Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 13:17-18)
Why is it that God led the people by way of the wilderness instead of through the land of the Philistines? Why was this long route so significant? What was God up to? There are so many questions that come to mind as I read this passage over and over. But there is one answer that I keep getting: THEY WERE NOT READY FOR WHERE GOD WAS TAKING THEM!
Can you imagine spending most of your life being incarcerated and upon your release you are overwhelmed with what’s outside of those prison walls? It’s as if you are about to begin a NEW life and journey. Then there comes the frustrations of not being able to provide for yourself and you are now faced with so many difficulties and challenges. It makes you wish you were back in that place that you were released from because back there you were taken care of and you had a place to rest your head and food to eat even though there was hard labor. But God doesn’t desire for us to live with that mentality. He lets us know that He has great things planned for us and sometimes the shortest route isn’t the most significant. There has to be some stretching! Faith in Him has to be developed.
Let’s take a look at the children of Israel.
In order for the Israelites to make it to the Promised Land, they had to endure the long route through the wilderness. It was vital. From Scripture we know that many didn’t make it and died off without ever receiving the promise. God wanted them to embrace the journey so that they could learn to depend on Him and get to that place flowing with milk and honey. After all, HE did provide miracle after miracle. These are the same people who witnessed Him send plagues upon the land of Egypt. God even parted the Red Sea for them, gave them manna and quail from heaven and water from a rock. Yet, they still complained and raised their fists at Him. Well what was God trying to get through to these people?
He was trying to let them know that:
1. They were not traveling alone. Exodus 13:21-22 says, “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.
2. The wilderness experience is vital. The wilderness is a place of preparation and I believe they weren’t ready to approach the Philistines territory.
3. There was an appointed time for their arrival. Oh the joys of waiting! Forty years was their appointed time but in the process we know that many people didn’t survive to see the land of Canaan. If only they would have remembered the promise.
God has great things in store for us but oftentimes, we don’t want to be “prepared” for it. Sometimes we think we know better than God and may end up trying to make our own promises come to pass. I am so guilty! God wants what’s best for us and I’m sure He doesn’t want to give us something prematurely. He wants us to be prepared to receive what He has for us. The wait time is vital. The LONG ROUTE sometimes is vital. In those times, we need to cling to God and glean from Him. We should really see what He’s doing in the midst. Even in our moments of fear and doubt, He is still there, providing our every need. He’s just so good to us, yet we doubt Him. We murmur and complain. We raise our fist at Him and we question His authority and sovereignty because our lives aren’t going the way we want. But we have to learn to trust God, knowing that His plan for our lives is perfect. If we aren’t prepared for what He has in store, we’d be tempted to turn around when something comes our way. Take your time in God’s oven. Take advantage of every single moment of every season. Let Him place you in the oven so that you’ll be well done for what He has for you!
Remember: God is with you. He will withhold no good thing from you, and He makes everything perfect in its time. Embrace the long route. God will be glorified when you receive and possess all that He has in store for you.
One last thing, take this Scripture to heart: And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.” (Exodus 14:15).