Recently Pastor Jason Haas (Ashley, ND) and I were both honored by the church he serves, marking 40 years of ordination for us to gospel ministry.
Forty years ago a different Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada. Other world leaders included Ronald Reagan (U.S.), Margaret Thatcher (U.K.) and Yuri Andropov (U.S.S.R.). The U.S.S.R. wasn’t even half-way in their 10-year occupation of Afghanistan. Cabbage Patch dolls were popular, but CDs and the internet would come later. Personal computers were becoming more common. Motorola introduced the mobile phone in 1983. A lot has happened in the world and in my life in those forty years.
In the Bible forty years is a generation, most often linked with Israel’s time in the wilderness, the judgment on the people for their failure to trust God and enter the promised land of Canaan.
The book we know as Deuteronomy comprises Moses’ final instructions to the now-adult children of Israel as they enter the land promised generations earlier to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The covenant is renewed and leadership is transferred to Joshua.
In chapter 8 Moses shares his commentary on the last 40 years, emphasizing not so much the judgment of God, but HIs preparation of His people during this time.
Moses says the 40 years was God’s way of humbling and testing them “to know what was in your heart.” (8:2) Have the people learned to “live on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (8:3)?
Do they know in their heart (8:5) that the LORD has been disciplining them as sons? Do they regard the daily manna and lack of the wearing out of their clothes and sandals as a sign of God’s provision, just as much as being delivered from Egypt through the Red Sea (8:4; 16)?
The LORD says, “I was with you in the scarcity and the difficulty of the desert as I will be with you in providing the abundance in the land you will now enter. I led you. I did not neglect you in your discipline. I was with you.”
I find Moses’ observation of God’s presence and warning the people of pride and presumption so appropriate for our day. Abundance can lead to forgetting our need, His provision and His instructions to us for our good. So much of the fear linked to contemporary debates makes me wonder if our real god is revealed in that fear (indicating a lifted-up heart, 8:14, 17). Jesus calls this god mammon.
My prayer is that the last forty years for the people I’ve served (including these last six years as a regional minister) have not been a wilderness wandering, but rather an opportunity to know God and His presence, as well as His provision in scarcity and abundance.
He leadeth me, O blessed thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me. He leadeth me, He leadeth me, by His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful follower I would be, for by His hand He leadeth me.
Northern Plains Regional Minister