Forty Years


Photo by Kent Pilcher on Unsplash

Last Wednesday we were with Moses as he recounted Israel’s failure of faith at the Jordan. The first generation of Israel has passed into eternity over the last 40 years. Their children are now adults. It is to the second generation of Israel that God through Moses writes Deuteronomy, the second giving of the Law. Let’s continue by reading together:

Deuteronomy 2:7 (KJV) For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing.

Why did God make His people wander in the wilderness for forty years?
Israel was a people in covenant with God and with one another.
They violated the clearly presented covenant.

The covenant was understood and freely accepted by the people at Mount Sinai. The people were consecrated (Exodus 19:10-15) and then Moses gave the conditions of the Covenant to the people.

Exodus 24:3-8 (KJV) … Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ALL THE WORDS WHICH THE LORD HATH SAID WILL WE DO.  [4]  And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.  [5]  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD.  [6]  And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  [7]  And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, ALL THAT THE LORD HATH SAID WILL WE DO, AND BE OBEDIENT.  [8]  And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

The people agreed to the Covenant “with one voice”. No paper ballot was set before them. They heard the covenant and saw the Blood of the covenant, and with one accord agreed. “All that the LORD hath said we WILL DO, and BE OBEDIENT”. These were a people under the Abrahamic Covenant. These were a people under a covenant with God to support one another, and to support the God Who loved them.

Forty” Reminds The People Of The Covenant

Why did God cause Israel to wander for “Forty years”? Why not destroy the first generation in 40 days? After all:

In Noah’s day God destroyed all but those on the Ark by water
in forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:12).

If God could destroy the world in just forty 24 hour days then He could have easily destroyed the first generation of Israel in that time.

In Jonah’s day God threatened to destroy Nineveh (the capital
of Assyria) if they did not repent in 40 days (Jonah 3:4).

If God could destroy a superior warrior nation in just 40 days, He could certainly have destroyed a nation of freed slaves in that amount of time.
Why give Israel 40 years?

The obvious answer is what we read as the words of God. When Israel refused to obey the Lord and enter the land of Promise the Lord told Moses to tell them:

Numbers 14:29-34 (KJV)  Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,  [30]  Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.  [31]  But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.  [32]  But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.  [33]  And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.  [34]  After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.

Instead of doing as God told them to do, they sent spies into the land. They languished, and procrastinated, and eventually – after 40 days – refused to obey God. To compound this they murmured against God, and against God’s people. They threatened Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, three who wished to follow the Lord and obey the covenant. God told them “each day for a year shall you bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.

God will not bless murmuring against Himself, or against one another. God’s people are in covenant with both God and with one another. Murmuring and anarchy are against the blood of the covenant.

Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV) … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  [38]  This is the first and great commandment.  [39]  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  [40]  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The Law and the blood of the covenant are summarized in this small statement from our Lord. The children of the covenant are to love the God Who saved them wholeheartedly, with all of our being. Murmuring and complaining has no place in this. We are also to love one another with a passionate love.

1 Timothy 4:10 (KJV)  For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, SPECIALLY OF THOSE THAT BELIEVE.

The blood of the covenant was shed for every person, especially for those who believe. Israel represented God our Savior to the world. In this present age, the Church represents God our Savior to the world. We do not murmur nor complain, but magnify our Lord for the world to see. Moses emphatically understood this, as did our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

God’s People Represent God To A Lost World

When Israel first violated the blood of the covenant God spoke to Moses. He told Moses:

Numbers 14:11-12 (KJV) … the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.

God could have raised up another nation of Israel from the rocks of the field, had He wanted to do so (see our Lord’s statement in Luke 19:40). When Abel was murdered by Cain his brother his blood cried out from the ground on which it was spilled (Genesis 4:10). The blood of the covenant cried out to be avenged. The innocent died to secure the covenant, and so God intended to destroy Israel. At least, He said so.

Yet Moses understood the glory of God, and loved God “with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind”. Moses prayed to the Lord:

Numbers 14:13-18 (KJV)  And Moses said unto the LORD, Then the Egyptians shall hear it, (for thou broughtest up this people in thy might from among them;)  [14]  And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night.  [15]  Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying,  [16]  Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.  [17]  And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying,  [18]  The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

Moses wanted God’s glory to go forth into all the world. He loved the Lord, and wanted the lost world to see the power of the Almighty revealed through His people.

God gave Israel forty years of real life learning.
Throughout that forty years God weeded out unbelief
while showing love to those under the blood of the covenant.

The Forty Years Was A Teaching Classroom For Israel

Faithlessness and the double mind will never receive the greatest blessing from God. There are many times when we have our doubts. I remember one time when a man came to Jesus and said My son is throwing himself in the fire. There seems to be a demon trying to destroy him, and there is nothing I can do. Lord, will You heal him?” Jesus told him:

Mark 9:23 (KJV) … If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

God will not bless unbelief. The one who wavers in their faith need not expect the greatest blessing from God (James 1:5-8). The Bible is very clear that “without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). To murmur against God and against one another is to betray the blood of the covenant, the blood by which you are bought.

This dear man – this father – told the Lord with tears in his eyes:

Mark 9:24 (KJV) … Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

He acknowledged the Lordship of God in Christ. He believed as best he could. But rather than murmur, he acknowledged his inability. And Christ blessed him for it. Had Israel went to God when they thought the crossing of the Jordan was too much for them – had they prayed “Lord, we believe … help Thou our unbelief” – then God would have strengthened their hearts. Our God loves us. Our God loved us so much that He shed His Blood on Calvary. The Blood of the Covenant was hard won. It cost God everything to save us. Trust in Him.

Israel had been saved from Egypt, but they had not learned to trust the Lord Who saved them. So the Lord gave them forty years to learn that God is faithful to His covenant. God can do everything that He chooses to do (Job 42:2).

While Israel wandered our loving God did not abandon them. For those forty years …

Deuteronomy 2:7 For the LORD thy God hath blessed
thee in ALL the works of thy hand ..

As they wandered through the wilderness they were daily reminded of two things. They were reminded that they had lost the blessing of the Promised Land because of their unbelief. But they were also reminded that God still loved them. God kept His part of the covenant. We read:

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (KJV)… remember all the way which THE LORD THY GOD LED THEE THESE FORTY YEARS in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. 3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. 5 Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.

Trials come to remind those under the blood of the covenant that God still leads us. He stayed with that wandering generation. He fed them and gave them water to drink. God protected them from the attacks of the enemy. God made their resources last. Their clothes and shoes did not wear out over their forty year journey (Deuteronomy 29:5). God kept the promise – the covenant that He made with Abraham:

Blessing I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing (Genesis 12:2).”

In blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy see as the stars of the Heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies (Genesis 22:17)”.

The Lesson Every Day For Forty Years Was…

Deuteronomy 2:7 (KJV) … He knoweth thy walking
through this great wilderness …

God watched every footstep that His people took. He was with them every step of the way. Praise God for His faithfulness.
Praise God for the blood of the covenant shed for us!

Psalms 31:7-8 (KJV) I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities; 8 And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.

He carried that first generation for forty years until they reached time to go home. As they died in the desert, they did not die alone. God loved them. God bore them up.

Isaiah 63:7-9 (KJV) I will mention the loving kindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his loving kindnesses. 8 For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

God loved His people, even in their punishments. He bore them on eagle’s wings. As Israel wandered they passed by lands that was not theirs to have. As you read through chapter two of Deuteronomy you see the Lord mention this several times. God commanded the people:

Deuteronomy 2:4-5 (KJV) …. Ye are to pass through the coast of your brethren the children of Esau, which dwell in {Mount} Seir; and they shall be afraid of you: take ye good heed unto yourselves therefore: 5 Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession.

Esau is a picture of the selfish and godless man,
yet God blessed him.

Esau was Jacob’s brother, the brother who sold his birthright for a bowl of lintel stew. God told Israel wandering “When you get to Mount Seir the descendants of Esau will be afraid of you. You will not take advantage of this. You can buy meat and water to eat and drink, but do not try and take their land. I gave this land to them – not to you.” Israel, you didn’t possess your land. You will not take another’s land. God went on to tell His people:

Deuteronomy 2:9 (KJV) … Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.

The Moabites were cousins to Israel. They were the children descended from one of Lot’s daughters – if you remember, Lot was the nephew of Abraham. God made the Moabites afraid of the Israelites, but they were not to touch their land. “You lost your promise, dear Israel. You may not take another’s!”

Israel wandered thirty-eight years until all the fighting warriors of Israel had died. Then God sent Israel – an Israel without warriors – into the lands of Ammon. The Lord said:

Deuteronomy 2:19 (KJV) … when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession; because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession.

The Ammonites were also cousins to the Israelites, descended from the second daughter of Lot. The Lord gave them the land they were in, and so Israel was not to take it. This then is an Israel without warriors, and without the command to go into battle. Then the Lord says:

Deuteronomy 2:24-25 (KJV) Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle. 25 This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.

At the end of the forty years of wandering – with no seasoned warriors able to fight – the Lord commands Israel to attack the Amorites. These were highland mountaineers who inhabited the bordering land of Canaan. These were all descendants of Canaan, and fierce warriors to boot. God wanted His Israel to trust Him, to rely on Him for the victory.

Psalms 62:5-8 (KJV) My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved. 7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. 8 Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

As C.H. Spurgeon said:

As long as we can feel the bottom of the river, we have not reached the best waters to swim in. When the barley loaves and the few small fishes are all broken, then the miracle of multiplying begins. My brethren, watch and wait for the Lord, and expect Him as confidently as you look for light at the hour of dawn. Far sooner may the sun forget his rising than the Lord forget His promise to succor His people in the hour of need.”

Israel, Trust in the Lord!
Church, Trust in the Lord!
Do what He has commanded, and let Him do the rest.

May God touch your hearts with His Word.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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