From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. 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 detest this miserable food.”
– Numbers 21:4-5
The lessons appointed for Sunday service use in the Lenten season include many rich passages of Scripture, including this one from the Book of Numbers. The context is the liberation of the people of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and the journey to a new land God is giving them. Achieving liberation has involved the famous plagues visited upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians and the courageous leadership of Moses. To this day, the power and wonder of this liberation story is retold at the Feast of the Passover with poignancy and gratitude.
However, during the journey out of slavery into freedom, the narrative describes the impatience and downright ingratitude of the people. As they journey, Egypt becomes a golden age memory (we weren’t free, but at least the food was decent and we had a roof over our heads) and what is to come is not clear to them. In fact, the Lord God provides them with nourishment and water in a miraculous way. Their response is to become food and wine critics! They lose their gratitude for what God has done for them, and they are impatiently demanding a familiar (if false) security.
But before we roll our spiritual eyes at their ingratitude and impatience, perhaps we need to take a moment to reflect on ourselves. Do we begin our day with gratitude for all that we so easily take for granted, remembering that all we have and all we are come to us as gifts from God? Do we remind ourselves that we depend upon God’s holy patience with our shortcomings and impatient ways?
In light of God’s lovingkindness towards us, I invite us to begin our day with an “attitude of gratitude” and see what surprises God may have in store for us this day.