(Recommended Reading: Exodus 13:17 – 14:31 – Quotes from New Living Translation)
The passages in Exodus 13 and 14 tell the story of the exodus of Israel from Egypt. We are told in Exodus 13:17a “…God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though it was the shortest route to the Promised Land…” and 13:18a “…God lead them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea…”
Why would God do this? They had been in captivity as slaves for so very long and finally were allowed to leave. I am sure they were anxious to get to that long promised land of milk and honey. Now God is going to lead them there by taking detours at every turn? Really? Why?
First, we are told in Exodus 13:17b “…God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” Although they had been enslaved and treated horribly, fear can drive people to stay in, or return to, what they know best – no matter how bad it is. So God did not want that to happen to the newly released Israelites.
Second, God already had a plan in mind. He was once again going to harden Pharoah’s heart so that he would gather his armies and pursue the Israelites. God was going to put all his miraculous power and glory on display in such a way that it could no longer be denied. Not by the Egyptians, not any other nations, not by the Israelites.
There have been times in my life when all was right with the world. Things were clicking along fine with my life – smooth roads were ahead, so it seemed. Then, out of the clear blue things got rough – there were “pot holes” and obstacles in my way that caused me to rethink my route. I realized I needed to change my plans – take a detour – in order to reach my end goals – that destination that had been in my sights. Instead of that detour smoothing things out, there were still issues to deal with – things that slowed me down and created stress. Unfortunately, life can be like that. But, if we could just relax and try to find the positives in our detours, we could arrive to our destination so much more relaxed and happy than we would if we only focused on the negatives, the difficulties.
Have you ever been on a road trip and suddenly come upon an unexpected detour? You are forced off your planned route (likely the shortest and/or route from point A to point B) you may encounter a lot of unpleasant things – maybe a smaller two-lane road with a much lower speed limit, maybe the new route has not been well maintained so there are pot holes and really rough patches, maybe traffic will be stacked up where it is just stop and go for miles. Impatience and irritability can set in. The previous joy of the trip can fade quickly.
However, when we detour off major roads onto the smaller highways and byways, we may observe some beautiful, unusual, inspiring things that we would never have seen, speeding down the Interstate at 70+ mph. Given the chance, detours can have a positive side we just need to be open to it.
I believe our life plans can be the same. If we could just slow down and be observant, we may very well be rewarded with lovely things we would otherwise miss, if not forced to take a detour. We may get to witness things our God has put out before us that would have been nothing more than a blur in our peripheral vision if we stuck to our planned route.
As the Israelites in the story may have done, how often do we miss the breath of God drying the mud beneath our feet? How often do we miss the walls of water on either side of us, held up by the hands of God? How often do we miss seeing the enemies that attempt to attack us destroyed by the power of our God? Maybe we need to slow our lives down, take those detours down the road less traveled and enjoy the wonderful world we live in.
Written by Karran Martin
May 21, 2019)