Moses found he could not transform the children of Israel, whom he led out of slavery in Egypt, into a free and united people in a few months. Their disobedience to God's commands caused them to wander forty years in the wilderness until only Joshua and Caleb were left of the original adults and the tribes were prepared for the battles with the enemies that stood between them and their possession of the Promised Land. The trials of these forty years strengthened the people's faith in God.
Whenever one comes out of any bondage, even as the Israelites came out of Egypt, there is often a time in which he seems to go into the wilderness to prepare for the next step in his journey. There is great value in such an experience. The wilderness is commonly thought of as a desert or waste place. But in Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy gives a definition of "wilderness," the second part of which reads, "Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence."Science and Health, p. 597;
Throughout the Bible one finds leading figures having a wilderness experience that preceded a time of great growth. The length of time varied, but all came forth from the experience ready to fulfill their God-appointed mission. Moses himself had a wilderness experience when he fled Egypt after killing the Egyptian overseer. He spent forty years in Midian, where he tended the sheep of Jethro, his father-inlaw. It is obvious that when he first left the Pharaoh's palace he was not yet ready to lead the Israelites, nor were they ready to follow him. But during these years Moses must have learned the lessons necessary to become a good leader, for he was able later to guide the Israelites through the perilous times of the Exodus.