Exodus 13:17-19a: When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, "Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt." But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
I have an old school GPS that I still like to use. It's a TomTom and I love it. Unfortunately, I haven't hooked it up to my computer to update for many years, so sometimes I run into troubling issues like closed roads or construction zones that I wasn't aware of. This causes my journey to become much longer than expected.
I really, really don't like when things take longer than I expect them too. The long way around is so frustrating.
When God led His newly freed people through the wilderness and away from the land of the Philistines, (even though that way was near) He had a specific plan in mind and purposefully led them a longer way. We know what happens when Moses and the people reach the Red Sea, but do we ever think about how it didn't make much sense to go that way? Why would God lead His people through the wilderness on purpose?
God was clearly protecting them from battles that they weren't prepared for. Going through the land of the Philistines would have allowed them to encounter foes that were far too strong for the Israelites who had spent their entire lives as slaves. God protected them from a dangerous situation by purposely leading them through the wilderness.
Enduring the hard, long way created a scenario in which God was able to reveal His miraculous care over them. Soon they will reach the Red Sea. A place that God specifically led them towards knowing that Pharoah and his army will perish there and His people will cross safely to the other side. The people cried out in fear when they saw the Egyptian army upon them. But Moses assured them that God was with them.
Exodus 14:13: And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."
God has plans. Good ones. Sometimes incomprehensible ones. But always good.
It's scary to feel like you're out in the wilderness all alone and perhaps for no discernible reason. To realize that God has taken you someplace that makes no sense without an end in sight. It doesn't seem reasonable to see all of our own, seemingly perfect paths and yet God leads us to a place that would be our very last choice. I never thought God would allow a divorce to send me down a path that seemed to end. I couldn't see anything ahead.
A path towards Him. Not to a place, but to a person.
Don't we depend on Him so much more in seasons of uncertainty? Don't we see His loving care and presence so clearly day by day when we don't exactly know where we're going? When God is BIG in our lives, circumstances become SMALL. When God is for us, who can be against us? When we are on His purposeful and known path nothing can stand in our way. The obstacles that he allows there grow us and change us. Molding us gently and progressively into the person He created us to be.
We can't afford to take any path but the one that leads to the Red Sea; to God's glory. When we volunteer to be molded and made into a new creation we have to trust that God knows where He's going. God has amazing plans to take us through the our Red Sea and beyond.
At the start of a new school year many of us feel overwhelmed. We feel tired and consumed by all that must be done. The wilderness of September is exhausting, but we know that the work we put in now will not be in vain. The time we spend building classroom routines, teaching expectations, and getting to know students seems like the long and hard way, but really it's the only way that we can see the most growth in our students and in ourselves.
Just as we shepherd our students and children, God shepherds and guides us as his beloved sheep. He nurtures and grows us in purposeful ways that don't always make sense in our finite minds. Sometimes He takes us the long way because it is best. Sometimes it's because we're not ready for what might be the other way. No matter what, we can trust that He knows what is to come. I don't want to miss God's miracle of the Red Sea in my life, do you?
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Photo: Price Edward Island, Canada by Heather Nast