There’s a whole lot of grumbling, complaining, disputing, and doubting in the Old Testament book of Numbers. The instance in Numbers 21 is interesting because it tells us why the people grumbled.
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.” (Num 21:4-5)
The people became impatient. Do we not grapple with the same tendency? Notice, when people become impatient:
- They lose sight of the “Why?” – “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt?” Answer: to bring you into the Promised Land. But due to impatience, the “Why?” wasn’t clear.
- Faith is replaced with despair – “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?” Don’t miss the sad irony that this question is addressed to the Sender of the plagues, the Institutor of the Passover, the Parter of the Red Sea, the Provider of manna from heaven and water from wilderness rocks. Faith had eroded into despair.
- They vent the ingratitude that has filled their hearts – “For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Is it not a supremely dangerous thing to call that which God has provided “worthless”?
Or is it any surprise that centuries later, Christians are warned by the Holy Spirit about the same pitfall?
Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. (James 5:7-9)
Be patient. Teach your children to be patient. Why?
- Without patience, we lose sight of the “Why?” – the coming of the Lord is at hand.
- Without patience, faith is replaced with despair – establish your hearts.
- Without patience, ingratitude fills our hearts, and that’s a very big deal because “the Judge is standing at the door.”
Be patient, therefore, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.