When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
Why? Why God? How many times have I cried out to God, “Why?!” Why did You let this happen to me? Why did You send me here? Why do I face such hardship when I pray for Your will every day? Why is what I see with my eyes not aligning with what I know with my heart? Why?!
Yet as I worked through Exodus several weeks ago, God reminded me over and over again, it is not about the why; it is about the who. Who is my God? In whom do I put my trust? In whom do I put my hope? In whom do I take refuge?
Day after day God faithfully reminds me of the words of David:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11)
As long as I keep my eyes on the Who, I do not need to understand the why.
Think about puzzles for a moment. What links each piece with the one next to it? The variety of rounded edges protruding from each piece, right? If every piece of the puzzle were smooth, the puzzle would be impossible to put together and impossible to keep together. With puzzles, it is indeed the imperfect and often awkward shape of each piece which enables the puzzle to come together and remain together, thus creating a beautiful, lasting image. So too the seemingly awkward wilderness pieces of our lives are all working together for good; each piece has a place in the creation of God’s masterpiece. What may appear as useless wandering may be the very center of God’s plan. He knows the where and why of every “piece” of our lives, even if we don’t.
As far as Moses and the Israelites, it was after 10 plagues, plagues aimed at revealing God’s sovereignty to Pharaoh and the Egyptians (and the Israelites!), God led the Israelites out of Egypt. Yet as we read above, the apparent dream come true quickly appeared to have become a nightmare. For God did not guide the Israelites by way of the land of the Philistines; He guided them by way of the wilderness.
Did you catch that? The wilderness.
Why? Did He want to see them suffer? No. Did He not love them? No, He loved them; He loved them very much. In fact, it was actually because He loved them He sent them into the wilderness. Why? He knew their hearts. He knew at the first sign of affliction they’d return to slavery. Oh how many of us would dare to admit there have been moments in our lives we wanted to or actually chose the “ease” of slavery over the pain of freedom’s journey. For the Israelites, although the land of the Philistines (and the battle that would surely come with it) was nearer, the pathway to freedom was through the wilderness. God knew the Israelites would not go into battle on their own, yet He also knew a battle–a battle He knew He would be the One to fight–was necessary to achieve true freedom.
Yes, God knew an important truth: true victory comes not through peace, but through war. God also knew that the battle did not belong to the Israelites, but to Him.
Before God could fight the battle for the Israelites, however, God had to first divinely position them. So He strategically placed them between the sea and the soldiers. Could you imagine being the Israelites? You flee Egypt only to be then stuck between the sea and the Egyptian army. As you’ll read if you delve into the whole account in Exodus, the Israelites were not thrilled about the situation. They actually complained about it. What they soon realized, however, was that with God fighting the battle, the wall looming before them became the wall of protection around them.
The way of the wilderness was indeed the pathway to freedom.
And so I encourage you today. Do you feel as though you are in the wilderness? Do you not understand why your are walking the path you are on? Have you reached the edge of the water with the enemy closing in behind you? Instead of wondering how and why you got to where you are, and instead of lamenting the awkwardness of the pieces in your life, surrender to the One who not only knows where you are but also knows where you’re going. God knows how it all fits, and God will never–never–leave you nor forsake you. It may just be that the very wall before you is indeed not a wall at all, but rather the pathway to victory. The pathway to freedom.
…Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
2 When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.