When you want to travel from Milton Keynes to Holyhead by the most direct route possible, you don’t plan to visit Snowdonia on the way. However, a friend of mine was using sat nav for the first time to guide him on that very journey and somehow he managed to end up visiting Snowdonia.
Sometimes God’s plans for us can feel a bit like a sat nav that is either on the blink or has been programmed to make sure that every journey is filled with interesting scenery.
Why is it that the road to fulfilled promises and answers to prayer often seems like a spiritual B road instead of a heavenly motorway?
The people of Israel had just that kind of experience when they left Egypt. They could have entered Canaan within a week or so, but God took them by another route. He took them through a desert and the Red Sea:
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.’ 18 So God led the people around by the desert road towards the Red Sea. Exodus 13.17-18
Powerful obstacles lay on the main road into the Promised Land. Experienced Philistine warriors were well equipped to successfully oppose the fledgling nation that had just left Egyptian servitude. It’s not that God couldn’t have defeated the Philistines. God could have fought for the Israelites, just as He had displayed His incredible power against the Egyptians. But in this case, God wanted to fight through the Israelites and He knew that at this stage they weren’t up to the kind of test of strength that the Philistines represented. God knew that there was the possibility that a vicious campaign against the Philistines might have been enough to persuade them that they were better off in Egypt.
Sometimes God doesn’t take us the most direct route simply because we are not ready for the kind of spiritual conflict that lies along that road.
The problem for most of us is that when we take a long look down what appears to be the most direct road to the fulfilment of what God has promised us, that road looks clear. And so you just have to trust Him that He knows best!
Of course the other side of the story is that when you are facing wildernesses and Red Seas, you can feel like you have taken a wrong turn and got lost. That isn’t necessarily true either. That might just be the way that God has taken you, a way that will enable Him to display His power and His provision on your behalf.
God led Israel by an unexpected alternative route. He’s leading you too.