Deuteronomy 8:2-6 (NKJV) And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. 5 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you. 6 Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.
Israel spent forty seemingly pointless years in the wilderness wandering from one mountain to another. Although God was very displeased with the unfaithfulness that triggered the long journey, those forty years were essential to developing their national character. According to Ekev, God had three main objectives in sending his people down the scenic route to Canaan.
- Self-discovery. Repeated tests, both failed and passed, demonstrated to Israel exactly who they were and how they were completely inadequate to their task without God.
- Honeymoon. Forty years in barren landscape with God himself there in the middle of the camp was a perfect opportunity to explore Israel’s relationship with her God.
- Education. From the first Passover in Egypt to the respecting of the borders of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, Israel learned what it means to love God and keep his commandments.
We all go through wilderness experiences, most of us repeatedly. The Wilderness is always unpleasant, but if we love God and trust him with our whole beings, we will be stronger and more mature when we cross the Jordan on the other side.