Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea.”
Before God led the Israelites into the Promised Land, He deliberately led them around in the wilderness. He did this for two stated reasons. First, in 13:17 tells me that He knew the Israelites would balk when they saw the enemies in the Promised Land. They had not fought a war in a very long time and we not quite ready to trust that God was able to hand victory over to them. Second, 14:3-4 tell me that God was not quite done with Pharaoh of the Egyptians. The Israelites seeming to wander without direction in the wilderness would provoke Pharaoh to come after them, thinking that they were lost and demoralized.
God sometimes tells His people to do things that just do not seem rational and the two reasons for this particular course of action seem to indicate two of the principles at work.
Principle One: God tells me to go where He knows I am ready to go. God is not going to tell me to walk into the fullness of His promises for me if I am going to draw back at the first sign of adversity. God’s promise is not always for sunshine and butterflies, often it is for peace in the midst of conflict and joy in the midst of difficulty. The Israelites will go on to victory, but not until after a fair bit of trial and tribulation and a culling. The group being led from Egypt is not a group that is ready to trust God. Those ready, willing, and able to trust God are those who enter into the Promised Land many years later.
Principle Two: God tells me to go where He will be honored most. There is a song lyric that I often want to play on loop — “Remind me of Your promises. Remind me of Your faithfulness. Remind me this was never about me.” My walk with God is about God fitting me for Heaven so that I can live there with Him for all eternity, but what He does to fit me for Heaven is less about me than it is about His glory and Him being magnified in and through my life. God led the Israelites to a campground with no way out and said explicitly that He would be honored through Pharaoh and all his army (v4). The plan was to bring honor and glory to God and to use Pharaoh to communicate the message.
Father, thank You for the reminder that You lead me to places that may be about my limited trust or may be about bringing honor and glory to Your Name — or both. Thank You for working on my limitations and bringing me to places of trust and places where trust is the only option.