Numbers 21:4–9, Galatians 5:22–24, 2 Corinthians 6:3–13
The story is of the staff is fascinating, and we can see its long-reaching effects even today (look at many ambulances). However, as fun as that might be, we need to talk about one of the underlying causes of the tale…the impatience of the Israelites.
In many ways, the tale of the Israelites is like a long car ride with children…are we there yet?
One commentator pointed out that the staff forced the Israelites to stop looking down at the world and their problems, and look up to God for life. Seems pretty poetic when we look at it that way.
In many respects, the impatience of the Israelites was based upon them looking at their situation, and thinking it has to be better than this. They spoke against God and Moses. Now, in earlier devotionals and during the sermon series on suffering, we talked/read/listened to how God can handle our anger. For those who are parents and have withstood their children’s anger, imagine what it took God to get to this point.
The Israelites were impatient to get to this great home that they had been promised and had been told about for generations. Knowing the active imaginations of today, what “fairy” tales and legends did they hear or invent. Maybe none. The tale that brought the promise was already pretty impressive.
If we take a step back, however, from the Israelites, we can see that while the Israelites are on a quest to “go home”, for God this is where they belong to be the (foreshadowed) light in the darkness. Israel was an ancient thoroughfare. By being where they were, they could (if they were faithful) be able to share God with the ancient world. Granted, they did. Imagine, however, what could have happened if they had truly trusted and waited on God. In other words, what if they had been patient (not just in the story from Exodus), and had let God’s (good) plan for them unfold.
Patience is not a word any of us like, and often don’t like to live. We often are impatient to do something, when patience could have done it better. When Paul speaks of patience as a fruit of the spirit, he is talking about the Holy Spirit. As a child of God, you have the Holy Spirit working inside of you. That means you have patience. That doesn’t mean you like it. However, patience (and long-suffering) are key tools for missions and outreach.
In today’s world, impatient evangelism will not win as many long-term salvations. It is long-term relationships. Are they quick? Nope. The truth is that we are no longer at a cultural point where quick evangelism will work. The “ground” is hard, rocky, and/or filled with weeds. It will take a very long time to work the ground into what it could (and should) be…fertile ground for the Word of God.
The fruit the spirit is for the mission, not to say, yay, we made it. The mission is to reach people for Jesus Christ. When it comes to the Gospel, patience isn’t a virtue, it is a necessity.
1) What is the dark side of patience? What problems for sharing the Gospel can too much patience create?
2) Who is someone you are being patient with? Why?
3) Do you think it is true that the fruit of the spirit is for the mission? Why or why not?
4) What do you think was the mission of the people of Israel?