But you have followed what I teach, the way I live, my goal, faith, patience, and love. You know I never give up. [2 Timothy 3:10 (NCV)]
On Moses’ sixth ascent up Mr. Sinai, the Lord told him to bring Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders part way up the mountain with him. All of the men saw the God of Israel and ate a covenant meal in His presence. After Moses was told to come further up Sinai to receive the stone tablets, he entrusted the Israelites to Aaron and the other men who then went down to their camp.
Easily missed when reading Exodus 24 is that Moses’ assistant, Joshua, continued up the mountain with him. The two climbed a little further and made camp where they stayed for the next six days while a cloud covered the mountain. On the seventh day, God called to Moses from within the cloud and the Israelites’ leader disappeared into the mist. He wasn’t seen again for forty days. During that time, God gave Moses various instructions and commands for the Israelites. When God told him of their sacrilege and wickedness with the golden calf, Moses went back down the mountain where he met Joshua.
Although Joshua served as a sort of personal assistant or servant to Moses, there is no mention of him during those forty days. We know he couldn’t have returned to the Israelites’ camp or been with Moses; in either case, he would have known that the clamor from the encampment was that of pagan revelry and not warfare. It appears that Joshua stayed on the mountainside alone and patiently waited for Moses’ return. If I’d seen someone vanish into the mist, I’m not sure I would have lasted even four days but Joshua lasted forty. As the days wore on, did Joshua worry that Moses may have been eaten by lions or consumed by what appeared to be fire? Did he wonder how long he should wait before giving up? Waiting alone in the wilderness, did he fear for his own safety? Think of the patience and faith it took for the young man to remain there for Moses’ return.
The rest of the Israelites, however, lost both faith and patience. They all had seen the glory of the Lord like a consuming fire on Mt. Sinai’s summit and seventy-three of them had gazed on God and eaten with Him! In spite of the miracles they’d experienced, they lost faith and grew impatient. Fearing Moses wouldn’t return and wanting to set their own time frame for events, they fashioned another god to lead them.
We think of Joshua as a scout, military strategist, leader, statesman, and a man of great faith but do we ever think of him as a man of patience? Yet, the same man who waited forty days alone in the wilderness had to wait an extra forty years before setting foot in Canaan! His faith and patience, however, were rewarded when he arrived in the Promised Land.
Faith and patience go hand in hand. If we have patience, we won’t lose faith in God’s plan as did the Israelites. If we have faith, we can be patient, even when things take longer than expected, as they did for Joshua.