Scripture: 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. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. Exodus 13:17-18 ESV
Observation: Concluding the interlude of instructions regarding observing the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the author (likely Moses) returns to the storyline of Israel’s exodus. We learn that God intentionally led them on a circuitous route to the Promised Land, knowing they were not ready to face war—even though well equipped for battle. Indeed, when God eventually led Israel to the doorstep of the Promised Land at the border of the Philistines’ territory (the shorter route), ten of the twelve scouts returned with foreboding reports, and the people clambered to appoint a new leader to take them back to Egypt (Numbers 14:4). Thus, knowing the hearts of his pain-avoidant people, Yahweh leads Israel to the Red Sea (above verses), where they will not escape war but see God defeat their Egyptian enemies.
Takeaway: Not only did Israel pillage livestock, clothing, and jewelry, but weapons of war. And even though they witnessed Yahweh inflict ten miraculous plagues on the Egyptians and overwhelm them with fear of him and his people, Israel’s faith in God’s provisions and protection remains suspect. As time will tell, they would rather subject themselves to slavery and moan about their circumstances than follow God’s lead to freedom through the war zone.
For most of us (my hand’s raised), like Israel, we’ll settle for second-best to avoid the pain of conflict. Resultantly, we miss out on God’s best for us and wander in the wildernesses of life. Still, God will not abandon us but utilize these times of straying to instill sufficient trust in him. So who are the Philistines that grip us with fear and cause us to hesitate? Our lists grow long because of the fear of failure, abandonment, rejection, and being unloved. But if we persevere in learning to rely on God’s provision and protection, that he has equipped us for battle, that his love will cast out our fears as we step out in faith, his best will soon await us.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for leading us to the Promised Land of your Son, and thank you for equipping us for battle with the aid of your Holy Spirit who suits us in your Son’s Gospel-tested armor of faith. So would you please help us rely on your provisions and protection and love that casts out our fears when you call us to enter into the fray of spiritual warfare? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling