As the Exodus emigration from Egypt commences, Christendom takes notice that God does not take shortcuts. God could have led Israel to the Promised Land by way of Philistine country; a ten-day journey perhaps, but as we will see He opts for a longer route; a course which will integrate seven different campsites and will take about one year to complete.
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
Protracted for Your Protection
Why this longer route…because God knows his people. The Bible passage (above) exposes that Israel, in their fledgling condition, would have likely turned and ran when faced with such a formidable opponent in the Philistines. Six hundred thousand men do not go from slaves to warriors in a week’s time. However the real issue for Israel was not (solely) their combat-readiness, but rather the excess baggage they carried out of Egypt. God’s intended journey would relieve them of this burden.
Israel had spent approximately four hundred and thirty years in Egypt and during that time absorbed many of their irreverent customs—a familiar reality common to any believer forced to live in the world (Egypt being a picture of the world). The journey God had orchestrated for His people would serve to root-out these behaviors and thus prepare a nation for its new home. Reading the biblical accounts we might say that it was easy for God to get Israel out of Egypt, but a larger undertaking to get Egypt out of Israel.
Our Present Journey
God intended Israel’s journey to take about a year, but we know it took closer to forty years—Israel was (and still is) a tough nut to crack. Israel’s journey was recorded in God’s Word for a variety or reasons, all of which bring honor, glory, and praise to Him, but one particular reason is so that the body of Christ, His church might learn from the mistakes others have made. We might reflect upon the missions we presently find ourselves and ask, ‘Are we progressing along according to God’s plan and timing or our own?’ As we struggle with our answers, it helps us immensely to remember that at this present moment, Jesus is preparing a place for us…
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:3
But that actuality is only half the equation, for simultaneously Jesus is preparing us for the place!
And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built. 1 Kings 6:7
We are His temple and we are being formed and refined on earth; in the quarry that is the world. Just as God prepared Israel in the wilderness, so He prepares us. However, once we cross over into His heavenly realm, no longer will the pain and suffering associated with preparation be experienced. That should give every believer great comfort, that as sojourners and pilgrims in a perverse land, this purging trek we all find ourselves on is fleeting. With that knowledge let us enjoy the trip.