“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, “The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war.” So he led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. And the Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation.” (Exodus 13:17-18, CSB)
Travel can be fun . . . or monotonous and boring. A friend and I recently took a quick road trip. Because we were on a tight schedule, we chose the shortest route to our destination rather than the longer but more scenic route. We traveled mile after mile of nothingness. Or so it seemed to me from the passenger side of the car. On the return trip, we weren’t as pressed for time and chose scenery over distance. So much better!
When the children of Israel left Egypt, God instructed them on the route they should take. It was not the shortest way, nor was it the most scenic. In fact, He led them into the wilderness. That route meant enduring a “great and terrible wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, a thirsty land where there was no water” (Deuteronomy 8:15, CSB). Why would God deliberately send them into such a harsh environment?
God’s reason? For their own good.
The more direct route would have taken the Israelites through the land of the Philistines, which would mean war. They had already faced so much just to escape Egypt’s slavery. They were neither emotionally nor physically ready to do battle. God knew they would become disheartened and want to turn back to Egypt. While they did not understand at the time, and may never have fully understood, the path God chose for them was best.
The forty years the children of Israel spent in the wilderness were not easy. They were not happy travelers. They grumbled and complained about their circumstance while often overlooking the miracles God performed on their behalf each day. He was in the wilderness with them.
“And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet. You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or similar drink, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 29:5-6, NKJV)
At some point in life, most of us will go through a wilderness experience. We may not face snakes and scorpions, but we will find it to be a dry and desolate place. We may struggle spiritually and question God about why He would allow us to face such a harsh situation. He may not answer our questions immediately, or He may never fully explain why we went through what we did. We may never know the battle we missed because He sent us in a new direction. The hardships we face in the wilderness may be much less severe than the unknown battles we never had to fight.
In the wilderness, God reveals Himself to us in greater ways than we have ever known before. We will discover miracles in the desert and realize God is there for us all the time. Don’t complain about your wilderness experience. Allow it to become a place of revelation and learning. God will guide you all the way.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” (Psalm 32:8, NKJV)