40 Years in the Wilderness?

I’m curious about the story in the Bible about the 40 long years of journey of the early Israelites. For forty years, they dwelt in foreign lands – moving from one place to another. When one comes to think of it, forty years is just too long a time to journey from Egypt to Canaan.

When I was younger, I truly believed that forty years is really what it takes to travel from Egypt to Canaan, but as I grew older and learned to discover things for myself, I found out that there could have been a shorter route to take. Hence, a shorter travel time.

One pauses to think why the Israelites had to go through such a long time wandering. Perhaps God allowed them that so He could test them – to see if they were truly deserving of the “good and blessed” life in Canaan?

I believe that the main purpose why God allowed the Israelites to wander for such a long time was for the sake of discipline – to humble them and to know their hearts and deep intentions (v.2)[1]. And once He found out about these things, some of them were blessed and rewarded; some were put to death; some were punished; and some lived longer years and were given a chance at life and a chance to see the Promised Land. This was God’s way of instructing “his children” (v.5)[2]. He wanted the people to see that it is because of Him that they became free (v. 18[3], and not because of their own mortal strengths.

I have learned
to just let these
“unfortunate events” come.
They arrive for a reason.
It is up to me to take them
as learning opportunities
or as life’s punishment.

In life sometimes, we go through a “series of unfortunate events” so that we may be instructed and so that we may learn. I always find myself in “unfortunate circumstances”. If I were my younger self, I would probably blame God for everything and blame others for the sake of putting the liability on somebody other than myself. I guess I have outgrown that nasty habit of placing the blame on others. Being older and with more experiences up my sleeves, I have learned to just let these “unfortunate events” come. They arrive for a reason. It is up to me to take them as learning opportunities or as life’s punishment. I believe that stress comes if I choose the latter. It is better, by far, to look at things in a more positive light than to meditate on the disappointing circumstances. Life is better and lighter with lighter things.

On a less serious angle, imagine if this is still God’s way of chastising his people. This may be a strange thought, but I get the feel of some wizard from the Harry Potter books, casting a memory spell on a large number of people – rendering them unaware and wandering in thought; Where in the world are we? I don’t seem to know where we are going… Do you remember where we are going?


[1] Deut. 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. (The Holy Bible – ESV)

[2] Deut. 8:5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. (The Holy Bible – ESV)

[3] Deut. 8:18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (The Holy Bible – ESV)

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