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Godliness with Contentment is Great Gain

And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.

Our text today is Numbers 21, verses 4 through 9.

The soul of God's people was "much discouraged because of the way". Perhaps this is true for you today. The path that we must travel can be discouraging at times. There are many things that can bring discouragement: loss, suffering, hardship, conflict, sorrow, danger, loneliness, uncertainty…the list goes on. God does not take these things lightly and he can help us along the way. God's people need to be sensitive to those who are discouraged and help them. The main problem comes when we allow discouragement to lead to discontentment. When this happens, a variety of sins are sure to follow.

And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.

Egypt is a symbol of the world and the things of the world. When God's people become discouraged several things commonly happen:

  • Hearts turn to the world and away from the things of God. 

  • Past blessings fade in memory. 

  • Difficulties are exaggerated. 

  • Godly people are falsely accused. 

  • God Himself is blamed.

It is instructive to understand that the Israelites made the statements above after God had twice provided water out of a rock and graciously given them food out of heaven! Their final statement "our soul loatheth this light bread" has great significance because in the sixth chapter of John, Jesus used the example of this bread that came down from heaven to speak of himself (the true Bread from heaven). To loath the sacrifice of God's only Son, and to consider it as a light thing is something that God does not take lightly as we will see in the following verses. I suppose that this is the worst form of discontentment.

It is also instructive to understand that the events recorded above occurred directly after God had given His people a great victory over the Canaanites. It was not uncommon during the exodus for God's people to have great victory and for them to fall into sin shortly thereafter. This is not uncommon with God's people today. Just as the highest point in the continental United States (Mount Whitney) is not far from the very lowest point (Badwater in Death Valley) the spiritual distance between victory and defeat can be very small.

And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.

Speaking against God, speaking against godly people, and considering God's death on the cross as a light thing brings God's wrath. As with all sin, confession and repentance is the only way back.

And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

Moses represents the law that condemns us. Brass is symbolic of judgment. The serpent being lifted up on the pole represents Christ bearing our sins on the cross. It is only because of Christ's sacrifice that we can be cured from the deadly poison of discontentment and it is only by looking to Him that this will happen.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:14-15

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Hebrews 13:5

Not that I speak in respect to want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Philippians 4:11

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

For we brought nothing into this world,

and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

I Timothy 6:6-7


The photo and words above were sent to me by my pastor in the Philippines after they went out to help the victims of a devastating typhoon in December of 2014.

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