When the King of Arad captured some of the Hebrews on their way to the Promised Land, God’s people cried out to the Lord and received a great victory. But instead of entering Canaan from the south where the people now stood, God led them east around Edom.
As a result, the people “became impatient because of the journey” (see Num. 21:1-5). Why take the long way around?
The extra miles seemed pointless.
But as the passage unfolds, we read how God gave Israel victories all up and down the King’s Highway so that they ultimately gained control of the majority of Transjordan.
This allowed them to prepare to cross over the Jordan River into the Promised Land at a location far more strategic than from the south.
The long way ended up the best way after all.
Often, it seems as if God needlessly extends our journey. For years we pray for a loved one’s health, a friend’s salvation, or for a missionary to receive funds. We plug away endlessly at a miserable job with no promotion.
The long way seems the wrong way and, like the Hebrews, we become impatient because of the journey.
Yet when we look back in hindsight, we actually come to appreciate how God used the journey—and all the victories and failures along the way—to prepare us for something we felt ready for much earlier.
While we strain to see over the next horizon, God sees the map from above—and so knows the best way to proceed.
Prayer: Lord God, time and again Your mysterious leading proves wiser than my impatient pleas for progress. Would You not receive more glory from my life if I trusted You along the path of the unknown than if I saw Your purposes from the start? I follow because of who You are and not because I understand.
“So many of us are impatient with our faith. The journey we are invited to undertake is a long haul and delivers its benefits in the longer term. We have got to learn the hardest of all lessons—that we need to be patient.” —Alister McGrath
Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006), page 89. Image courtesy of BiblePlaces.com. Map from The New Moody Atlas of the Bible, by Barry Beitzel, map 34.