Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Trusting God for Today and Tomorrow
And you murmured in your tents and said, “Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”
Today we continue to look at Question 113 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the sins forbidden in the Third Commandment?” The third part of the answer states, “The sins forbidden in the Third Commandments are… murmuring and quarrelling at, curious prying into, and misapplying of God's decrees and providences.” Last week we examined how God’s name is disrespected when we do not rightly keep our promises. This week we consider the sin of doubting God’s goodness to us.
What does it mean to murmur and quarrel at, to curiously pry into, or to misapply God’s decrees and providences? What are we saying about God when we do such things? We know that the Israelites murmured at and quarreled with Moses during their exodus from Egypt whenever they did not like the way things were going. They grumbled when they were hungry, when they were thirsty, when their enemies were near, when they had no meat, no fruit, etc. They blamed Moses for their hardships and complained against him, often vocalizing a wish that they had never left Egypt, that their lives were better in Egypt (Exo. 14:11-12; 16:3; 17:3; Num. 11:5, 20; 14:2-4; 20:5; 21:5). And yet, as Scripture declares, who was Moses that they murmured against him? In reality they were complaining against God, for it was by God’s decrees and providences that Moses led them out of Egypt.
Thus, the Scripture at the head of this article reveals what Israel thought about God in the midst of their grumblings: “God hates us and is seeking to destroy us,” when in fact the exact opposite of the case was true. It was because the Lord loved them and sought to do them good and save them that He rescued them from Egypt (Deu. 7:8). Likewise, whenever we complain against God’s providential care and ordering of our lives, we are committing this same sin of doubting His goodness to us, and therefore, we are guilty of taking His name in vain. Now to be sure, it is always right to cry out to God for mercy or to beseech Him for His tender compassion when we are in times of great distress, tribulation, or temptation, but there is a world of difference between begging God for His good help, and blaming Him for our bad hurts. The one sees God as the solution, believing Him to be good and always seeking our good; the other sees God as the problem, believing Him to be evil and seeking our destruction. To think of God in any way less than perfectly good is to think of God falsely and therefore to take His name in vain.
Similarly, it is this same doubting of God’s goodness that leads to the other kind of sin in today’s question: that of curious prying into and misapplying of God’s decrees and providences. Here the Catechism refers to various methods of trying to divine the future. Why are such things sinful and why does God repeatedly warn His people from such activities? Because, by definition, whenever we seek to discern the future we show that we are not trusting God for it. Once again, we are doubting His good providential control and ordaining of all things. Rather than trusting God for an unknown future, believing He is good and working for my good; I seek a way to discover the future so that I can control it and make sure it is good for me. By definition such doubt of and lack of faith in God’s good control of the future is to think of God wrongly. It is to take His name in vain.
Thus, the Bible refers to this kind of behavior as a great insult to God, an abomination to Him: “There shall not be found among you anyone who… practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens… for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD,” (Deu. 18:10a, 12aESV). May God grant that we never question His good intentions for us; that we never complain or murmur at His providential control of our lives, or seek to pry into what He has not revealed. May we simply know that He is good, and always seeking for our good, so that we will contentedly trust Him for a future that we do not need to know!