When Pharaoh released the people, God did not lead them by the way to the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for God said, “Lest the people change their minds and return to Egypt when they experience war.”
Exodus 14:12, 17, 31
12 Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians, because it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'”
17 And as for me, I am going to harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will come after them, that I may be honored because of Pharaoh and his army and his chariots and his horsemen.
31 When Israel saw the great power that the LORD had exercised over the Egyptians, they feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.”
God’s mighty deliverance would not have been the same story at all had God led the Israelites to cross over the land of the Philistines. To show that it was the hand of God, it had to be miraculous. In a man-centered perspective, it made more sense to cross land than a sea. No boats were readily available. It was convenient. Perhaps more comfortable than 40 years in the desert, even though it would have been traveling through enemy territory.
God does not often choose what is convenient, and comfort is not his benchmark for decision making like it is often ours. He is guided by His perfect wisdom and pursues our deliverance, His glory and to win our hearts. We often desire a problem-free life and our own glory as our goal.
When it seemed that God’s plan was not as pleasant as they envisioned, The Israelites complained and fell back on what they had thought was the better decision – to remain in slavery. Really? How would that have been better? Absence of strife? Hardly. Familiar territory and suffering? Yes. We, too, can tend to settle for what we know – at least we are not surprised and seem to be in control. But what we miss by staying in our comfort zone instead of following God against our reason is critical and possibly devastating.
Autopilot is not really more attractive than continually seeking direction from God, despite challenges that arise. Troubles will occur either direction we go, but knowing we are pursuing God’s will gives us confidence in His divine protection in the journey.
In all the decisions I face, I am taken aback to consider they are not mine, really at all. Sure, God gave me free will, and I can make a mess of things down here, but His sovereignty will always override man’s will. He works all things together for good and takes disasters and successes and weaves them all together for His magnificent glory. When I cannot understand what God is doing is when I need to look at His track record.
His every decision is good. Good as in righteous. It is complex for our finite understanding to see why God would incite Pharaoh to chase the very people God was rescuing, but God was demonstrating His awesome Holiness, power and deliverance to His people’s enemies, too.
When we do not know which way to go, we can learn from those who have gone before us and rest assured that He has thought through all of His decisions and will not leave us without direction. Sometimes we have to be still and wait on Him, but often if we have His glory as our benchmark, His will and direction will become clear.
Lord, lead us. Help us to rise above our flesh and to seek Your glory in all we do. Nothing is in vain and we do not want to waste a moment spent on poor decisions.