DayBreaks for 8/15/17: It Takes a While
From the DayBreaks archive, August 2007:
God certainly has different ways than we do. We all like to do things in the easiest, most simple way possible. We aren’t given to wanting to work harder or longer than we absolutely have to. And so, we take shortcuts and labor hard to find the quickest way to get somewhere.
When we go on vacation and have a specific destination in mind, I tend to be pedal to the metal until we get there. I’ll look at the map and find the shortest and most direct route to get where we’re going. In fact, I not only look at the mileage, but the amount of time each route will take. I really want to get there! I’m often not much for appreciating the journey itself. Just this past summer (2006), my wife and I drove to Iowa for a family reunion. No dilly-dallying around. We high-tailed it as fast as we could. We didn’t have a lot of time, nor a lot of money, to lolly-gag on our way. “Interstate 80, here we come” – all the way from California to Iowa.
God, it is clear, has other ways of “traveling”. Take Israel, for instance, as they came out of Egypt. The most direct route would have taken Israel northeast along a path that curved around the southeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea. The distance would have been a mere 200 miles or so. Even with a group as large as the nation of Israel, such a trek could have been managed in 2-3 weeks at most.
But God had a “better idea.” I can’t imagine how Israel felt on the first morning when the pillar of cloud headed not to the northeast, but to the southeast. The Bible even tells us why this happened. It wasn’t because God had a bad sense of direction. It was because God knew that along the route would be strong armies that Israel would have to fight. And God knew that if they encountered such difficulty, things could be really bad. Here’s what the Word says: (Exodus 13:17-18 (NIV) – When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.
You see, it wasn’t that Israel didn’t have weapons to do battle – it explicitly says they left Egypt “armed for battle.” So the problem wasn’t armaments, it was a heart problem. For 400 years, Israel had been slaves. They thought of themselves as slaves – a subordinate, powerless, third rate people with a God that had been on vacation for 4 centuries. Sure, some of them remembered the stories of how God had dealt with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, but they had not had personal experience of God at work. At least, not that they could see.
So, the point is that Israel didn’t know God and had no reason (as far as they were concerned) to trust Him if they encountered an enemy. They needed to learn to follow and believe in Him and His goodness. And that takes time. As someone once said, “It took one night to get Israel out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel.”
I sometimes get frustrated with the rate at which I make spiritual progress. I know others who feel the same way. I hear it often: “I feel I should be a better Christian by now,” or “I feel like I should not still be struggling with this issue.” I hear it all the time. But the point is that God is as patient with us as He was with Israel, and that He will choose the route to the Promised Land that ensures us that when we get there, we’ll have learned to trust Him.
It takes a long time to get Egypt (earth) out of our focus and onto God as all that we need. How are you doing?
PRAYER: Father, thank you for choosing the right pathway for each one of our lives as we traverse this world. Thank you for leading us out of slavery, through the desert, and into a place of learning and trusting in you. Help us to learn our lessons well, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple. ><}}}”>