09 Nov By Way of the Red Sea..
“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..”
So, Moses has finally taken up his Mission, and requested a recalcitrant Pharaoh to let the people go.
And after some hard-hearted resistance (followed swiftly by a number of God-ordered plagues), Pharaoh has experienced the power of God first-hand, and commanded the Israelites to leave Egypt, post-haste.
The Israelites are ecstatic, I imagine.
But then, something interesting happens.
Rather than lead the Israelites directly to Canaan through Philistine country, the Lord chooses to lead them “by way of the wilderness of Red Sea”.
And it is at least two years before the children of Israel reach a suitable entry point into “the land of milk and honey.”
We know what happens here, at the place called Kadesh Barnea;
Moses sends twelve men to spy out the land; ten come back with a distressing report; the Israelites choose to believe it, murmur loudly and complain.
And the Lord swiftly sentences the lot to a total of forty years’ of wandering in the desert.
That’s a long, long, time wandering anywhere, I think..
I’ve been reading the book of Exodus these last few days, and as always have truly enjoyed my sojourn with Moses and the Israelites.
But at this point, I have a question on my mind;
And it is this:
Why didn’t the Lord allow the Israelites to march straight from Pharaoh’s court into Canaan, via the very short route through the land of the Philistines?
It would only have taken a total of eleven days, I hear.
Indeed, centuries earlier, Joseph and his brothers had made the same journey in just four days, carrying with them the remains of their father Jacob, to bury in the land of Canaan.
And now, the Lord could easily have led the Israelites thusly, thereby transforming them from miserable, downtrodden slaves, to grand masters of their own destiny in just 11 days.
But Scripture carefully explains the reason for this detour:
“..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.”
The Philistines had inhabited this land for several years, I learn.
Hundreds of years in fact.
And it was clear that they would not welcome a horde of travelers traipsing through their land.
603,550 travelers to be exact, not including women and children.
War was almost certain.
And the Israelites, most assuredly, were not ready.
They had been slaves in a foreign land for the better part of four centuries.
They barely knew where they were going.
Quite possibly they barely knew each other, having toiled day in, day out, for their cruel slave-masters throughout their troubled lives.
Most importantly, perhaps, they were not yet familiar with their Deliverer, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and had not yet learnt to trust and love Him for themselves.
So the Lord led them by way of the Red Sea, a route that took two long years, rather than 11 short days..
Sound familiar, dear reader?
Ever been on a God-ordained journey, and wondered why it was taking so very long?
The point of the story, I believe, is this;
That whenever we embark on an endeavour, one that the Lord Himself has ordained, we would do very well to let Him choose a suitable route on our behalf.
Because many times, war is certain.
And many, many times we are, most assuredly, not ready.
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
(Map courtesy of http://www.bible-history.com)