God Leads the Way
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:17-22)
After spending 430 years in Egypt, the Israelites were finally going to the promised land. They had spent years praying for this day and waiting for the time when God would lead them to the land He had promised them. During their stay in Egypt, they had been treated harshly, but the Lord never left them. We can learn a lot about God from today’s reading and from the passage above. First of all, we learn about God’s timing. While 430 years seems like a long time to have to wait for God in human terms, in God’s terms these 430 years are like the blink of an eye. God’s timing, not ours, determines when He will act. He always chooses the exact perfect time to put His plans into motion. While we might sometimes be tempted to “jump the gun” and act impulsively, we must learn to wait for God’s perfect timing before we move forward.
The second thing we learn from the passage above is that God did not lead the people using the shortest possible route. He could have taken them on the road through the Philistine country, which was a shorter route to go, but He chose not to because God knew that if they faced opposition on that road they might return back to Egypt. Instead, He led them down the desert road toward the Red Sea. When God leads us, He may not always choose the path we would have normally taken ourselves. God knows the outcome of all future events, so His sense of direction may not always be the same as ours. When it seems like God is leading us down a much longer path than is available, we need to realize that God has chosen that path for a reason. We do not have the ability to know what obstacles God is helping us avoid by using His path, and we also do not know what we might find along His path that will be very useful to us. The Israelites did not know it yet, but going the route toward the Red Sea was going to be crucial to their journey out of Egypt. If they hadn’t taken that route, God would not have been able to use the Red Sea as He ultimately intended.
Finally, we learn that God was actively leading the Israelites, just as He can actively lead us. With the Israelites, God used pillars of cloud during the day and pillars of fire at night to show them which way to go. With us God uses His Scriptures and His Holy Spirit to guide us and direct us in life. The Israelites could have chosen not to follow God by ignoring the pillars of cloud and fire and simply going their own way, but they would have been foolish to do so. Likewise, we can each choose not to follow God by ignoring the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but we would also be foolish to do so. God uses His tools to lead us, and those tools will always be there for us and will never lead us. We simply have to remember to follow.
As a side note, I want to share with all of you a message I read the other day from a daily devotional called Our Daily Bread produced by RBC Ministries. Each day I receive an email from them with a new daily devotional, and I have come to really enjoy their writings. (You can sign up online for the daily email for free at http://odb.org/.) In their devotional for January 17 entitled Driving in the Dark, the author makes a great point that struck me when I read it and really seems to apply to today’s reading:
God usually doesn’t show us where He is taking us. He just asks us to trust Him. It’s like driving a car at night. Our headlights never shine all the way to our destination; they illuminate only about 160 feet ahead. But that doesn’t deter us from moving forward. We trust our headlights. All we really need is enough light to keep moving forward. God’s Word is like headlights in dark times. It is full of promises we need to keep us from driving our lives into the ditch of bitterness and despair.
Think about that today and decide to follow where He is leading. Even though you may not know the path He is going to take, and you may not know the ultimate destination, because we can trust God to only lead us in the best direction we can follow Him with complete confidence.
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May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today.