are called to fight the good fight of faith in the face of injustice in this world. There is a time to fight real injustice. I definitely believe thereâ€™s a time for revolution and reformation. But I believe it starts with prayer, with bringing every injustice, every concern to the throne of the God Who is, and Who is all-powerful and able to change every circumstance in a single moment. Your respect for the people around you, and especially for the people over you, is a demonstration of your respect and fear for the All – Mighty God. Like David said, â€œI will not touch the Lordâ€™s anointed…â€ may we have the same attitude to the glory of God.
Let it be especially in the house of God as the writer of Hebrews instructed us: Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. (They are going to have to give an account for their conduct before the Lord!)Â He goes on to say Obey those who rule over you and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17)
The Sermon in a Nutshell: Donâ€™t be a cotton-headed ninnymuggins! Respect those placed in authority for you. Pray for them and thank them for their efforts. In doing so, you demonstrate respect and fear for the Lord.