God’s Will Behind Moses Wandering in the Wilderness for 40 Years
By Chang Ping
Whenever I read through the Book of Exodus I read about Moses’ life; he was adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter and he was educated just like an Egyptian, but he never forgot that he was an Israelite. Once when he went to see his brothers, he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite and stepped in to help him, beating the Egyptian to death. He then fled to the Midian wilderness to escape the Pharaoh who was seeking his death. He stayed there for 40 years, and then Jehovah God called upon Moses to have him lead the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. Moses accepted God’s commission and went to see the Pharaoh, but he was unwilling to let go of the Hebrew slaves. God then brought ten disasters down upon Egypt, and ultimately Moses was able to successfully lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
Every time I read this in the Bible, I think about how Moses was an upright man who was staunchly loyal to his own people. He should have been able to take on what God entrusted him with, so why didn’t God just make use of him right away, but instead had him tempered in the wilderness for four decades? What wasbehind this? I was never able to figure this out until I read a couple passages of God’s words that were really elucidating.
God’s words say, “Moses was in the wilderness for 40 years. During that time, God did not speak to him, nor supply him with truth, and Moses possessed no book of God’s words, and no one went to him to give fellowship—he just dwelt in the wilderness alone until, finally, he attained true faith. So why did God do this to Moses? God did this because He had a commission for Moses to fulfill, because He wanted to use him for a great purpose, because God had work to do on Moses, and that is why God tempered Moses in such a way. Before he departed from Egypt, Moses was hot-blooded, so much so that he struck a man with a stone, and so God made it so that Moses went out into the wilderness, so that his will and hot-bloodedness, as well as his good intentions, enthusiasm, high-spiritedness, and his heroic mettle to protect the interests of his people might be tempered. This all pertained to the will, the hot-bloodedness and the naturalness of man, and God wished to temper these things in Moses. If you are hot-blooded, if you always want to act on your naturalness and on your high-spiritedness, if you always wish to resolve issues using the ways of man, then you do not have true, and you do not rely on God and believe in His sovereignty with true faith, and so it is difficult for God to use you, and God can achieve nothing with you. When to use someone, He will perfect their faith, make them understand the truth and understand His will, make them able to obey Him truly and completely, devoid of any adulteration, and without any of the so-called heroism, high-spiritedness, great aspirations and lofty sentiments of man, nor any of the good intentions and enthusiasm of man, all of which passes for conviction. When someone is without these things, they are then able to truly , and they no longer speak and act based on their imaginings or what they take to be good. And when they come again before God, has their true faith in God not grown? What constitutes true faith in God? Can a person with true faith in God still give God counsel and make suggestions to Him, saying, ‘God, by doing this, Your deeds are at odds with the notions of man; God, by doing that, it is hard for people to accept and You must do it this way; God, what You have said here is wrong, Your tone is wrong, Your method is wrong, this word is wrong…’? All these things are worn away. They can truly obey God, they develop a sense of reason and they have reverence for God” (“Only Being Truly Obedient Is a Real Belief”).
“God enjoined Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt—this was the commission He gave to Moses. And how did Moses respond? He prostrated himself flat on the ground before God, he chose nothing for himself and he said nothing about any difficulty he might encounter; whatever God asked him to do, he would do it with all haste. To act with all haste is not to act carelessly, and there was something in his heart that took over. What was it that made him accept the commission God entrusted him with though feeling incapable of doing anything? He had so much experience of howover all occurrences and all things, and his 40 years of experience in the wilderness enabled him to understand that God’s sovereignty is omnipotent. And so, without saying another word, he went off to fulfill God’s commission. What did this demonstrate? This demonstrated that Moses possessed true faith and was able to truly rely on God and obey God. Moses did not become fainthearted, he chose nothing for himself, and he did not refuse God. Instead, he trusted in God and he went forth filled with faith, bearing the task that God had entrusted to him. This is what Moses believed: ‘If God has entrusted me with a task, then it will all be accomplished as He said. If He asks me to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, then I shall lead them, and since it is God who has entrusted me with this task, it shall be God who leads them, not man. Man merely cooperates with God.’ This was the insight Moses had. If he had been fainthearted, he would have said, ‘I won’t do it. You’ve entrusted me with this task but I’m just not up to it! The Pharaoh of Egypt is so powerful, and I have no army, so how could I possibly lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Would they even listen to me?’ These words constitute refusal, resistance and rebellion; they demonstrate no belief in God, and this is not true faith. The situation at that time was unfavorable for the Israelites and for Moses, and no one thought it possible that the Israelites could be led out of Egypt, for there was a sea to cross, which would have been a nigh impossible task. Could Moses have been unaware of just how difficult it was going to be to accomplish this task? He knew exactly, but all he said was that he was not an eloquent speaker and that no one would listen to him. God told him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, however, and so he prostrated himself on the ground and accepted the task. What store of experience did he have to enable him to carry out this commission so filled with faith, without the slightest doubt, and which enabled him to obey to such a degree? Tell Me, during his experience of dwelling 40 years in the wilderness, was Moses able to understand that nothing is impossible with God, and that mankind is held within God’s hands? Of course he was! This was the truest understanding. Therefore, after he had listened to the task God had entrusted to him, his first impression would surely have been: With God, nothing is impossible, and if God says it can be done then it shall surely be done; since God has entrusted me with such a task then God will do it, and it is God who shall do it, not any man. When people want to do something, they must first analyze the situation and make preparations: They must consider the amount of provisions and fodder to prepare, how many weapons to prepare, how many men to prepare, and then decide whether to proceed with some strategy or rely on sheer strength of numbers. People have to make such plans, but does God need any of these things? Every single creation—no matter how powerful, no matter how capable, no matter how fierce—is in God’s hands. Such was the kind of faith, understanding and experience that Moses possessed, and so his heart was free from fear and worry. In this way, Moses’ faith in God became much more true, and his true faith in God became much more direct, simple and pure” (“Only Being Truly Obedient Is a Real Belief”).
Reading God’s words really opened my eyes. Before, all I knew was that Moses had killed an Egyptian to protect one of his Hebrew brethren, and I thought of this as a display of his heroic spirit. What I didn’t realize was that Moses was adulterated with his hot-bloodedness, good intentions, enthusiasm, high-spiritedness and naturalness. These parts of him didn’t just present the problem that he was capable of beating someone to death, but that he would disrupt God’s work by relying on his own enthusiasm and naturalness; he would stand in the way of the carrying out of God’s will and never would have been able to achieve true submission to God. He wouldn’t have been able to complete God’s commission, much less be suitable for God’s use. While in the wilderness, foolish Israelites complained to Moses a number of times about their access to water and meat and about other things, and even attacked him. If he had acted based on his natural temper and high-spiritedness, he never would have been able to bear that, and he particularly wouldn’t have been able to pray for the Israelites many times, ask for God’s mercy, and forgive them. God had Moses first undergo 40 years in the wilderness to wear away his temper and his naturalness, ridding him of his inborn personality. When Moses did accept God’s commission, he didn’t approach it through his own naturalness, temper, or notions and imaginings, but instead relied on God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. And while going out from the wilderness, no matter how much the Hebrew people complained, how many unreasonable requests they made, or how many things occurred that were not in line with his notions, he patiently relied on God and looked to God to resolve everything—he bore the heavy burden of God’s commission.
Moses’ four-decade tempering in the wilderness not only wore away the temperamental aspects within him but also gave him true faith in God. He encountered innumerable hardships in that time, facing a great deal of extreme, harsh weather as well as multiple attacks from wild beasts. However, he got through all of this by relying on God. As Moses weathered through these difficulties he saw God’s hand in this; he saw God’s deeds and developed true faith. This is why he accepted and completed God’s important commission with bravery and faith. Think about Moses leading the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt—the way we imagine it, the Pharaoh possessed great force and there was no way to know if he would let the Israelites go. Moses and the Israelites had no idea if they were in danger of being slaughtered, and even if the Pharaoh really did let them go, how would over a million of them survive the journey to Canaan? There were so many questions like these. If Moses had had to entirely rely on his own capabilities in their exodus, he would have given up after the Pharaoh had stood in their way ten times. But because Moses had genuine faith in God and he believed in God’s great power, no matter how powerful the Pharaoh was or how many hardships lay in front of him, he knew it was all in God’s hands. He knew that through God, all things are possible, that he was just a person God was using, and as long as he did as God told him he could certainly lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When Moses relied on God he was able to successfully lead the Israelites out of Egypt, completing what God entrusted him with.
Mulling over God driving Moses into the wilderness to rid him of his temperamental aspects and have him develop true faith and submission to God, I couldn’t help but think of this Bible verse: “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but Jehovah tries the hearts” (Proverbs 17:3). This shows that God uses trials and refinement to purify and transform people so that we may be fit for His use. I then realized that in our lives and our work, all those difficulties that we encounter so frequently seem to be out of line with our own notions, but God’s earnest intentions are behind them. God knows us like the back of His hand; He knows what sort of environment will make up for our deficiencies and allow us to be freed of our corrupt dispositions, and so He arranges every environment for our sakes. He purifies and transforms us through trials and refinement. So, when something trying comes upon us, we cannot misunderstand or blame God, but we must believe that everything He does is good. It is only by experiencing these environments that our corrupt dispositions can be cleansed and changed, and that we can develop true faith and submission to God, ultimately becoming people in line with God’s will. Thinking back to the past, because I didn’t understand God’s will, I used to just superficially rein myself in and accept it every time I encountered people, events or things that weren’t in line with my notions, but my heart was full of rebelliousness and resistance. I would also grumble about why God would allow such a thing to befall me. But now I see how little of my corrupt disposition has changed; I’ve really let God’s hard work in setting up those environments for me go to waste. Thanks to God’s guidance and through Moses’ experiences, I’ve come to understand God’s will. I’ve also realized how wonderful God’s method of perfecting people through trials and refinements is, and it is a very practical manifestation of His love for us. I have now resolved that in my future difficulties and trials, I can no longer complain about God or be rebellious, but I must seek His will and submit to all of His orchestrations and arrangements. Then I will be able to grow in my life through God’s guidance!