Desert Time is Not Wasted Time

When you combine Exodus 2, Hebrews 11, and Acts 7, you get some more facts about one of the pivotal figures in biblical history – Moses. What you find is that Moses was raised in privilege as a prince of Egypt, but that he also had some knowledge about who his people were. He understood he was a Hebrew. And it’s reasonable to assume that he also had at least an inkling at least about what God’s plan was for him – that he was to be a great deliverer.

So in Exodus 2, you find Moses taking his destiny into his own hands. He was supposed to be the deliverer, so he decided to start delivering, and he killed an Egyptian slave-master. That act forced Moses into the wilderness, the desert of Midian to be more precise, and there he stayed for 40 years.

40 years.

That’s a long time. In our own context, 40 years ago humanity had little concept of the personal computer, much less the internet. The first cases of AIDS had just been reported. There was still a wall separating Germany into two parts and the world was wondering just how Luke Skywalker would deal with the revelation that Darth Vader was his father.

Moses was a shepherd, in the desert, for 40 years. He went from being the prince of Egypt and a revolutionary with a dream to a nobody. But here’s what’s encouraging to me about that. During those 40 years, I’m sure Moses had a lot of questions. He had a lot of doubts. He had a lot of humility thrust upon him. And while he may have felt like he was doing nothing with his life, God was busy. And I believe God was busy in at least 2 ways – one outside, and one inside.

In the outside, God was busy preparing Moses to know what life was like in the desert, which would come in pretty handy when he spent the NEXT 40 years of life wandering around there. The stuff he learned about finding water, sleeping arrangements, wildlife, plant life – you name it – would be invaluable. Moses had no clue he was learning all this, but he was.

On the inside, God was also busy. He was busy helping Moses become the sort of person would could walk into the court of the most powerful man in the known world and say “Let my people go.” He was preparing him to be the kind of person who could deal with the impatience and bellyaching of a newly liberated people. He was preparing him to be someone who knew what it was like to depend on the work of God and walk deeply with Him. And Moses didn’t even know it. He was becoming someone in the desert, and he thought he was just herding sheep.

The same thing is often true for us. We walk in and out of circumstances, make decisions and deal with the decisions of others, and learn how to live in plenty and in want. In the midst of it all, we don’t fully understand exactly what is happening to us, much less what we are learning and who we are becoming. And yet we are. We are because God is not a waster of circumstances. In fact, some of the most dry experiences of our lives – our own years in the desert – are also the most shaping.

God is busy. He’s busy in the palace, and He’s busy in the desert. Perhaps there is a lesson there for us. Namely, that in our desert moments, we should pause for a moment and consider that perhaps there is yet still value in the desert. Though it might look like we are going nowhere and doing nothing, God is still busy in and through us and in and through the world. Perhaps with a little reflection, then, we might strive less to escape the desert and instead focus our eyes on the God who never stops His work.

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