In this series of bulletin articles, we’ve been examining the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Lately we’ve been looking at the first commandment of the ten commandments: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and have now reflected on the sins forbidden by the commandment.
The first commandment also forbids discontent and impatience with God’s work in our lives, particularly foolishly charging him for the pains he inflicts.
A very good example of someone murmuring against God is in Psalm 73. The Psalmist bemoans the fact that the wicked appear to be blessed, while the righteous suffer. ‘But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” This is what the wicked are like– always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you’ (Psalm 73:2-22).
If we murmur against God when suffer, even slightly, it is a murdering of God. We are placing ourselves and our wellbeing as a god over and above the true God.
Job is a much better example to follow when we suffer. After hearing that his children all died when the building they were in had collapsed, this was his response: ‘At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing’ (Job 1:20-22).
Yet we are too often more like the Psalmist than Job. When the smallest pain comes along, we question our Lord’s authority. Thankfully Jesus never grumbled against God, despite experiencing the worst sufferings known to man. And if we trust that Christ’s suffering was for us, we are forgiven for all our grumbling. Have you trusted him? Joel Radford