Reverend Dr. William H. Curtis

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Numbers 21:4-5 NIV

Moses didn’t want to do battle with Edom, so he had the Israelites travel around. However, after recent victories against the Canaanites, Israel didn’t want to backpedal around Edom en route to the promised land. The Israelites were so overly confident that they gave into arrogance.

Not knowing how to conquer impatience, the Israelites set out from Mount Hor to go around Edom. The people grew irritable as they traveled and grumbled, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

Israel believed that backtracking was unbearable. Their ethic was that they could never move forward going backwards. They believed that their victory over the Canaanites gave them momentum and energy to conquer their way to the promised land. They had forgotten that God was the one who had done all of the fighting. They had forgotten that their strength was in their faith.

They had tasted the sweetness of victory and the sweetness of the promised land.

But, when we start complaining, the complaints just keep on coming. We tell God that we don’t like the path that He has sent us on, and then we start to think that we don’t like the mana that God gives us to sustain us every day.

This text begs us to consider whether our faith has room to listen when God tells us not to move. Faith can call for immediate action and radical obedience, but more often, our faith calls for us to go against what we want to do. There are times when our faith makes us go backwards over territory that we have already covered or reengage relationships that we had decided to sever. Faith will sometimes ask us to hold our tongues when speaking seems more natural.

Faith is easy when it calls for an immediate action. But it is hard when it makes us stand still.

Israel is not at all confused about God’s will. They know what they heard. God said, “Go around.” The path through Edom was blocked by God, but impatience can frustrate our interpretation of God’s will. Impatience can make us complain about God as if we had completely forgotten that the whole reason we are where we are is because God came and got us and freed us from bondage.

It is almost incredulous to suggest that we are complaining about our struggles in the wilderness when God rescued us from bondage. We all have impatience, but our faith in God has to be stronger than our impatience.