"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."
God planned to turn the Israelites into a fearsome fighting force, but they weren’t ready yet. In their minds and hearts, they still had the mentality of slaves. They valued peace more than freedom and cowered in fear at the sight of Pharoah and his army. Their whole lives had been spent doing what their Egyptian masters demanded in order to avoid the pain that would be inflicted on them if they didn’t.
So even though there was a much shorter route, from Egypt directly through the Gaza Strip area into the promised land, God had them match the other way, where they would have to cross the Red Sea and the Sinai desert.
That way they were protected from the inevitable confrontation with the fierce Philistines, for which they were not prepared. They were also forced to depend on God for a miracle - which of course He provided, parting the Red Sea. All they had to learn was first of all, to carry their weapons and second, to trust God.
God often leads us by unexpected routes in order to protect us from temptations and other dangers that we aren’t ready to face, and to teach us what we need to know next for our spiritual growth, one step at a time.
Lord, guide me, as only You in Your wisdom can do. I trust You, step by step. Keep me close today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Dan Giles