Alone, Moses trudged aimlessly out of Egypt and into a vast wilderness wasteland. After forty years of training in Pharoah’s exclusive royal academy, “Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian” (Acts 7:29). The nation’s most wanted fugitive “fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian” (Exodus 2:15–25) where he spent the next forty interminable years “shepherding the flock of his father-in-law ... to the far side of the wilderness” (Exodus 3:1). Why did a Sovereign God allow one of the most highly trained men on the globe to waste four decades tending sheep? Why the wilderness?
Remember that Jesus “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Matthew 4:1 and Luke 4:1). In fact, “the Spirit drove him into the wilderness” (Mark 1:12). The Father’s plan for Jesus included a wilderness experience where He communed with His Father and battled a relentlessly evil enemy.
King David wasn’t born in the palace. He grew up in Bethlehem where he, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, tended the family’s “few sheep ... in the wilderness” (1 Samuel 17:28).
Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, was hated by his ten older brothers who conspired against him “and plotted to kill him”(Genesis 37:18). Though the others might have wanted to murder him quickly, Rueben convinced them to “throw him into this pit in the wilderness” (Genesis 37:22).
Jesus said, “among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared” (Matthew 11:11). This extraordinary man lived “in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel” (Luke 1:80).
The Apostle Paul, after being radically saved on the road to Damascus, went to Arabia where he may have dwelt for as many as three years (Galatians 1:17-18). Is this another example of a wilderness education?
So, I ask again: Why the wilderness?
Moses knew Egyptian literature. He got an “A” in arithmetic. He learned everything about Pharoah’s government. But at forty, Moses didn’t know much about wilderness survival techniques, information that would be necessary during the Exodus. Sometimes God directs us into the wilderness to prepare, teach, and equip, but I don’t think this was God’s primary reason for leading Moses into the wilderness.
During those forty years, we know little concerning Moses’s activities. We know he married and “became the father of two sons” (Acts 7:29). Owning nothing, Moses stayed busy watching over his father-in-law’s flock of woolies (Exodus 3:1). It was a humbling long fall from the splendor of Egypt’s finest to the poverty in Jethro’s servitude.
To paraphrase D. L. Moody, Moses spent his first forty years in Pharoah’s palace being told that he was really somebody! He spent his next forty years in the wilderness learning that he was a nobody. The wilderness prepared him for his last forty years when he discovered what the Almighty can miraculously accomplish with anybody.
In the wilderness, Moses learned whose he was... and who he was. Contemplate that the next time you find yourself in the wilderness.