When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them on the road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” — Exodus 13:17
While it is true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it is not always true that a straight line leads to the best route. God’s chosen destination for His liberated people was the Promised Land, and “the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land” was right up the coast of the Mediterranean from Egypt (Exodus 13:17). But there was one problem with that route—it went straight through Philistine territory, and there was no way that the Philistines would allow the huge crowd of Israelites to pass through their territory unchallenged. Of course, all things are possible for God, but not all things were possible for the Israelites!
In God’s opinion, the Israelites were not ready for a fight. So rather than send them on the shortest—and toughest—route, He ordered them on a divine detour. He knew them well enough to know that, glad as they were to escape Egypt and its travails, they would probably have turned tail and headed back to slavery rather than fight for their lives. They would have avoided the short-term problem, which not only would have led to bigger problems but would also have robbed them of a divine destiny.
The Israelites probably did not appreciate this at the time. As they began to experience the rigors of wilderness existence, they let it be known that they were less than enthusiastic about their new environment and adventures. What they were led into was far from pleasant. No doubt they were put off by the difficulties and the delays of their route. But perhaps they forgot that what they were saved from was immeasurably worse—and that what they were going toward was immeasurably better!
Detours, disappointments, and delays are rarely pleasant. But if they are truly from God, they are prompted by insights hidden from human view and predicated on divine plans not always understood by man at the time. A man may see his immediate objective and go for it with energy and enthusiasm, only to be stymied and frustrated. What he may not see is the danger that lurks on the way, the disasters that lurk in his path from which he can be delivered only by delay and detour.
For further study: Exodus 13:17-14:4
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.