How did Moses endure for forty years? How come he didn’t quit? How did he stay motivated?
His assignment was to lead Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. This should have taken only a few weeks. Moses, however, was leading a people that had gotten used to slavery. They didn’t like the hardships of their lot in Egypt, but they didn’t like crossing the desert either. God had gotten them across the Red Sea, but they quickly forgot about His past faithfulness when a new problem arose. They rebelled against Moses’ leadership time and again. In the end it took them forty years to get to the Promised Land. An entire generation died in the wilderness.
When I read the account of Moses’ dealings with them, I am amazed at his perseverance. What an assignment!
I was thinking about this today because – like almost everyone who’s been enduring two months of COVID-19 self-isolation punctuated by a constant barrage of fear-laced news and commentary – I’m finding that it’s starting to get old. I’m missing my kids and grandkids. It’s like a physical ache. I’m missing being able to go out and do things with other people. Every day I make the choice to set my eyes on the Lord. I do my workouts, take time to pray, do my work, prepare and lead Bible studies, write blogs, go for my bike rides, and remind myself that this is temporary. But I’m still finding it long. I believe God has a purpose in this test – I’ve told many people that. But in my weakness, there’s a part of me that just wants this to be done. And it’s only been two months! Imagine forty years!
How did Moses do it?
I found an answer in the Letter to the Hebrews. This fascinating and faithbuilding letter was originally written to encourage and strengthen Jews who had accepted Jesus as their Messiah, and were tempted to quit in the face of stiff opposition. There, we find this compelling assessment of the source of Moses’ stamina.
By faith [Moses] left Egypt,
not being afraid of the anger of the king,
for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.
Two things stand out from this statement.
First, Moses endured because of his faith.
He believed that God exists, and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. In that belief, he found the courage to face down Pharaoh – not once, but multiple times. In that belief, he found courage to lead his people out of Egypt. In that belief, he persevered for forty years.
Second, Moses endured because he had seen God’s beauty.
His faith was not a raw, naked conviction forged out of strength of will alone. That was the kind of leader Moses had been as a young man, when in his rage he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. But forty years in the wilderness, tending sheep, had changed him. An encounter with God in a burning bush changed him even more. Moses saw the One who can be seen only when God unveils our eyes, and he was humbled. He endured as seeing the One who is invisible.
Moses was desperately hungry for the glory of God. He eagerly sought the presence of God, and used to go to meet with God in a tent outside the camp. When Moses came out of the tent, his face shone so brightly with the glory of God that he covered it. Because of human impurity and sin, the brightness of God’s presence could not be seen on a permanent basis.
I’ve known people whose faces shine when they worship God. I want to be like that. I want to have a shining face. When Jesus died, the curtain of the temple was torn and access to the Holy Place – the presence of God – was opened. The Apostle Paul declares that as we turn to Jesus, the veil is removed, and we are changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another. I want that.
Moses didn’t make it to the Promised Land. Some believe this means God had rejected him. He was disciplined, but he wasn’t rejected. On the Mountain of Transfiguration, Jesus met with Moses and Elijah in a foretaste of his resurrection glory. They spoke of the things to come, and their faces shone with heavenly light.
These are the realities that keep me going. These are the realities that keep me motivated to press on and endure as I journey across the wilderness of this age. I find that I have to daily remind myself of these things. It’s easy to get dragged down by circumstances that seem hard to us. It’s good to remind ourselves of where we are headed. We are headed for the glory of God. I am so thankful that even now, in the darkness of this age and in the adversities of this life, He allows us – and even invites us – to feed on a measure of His glory.
Will you press on with me?