“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.-Exodus 13:17
After God miraculously delivered His people from Egypt through wonders they had never seen before, they found themselves in a desert. It must have been a roller coaster of emotions. They started off with the exhaustion of slavery and then the anxiety of waiting on God’s plagues to run their course and then the show-stopping wonder of a sea parted before their eyes. This was the grand finale of God’s deliverance plan. But what came after that? The desert. If that’s not an anti-climactic ending, I don’t know what is.
God took His people on a scenic route because they weren’t yet ready for opposition. They were finally freed to worship in the wilderness, but they still identified themselves as slaves. Their bodies were freed but their minds and hearts were still shackled in Egypt. If God would have led them on the direct route, they would have faced battle that would have sent them reeling back to Egypt. They were not ready for battle until they were completely free. God still had work to do in their minds and hearts. The direct route would have gotten them there faster, but it would have destroyed them in the process.
We live in a culture obsessed with instant success and child prodigies. “Get rich quick” schemes and overnight successes are the dreams of Hollywood and Wall Street. Is it any wonder why so many successful people run into opposition and get destroyed? (Just look at the life choices of Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus. In their fight for attention and acceptance, they are willing to drink, dance and sing about anything.)
But I ask the same question of us. How many times have we desperately grasped at the next step in our lives? We want to get there as quick as we can because we favor the destination over the journey. The truth is, shortcuts shortcircuit our transformation. On the scenic route, God reveals our need to walk with Him each step. God has some work to do in us so that when we face a battle we can fight valiantly.
When we let God shape us, we become more effective and productive. We can take the direct route instead of the scenic route. But in order to do that, we have to be ready for opposition. When we journey down the scenic route of transformation, God will lead us to our next step. For the Israelites it took 40 years. If they shed their stubbornness sooner, it would not have taken that long. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long for you and I.
When we are ready for our next step, this is what God will say to empower us:
“Put on your sword, O mighty warrior! You are so glorious, so majestic! In your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds! Your arrows are sharp, piercing your enemies’ hearts. The nations fall beneath your feet.” -Psalm 45:3-5
It’s really hard to see ourselves as mighty warriors who are glorious, majestic, victorious, truth-defenders who pierce our enemy’s hearts with arrows and conquer nations. This sounds more like a movie than real life. Our disbelief tells us where we are at in the process. If you feel like this, you are still on the scenic route.
God wants to get us to a place where we wholeheartedly believe what He says about us. Not in arrogance, but in humility knowing we are nothing without Him. We are heroes in training whom God is asking, “Will you stay stuck on the scenic route or will you let me take you on the direct route to your destiny?”