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The Impatience of God’s People

March 14, 2021

“From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’” - Numbers 21:4-5

At this point in Israel’s history, they have been traveling with God and Moses for many years. Many lives have been lost, including the lives of Miriam and Aaron. The nation of Israel has just experienced a major defeat over the Canaanites. Though they have seen the hand of God rescue them from the land of Egypt, provide water and food, and overcome their enemies, yet the nation of Israel is still hard-hearted, lacking in faith, and set on their selfish desires.

God has provided everything they have needed – maybe not everything they have wanted but everything they have needed. Instead of living in worship and gratitude, the people make demands – for food, for water, for God and Moses to provide as they want them to. The text tells us that they became impatient. Surely, they were ready to settle in the promised land and to feel a sense of security and rest. Once again, it is important to remember that it is their lack of obedience that has them still on the move. As a nation, Israel has not learned how to trust in the Lord and to obey him.

I wonder at how we get impatient with the Lord still today. Though we have seen his goodness over and over again in our lives, though we have experienced his provision for our every need (not every want), we continue to grumble against his plans, his ways, and his timing. We doubt God instead of trusting God; we rebel against him instead of surrendering to him and obeying him. Instead of enjoying an intimate relationship with the Lord and then enjoying his many gifts in our lives, we doubt him and try to do things in our own power, our own way, and in our own timing.

God’s ways are not our ways; God’s ways are always much greater than our ways! The Lord is worthy of our trust and our obedience. Like the nation of Israel in the wilderness, we can make the choice of whether to grumble and complain about what is lacking or to embrace what God is doing today.

May we choose the latter. This season of Lent, may we discipline ourselves to surrender, to wait, and to give thanks in all things. God has given us all things, including his one and only Son that we may have life through him. Let’s embrace that life, trusting and obeying him through all of it.

Are there ways in which you are impatient with the Lord’s work in your life or in the world today? What would the Lord want you to know? What does it look like for you to surrender, trust, and obey?

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