PART 2: In today’s message we want to consider how God often guides us. Which many times is not by the direct route, or by the shortest distance, but so often by The Longer Way. . . . | ~ View copy of sermon – (Exodus 13: 17 – 22)
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Sermon Title: THE LONGER WAY / Exodus 13: 17 – 22
Sunday, March 10, 2019
Exodus 13: 17 – 22
Sermon Series: Life In The Wilderness#2
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
THE LONGER WAY
“Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.(God).”
Last week we began a Lenten Series entitled Lessons From The Wilderness. In today’s message we want to consider how God often guides us. Which many times is not by the direct route, or by the shortest distance, but so often by The Longer Way. And we wonder, Lord, what’s taking you so long? The text before us is focused on God’s leading of His people shortly after their departure from Egypt.
“Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” Following their deliverance from Egypt, and their arrival in the wilderness, God was concerned that Israel should not take the most traveled route from Egypt to Canaan, lessening the chances of their encountering hostile forces along the way.
When it comes to our journey in life, God always desires to be the One in charge of the providence and the planning of the way that we take. When we give our lives to Christ, God then takes responsibility for leading us into our futures as we yield our wills to His. In other words Divine Providence sees what we cannot see coming into our future, therefore God takes the initiative in making the necessary plans and provisions for our needs along the way. Verse 21 of this text says, “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light so as to go by day and by night.”
In 40 years He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people. One of the hardest lessons Israel had to learn during 40 years of wilderness wanderings, which is one of the hardest lessons we also must learn, is to trust God with our futures. Divine providence had already taken into account every problem and challenge they would face during their Life In The Wildness. Divine Providence and Provision had already planned the timing for how they would cross the Red Sea, The Quail and Manna needed to feed them, the Water from a Rock necessary to quench their dry thirst, the Brazen Serpent that would heal them when they became snake bitten due to their willful disobedience.
We may not realize it, but God’s Divine Provision and Planning are always at working looking out for us in our journey of life. But because we do not always understand the ways of how God works, we can grow impatient, just like Israel, we are subject complain about our circumstances just like Israel, and we so often decide to take matters into our own hands, just like Israel. While they were in the wilderness for 40 years its important for us to remember that God selected the way.
The late Theodore Epp in His exegesis of this text offers the following insight of why God led Israel by A Longer Way. “God intended the long road to be a means of blessing them rather than a means of withholding the blessing. We often assume that the shortcut always holds the blessing rather than the long road. Yet God in His divine Providence and planning wanted Israel to have a walk of faith and not a walk based only by sight.” And the only way God determined He could teach them this was by means of the Longer Way.
They had to learn how to wait on God. They had to learn how to be patient in the midst of their hardships and challenges. Even when they found themselves going around in circles in the desert, they had to believe that God was yet leading them and had not abandoned them. When it seems that we are spinning our wheels, the situation is no better, and we are going around in circles, and the problem gets no better; God still has a plan.
And the blessing in God’s leading them Himself can be seen as we consider that these people had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. They were not organized. They were undisciplined in the art of warfare and survival techniques. All they knew was the hard work of slavery. When to sleep. When to eat. When to get up and work. When to obey the Master’s voice under the burden of Master’s whip. Slavery was designed not to make a people self-determining but slavery was designed to make a people submissive and dependent under the authority of their Oppressors. So while their bodies where now free, God chose to lead them by A Longer Way, because their minds and hearts were still in need of being set free. And although we cannot always understand God’s providential workings in our lives, we can learn to believe and trust Him. Realizing that in His wisdom, God makes no mistakes in His leading us regarding the final outcomes in our lives that will be for our good and for His glory.
Now there is another aspect of this text that bears our attention related to why God decided to lead them by A Longer Way. “For God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” With every blessing there comes a burden. The truth in this assessment by God of where his people were in their spiritual maturity of depending upon Him as the source of their strength; is that they were not yet ready to inherit Canaan.
Sometimes God delays our arrival to the destination of where we want to be because He knows we are not yet ready to handle the blessing. Canaan, the land said to be flowing with milk and honey, the land God had promised to the descendants of Abraham centuries before, was populated by many peoples. The Canaanites, the Amorites, the Amalekites, the Edomites, the Midianites, as well as the Philistines.
The Book of Judges 1 & 2 Chronicles informs is that during the time of Israel’s occupation of Canaan and the emergence of the 12 tribes into a United Confederacy and then a Nation under Saul, David and Solomon. The Philistines would be Israel’s perpetual nemesis. Israel never could totally wipe out the Philistines. God knew that while Canaan was a land of blessing, it would not be received without many battles. Canaan was a land of conquest under Joshua, the successor to Moses.
So God declared this word in Exodus chapter 13: 17 because He knew that if the Hebrews would turn back to Egypt immediately after their deliverance when faced with their first encounter with the Philistines, what would they do, if allowed to enter the land of Canaan before they had been seasoned and battle tested in their faith and prepared for war with a host of enemies. Now the word war might sound out of character to some of us this morning, when it comes to receiving God’s blessings, but every blessing we hope to achieve in Christ, has to be fought for.
God doesn’t give us any blessing on a silver platter. Every blessing has a price. And to whom much is given much is required. We’ve been studying in our Bibles Studies for the past 1 and half, Pastor Ussery’s Book, The ABC’s of Christianity. And we just completed the section entitled The Abundant Life. And one of Pastor’s opening comments focuses on this reality that every believer is given the opportunity to experience the abundant life in Christ. But the question is how bad do we want it?
Are we willing to buckle down, yield and discipline ourselves, come under the yoke of Christ in order to experience the abundance in union with Christ that is offered to every believer. What separates good athletes from the great one’s is that while many of them have the same potential, only a few have the mind and heart and are willing to put in the sacrifice, work and dedication that leads to greatness. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell, Lebron James, Stephen Curry, to name a few are considered some of the all-time greats because they were willing to put in the work, in order to maximize their potential.
The devil is always trying to keep us from maximizing our fullest potential in Christ. He fights us tooth and nail for every blessing, the Lord is desirous of giving us. He’ll rob us of our peace, our joy, our faith, our hope and love, our God given purpose in Christ if we let him, He’ll rob us of a prayer life is we let him. He’ll rob us of our passion for holy living and service to Christ, if we let him. He’ll riddle us with doubt, frustration and confusion if we let him.
He’ll convince us that just living a mediocre life on Jesus is enough if we let him. And there are those who while being highly gifted are just content with getting by. Just doing enough, to make it. Well, the Lord has some good news for us, When He created us, He had greatness on His mind for each and every one of us. When David declares in Psalm 8:5-6 “For You have made us a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned is with glory and honor. You have made us to have dominion over the worked of Your hands, You have put all things under our feet.” David is declaring that God created us to achieve great and wonderful things to His glory. Hallelujah!
That’s why Paul says in Ephesians 6, “Put on the whole armor of God, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Because the devil sees it has his purpose to keep us from walking into our greatness. His agenda is to get us to accept a mediocre life in Christ when the Lord loves us, calls us, anointed us and appointed us for greatness!
“For God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” So God led them by A longer Way because He knew His people were not yet ready to inherit the blessing He had waiting for them. So it took 40 years to prepare them for what was only an 11 days journey (Deut. 1:2). The world says you can have it now, you deserve it now, you worked for it now. The devil says you can have it now, “take matters into your own hands Jesus you’ve got the power, you have the authority, If you truly are the Son of God command these stones to be turned to bread and feed your hunger now.”
That’s what the devil said to Jesus in the wilderness temptation. But Jesus waited. Jesus took the longer way. It is a principle of life given by God, that the greater the blessing, the longer the wait. So God led them by A Longer Way, in order to grow their faith, and to prepare the for the battles that yet were waiting to be fought.
Jesus did not win our salvation without having fought the greatest battle ever fought in human history. They fought Him tooth and nail, by every means necessary trying to defeat Him. Satan used human instruments and his legion of demons seeking to defeat Jesus, But “At The Cross, At The Cross, where we first saw the light and the burden of our sins rolled away.” The Battle was fought and Victory was won.