the wild boring desert

I was ready to move on, ready to go into chapter 3 of Exodus and the amazing interaction between God and Moses. I was looking ahead at the burning bush and all my questions surrounding it. I almost missed this at the end of chapter two. And I was tempted to just move on anyway. Like I said, I wanted to get to the burning bush. But what’s happening here seems so important on many of levels. We should stop and consider it.


Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become an alien in a foreign land.”  Exodus 2:21-22


Here we see Moses getting married to one of the sheep herder’s daughters whom he rescued upon arriving in Midian. He then has a son. So Moses is no longer running but now settling down in his exile. He is no longer fleeing but just living, albeit in a place not his own. And in naming his son he exposes the raw feelings that come with this fact. He names his son Gershom which sounds like or refers to his statement, “I have become an alien in a foreign land.”


Moses is out of place and he knows it. He feels it. The full weight, the full price of his secret actions and subsequent hiding of those actions is starting to be felt. He is away from home, away from his family, away from his culture, away from everything he knew. He is alone. Or so he thinks.


I’ve been there. More times than I wish were true. Feeling out of place. Looking around and just wondering, “How did I get here?!” Wishing I could go back in time and undo the decisions that got me where I am. Sometimes regret is the deepest sorrow.


Moses is about to spend forty years of his life in this alien state. Forty years lost in the desert. Sounds like a familiar theme for him doesn’t it? Forty years lost in the wilderness so that he can then lead the Israelites through their forty years in the wilderness. And that’s just it. Moses feels like an alien in a foreign land and in some sense he needs to feel that. That’s what those he’s coming to rescue are living in, that’s what they are feeling.


Sometimes I’ve wondered why the book of Exodus tells us nothing more of these forty years in the desert wilderness of Midian. It just breezes over it. We get this glimpse and then the next chapter is him being called out. Why don’t we get any other details?


Probably because there weren’t any. There is nothing to tell. It was forty years, sitting, waiting, living. Forty years in the wilderness feeling what those he would come to rescue were feeling, forty years that were the result of his decision to act in secret, hide his actions, and then run away. Forty years to regret his actions and repent and become. Forty years of shaping. It isn’t that nothing actually happened, but that nothing happened to tell us about. It was an internal journey for Moses. What’s important for us to see is who he was going in: the alien in a foreign land, and who is coming out: the reluctant rescuer.


Moses spends forty years waiting and preparing to do what God had called him to do from birth. Forty years after growing up into a man. For God the journey is far more valuable than the destination. Getting Moses ready is worth as much time as what he is being made ready for.


And this is what I’m struck with today. This is what I’m hesitant to receive. I don’t want this truth, but it wants me. God wants me to have it. I would rather let it fall, let it drop to the ground and go searching for something different. But this is to be mine today.


I tend to want to look to the next thing, to get ready, to move forward. I tend to focus on where God would be calling me and what he would be calling me to. Sometimes God has us in the wilderness and we assume that we can and maybe should pray ourselves out of it. But sometimes that’s right where God wants us.


There are times when God wants us in the wild and boring desert. And yes, he knows it’s taking a long time. But to him it’s worth it. To him it’s all part of the path he has us on.



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