Stone Soup for Five: {Bible/Life Parallel} Shortness of Soul -- Numbers 21

{Bible/Life Parallel} Shortness of Soul -- Numbers 21

Since I'm off of Facebook and Instagram, I'm starting a new series of what I'm getting out of the Bible (which I previously shared as short posts to FB and IG).  I'm calling it {Bible/Life parallel} because that sounds a bit better than what a friend said... that these kinds of posts are more like "Here, I did this thing and it really hurt.  You try it!")  So here's the first of what will hopefully be many  posts on "here, this hurt... try it!"

"Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient (the soul of the people was short) because of the journey.  And the people spoke against God and 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 miserable food."  Numbers 21:4-5

They had just suffered the death of Miriam, the miracle of water from a rock, and the death of Aaron.  They experienced loss and success in battles, but now had to turn back and walk a long, hard way in the opposite direction of their destination, promised to them by God.  They were not allowed to go the way that made sense...the shortest and easiest way.  In fact, they had to turn back to where they came from and walk a long journey in the wrong direction.  In the original Hebrew it was written that their soul was short.

Because of their discouragement and shortness of soul they:

  • Questioned their leader's goodness and the way God's plan was working out so far.  "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?"
  • Lied to themselves or at the least ignored the truth that there was no food or water.  Just before, God had provided water in the desert from a rock and He still daily provided them with manna, not to mention the livestock they themselves had to provide food.
  • Loathed and detested God's provision. "We loathe this miserable food."
God was not working on their timeline.  They were ready to get on with it, ready to get to the good stuff, the milk and honey, the promised land and all the excitement and blessing that meant.  When they had to turn back and do the opposite of what they wanted to do and what made sense, their soul grew short.  They were impatient with the path God had them on and they were bored with their provision, and all that welled up into doubt and anger.

How often do I become impatient (almost every single day) because of the journey the Lord has me and those I love on?  How often do I question and accuse and doubt God?  How often do I ignore His past faithfulness and distrust or refuse to see His current goodness?  How often do I lie to myself (oh how deceitful and wicked is my heart!) and hate what God has graciously provided for me?  The Israelite's discouragement led them into discontent and distrust of the only Holy God who had provided all things for them.  And so does mine.

The Israelites (and I) were not keeping their soul.  Being much discouraged also means being short, impatient, vexed, grieved, cut down in the inner being, soul, or life.  That leads to impatience, grumbling, and distrust.

The result of their distrust?  The Lord sent poisonous snakes to bite them and kill many to discipline them and get their attention, to shut their mouths.  He also, when He could have just ended it by destroying them, opening the ground, burning them with fire, but instead He provided an answer, a healing, a way out.  God told Moses to build a bronze snake to be lifted on a pole.  When the people were bitten, they could look to that and be healed completely.  Not left limping or sick, but healed.

This life is full of disappointment, discouragement, and set backs.  I'm often bitten by fiery trials that are painful and seem to almost kill me.  I can either start this cycle of impatience, discouragement, questioning, and lies, which will leave me miserable and hating God's provision... OR... I can repent (verse 7) and look to the bronze snake--look to Jesus Christ, my salvation and be healed.

This is where hope is.  When I've been beaten, bitten, and flat on the ground in the hot sandy desert--when my body is bitten, bruised, and burning--I must lift my tear-stained face to the cross.  I must look intently at Christ, consider His goodness, regard His way as the best way.  This is a job I must do.  God provides the healing, but I must look to Him.  If I keep my face down in the burning sand, or scrutinizing and poking at the wound, my soul grows short and I die.  Only when I turn my face from the desert, from the boredom, from the pain and the wounds to Christ, am I healed.  That is how my soul grows longer, my patience is bolstered, and I can rise with hope on wings of eagles.  Christ is the only way to heal and lengthen my soul.

Lord, help me not grow impatient on this long, hard journey that keeps twisting, turning, and meeting dead ends.  May I never grow discontent with Your timeline or distrustful of Your goodness.  I pray I will not keep my face down in the sand or focused on the wound, but that I would always and immediately look to You.  Help me be quick to study Your ways in Your Word, be quick to seek intently for Your goodness as traced throughout the Bible and my own life, and at the end of each long day may I regard You with pleasure for what You are doing in my life and be healed.  Amen.

This post was made from my time in the I Will Meditate Journal Volume 3.  If you'd like to start your own journal, find Volumes One through Three on Amazon.  These journals were designed to slow us down and help us dig deep for insights into the Word of God while creating our own personal commentary on the Bible.  Sometimes there are moments that take your breath away, and sometimes there are just plain "here this hurt, try it!" moments.  Either way, if this caused you to think about something in your own life, let's talk in the comments.


  1. This study touched me in a personal way.

    I am in the process of looking for a job. Today I received another rejection for a position I was really interested in. This study is reminding me to be patient and to trust in God's provision, timing, will, and
    to not become discouraged.

  2. Oh Kari! Yes, ouch! You should pass out band-aids as a warning before reading this post! :) I just finished reading "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" that you recommended and while I've got most of the contentment part down and feeling pretty good about that, well--um, the murmuring is still a huge area to work on. Yes, ouch. Thank you for sharing your honest experience, we definitely need strong women in Christ to come along side of us and help us train for the prize Paul talks about. You are right, Christ is the ONLY answer to our pained souls. Let's keep going!

  3. We are over 3 years of waiting while moving through mountains, hills, valleys, fires, waters to reach our promise land. I've cried, questioned, and feared too much. But what I know is we have seen the goodness of the Lord and his faithfulness. I don't want to "die in the desert" and never reach our promise land! I find that I have to take my thoughts captive by digging into the Word. I have to look at how God has provided for us and proven his love and faithfulness daily. Fully trusting him doesn't come easy! It's a daily process but this is what I know: He is faithful!! His promises are true! He is the same yesterday, today and forever! He knows the best path for us even if it hurts. The only way I have been able to keep going is by studying his word and journaling it. It gives me God breathed oxygen. Kari it is through you that I began journaling. I saw your heart and how you didn't want fluff but you wanted the deepest depths that God's Word can bring. Thank you! Thank you for sharing "Shortness of the Soul." It has reminded me to keep looking to Jesus- the author and finisher of my faith.

  4. It is interesting to think about what the bronze serpent meant to the people... bronze was the metal used for things outside the holy and most holy places in the tabernacle - the brazen altar (where sacrifices for sin were made), the laver (where things were cleansed and purified)... bronze represented the fleshly nature that sins - and that is what Jesus put to death on the cross. So looking to the bronze serpent on the stake was a reminder of what they needed to put to death in themselves - just as Jesus on the cross should remind us of what he put to death in his own body and how we need to do the same.

  5. Feel the burn! As a first class wound poker, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Also, because I'm rarely on facebook or instagram I never got to see these updates before, so thank you for sharing here!!

  6. Tears and shame after reading this. Our Lord is ever so long suffering with us. Just reminds me even more that i can't save myself. Lets look to Jesus today for strength.


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