“Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). We remember Moses as God’s chosen leader for the children of Israel to bring them out of Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness to the edge of the Promised Land. But what was Moses’ occupation? For forty years before appearing in front of Pharaoh, he shepherded flocks in the desert. Moses’ time shepherding flocks in the desert prepared him to lead God’s people, shepherding them through the wilderness where they faced harsh physical conditions and threats from enemies. In the harsh climate of the deserts of the Middle East, the shepherd cared for the flock making sure they found water, food, and shelter, as well as protecting them from potential threats. Moses’time as a shepherd prepared him for the role that God chose for him to deliver and lead Israel. In the same way, however, Moses’ time in the desert herding sheep and goats formed his character: “Now the man Moses was very humble.” How so? The climate of the desert is incredibly harsh. Temperatures can fluctuate as much as eighty degrees; the scorching heat of the sun can give way to the cold of the desert night. Water and food are not found in ready supply; the sheep and goats rely exclusively on the shepherd to find them sustenance. The desert presents the threat to a flock of enemies, both four-footed and two, that the shepherd must protect them from. These are the brutal conditions faced by the shepherd in the desert. His life and that of his flock faced imminent dangers within its wild expanse. The desert served as God’s classroom in the Bible. God takes people into the desert to teach them and build their character. One of the principal lessons that He imparts to them in the desert: humility. There are no “self-made individuals” in the desert. Lone rangers cannot exist there. You cannot overcome the harsh and threatening conditions by yourself. It humbles a person. Moses spent forty years in the desert, and he learned this lesson well. He understood the need for decisive action in leading the children of Israel, but he also recognized his need to take advice and rely on others. He was humble. He learned the lesson of the desert: one cannot survive alone. Community is essential. The lessons of the desert often fly in the face of the rugged individualism we honor in our Western culture. That individualism often spills over into our spirituality where we view things Asus and God. Such attitudes are absent within the spirituality of the Bible. God still leads us into the wilderness to teach us humility and the foolishness of self-reliance. He used Moses mightily for His purposes and glory because Moses learned humility. Do we allow Him to build the same character within us by leading us into the desert?
Father, in every place You lead, may I learn to rely upon You and others. May I never become arrogant or self-reliant in anything I do. May I always recognize my dependence upon You and those around me. Amen