Hiddenness: Part 4
Hidden in the Desert
The desert is an unforgiving place. Whether scorpions, snakes, or sojourners, all are on the hunt for the shady reprieve of the odd rock or tree. Every last drop of water is protected, appreciated, and conserved for survival. At nightfall moisture no longer remains to capture the warmth of the day. With no clouds to retain and no sun to replace, the deadly heat gives way to a cruel cold. This “waste howling wilderness” (Deut 32.10) is the extreme terrain in which Moses spent his ‘forty hidden years’.
Modern society would describe the direction of Moses life as ’downward mobility.’ Drastic changes took place at his social, economic, and cultural level. Formed by the highest education, yet pleased to lower his bucket into the deepest wells. Raised in a posh palace, yet “content to dwell” with Reuel in the desert. Expected to marry a fellow aristocrat of finest Egyptian female stock, yet he married a shepherdess. However, it was this ‘downward direction’ that led him to Horeb where he received his highest calling. Could he have heard this call if he had stayed in Egypt? Would he have become the leader of Israel if he had not been hidden these forty years?
By all physical appearances this was the worst context in which to spend his “prime” years. At great cost and effort those who seek to lead human institutions hide themselves in Oxford, Cambridge, and the like. As we saw in the first article, such schools are the best places to be in order to achieve ‘upward mobility,’ but what about our spiritual formation? CHM beautifully describes God’s chosen educational institution in this way, “the din and noise, the bustle and confusion of Egypt do not fall upon the ear in that distant place. The crash in the monetary and commercial world is not heard there; the sigh of ambition is not heaved there; this world’s fading laurels do not tempt there; … In a word, everything is set aside save the stillness and light of the divine presence. God’s voice alone is heard, his light enjoyed, His thoughts received. This is the place to which all must go to be educated for the ministry.” Worldly ingenuity cannot compare with divine wisdom. Set apart and surrounded by nothing but the howling winds and moving sands, the stage was set for spiritual growth. Like Israel beginning their exodus, enclosed by the sea, the mountains, the desert, and the mighty Egyptian army, their only recourse was to look to God for divine help.
In the desert God will teach thee
What the God that thou hast found—
Patient, gracious, powerful, holy;
All His grace shall there abound.
At Horeb, the mountain of God, we reach the peak of his wilderness training. It’s in these desert heights where we, as Moses, are prepared for greater service and perhaps even greater suffering. During his daily duties something caught his eye. As he rested from his labour he opened his ear and there the great I AM himself taught him about His presence, power and preservation (3.2), true piety - the reverence required by our Holy God (3.5), appropriate heart-posture (3.6), promised provision (3.7-11), His personal presence (3.12), Moses’ personal participation (3.13), the proportions of His name (3.14), their permanent relationship (3.15), His omnipotence (4.19), and His patience (4.10-17). Egypt was no setting for such a school-room.
Art thou weaned from Egypt’s pleasures?
God in secret shall thee keep;
There unfold His hidden treasures,
There His love’s exhaustless deep.
In the synoptic gospels we read Peter’s words regarding a similar, separated setting, ”it is good for us to be here.”
How often are you there?