ODJ: the crooked path

August 15, 2015 

READ: Exodus 13:17-22 

God did not lead them along the main road (v.17).

My family is planning a walking tour of Scotland. I’m eager to take the meandering paths and the side roads—to encounter parts of the Scottish Highlands that we would miss if we simply stuck with a bus tour. Some things are experienced better by taking the crooked path.

In Israel’s story we see that God purposefully sent His people on a roundabout, crooked path. The journey made no sense if efficiency in travel had been the top priority. After suffering centuries of slavery, Israel finally received Pharaoh’s permission to leave Egypt (Exodus 13:17). The obvious path to the Promised Land led through Philistine country, a direct trek as a bird would fly. But there was one big problem: in the Philistine land, they would run into Philistines!

Not good . . . for they were a notorious warrior-people to be avoided if at all possible. If Israel took the shortest route and ran into those dreaded enemies, God knew the people would constantly be looking over their shoulder—ready to flee back to Egypt (v.17). They would experience the alluring temptation to rush back to where they had been enslaved but at least felt (to some degree) safe.

Knowing this possibility, “God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness towards the Red Sea” (v.18). In other words, God led Israel on a crooked path so that the journey would provide them the opportunity to endure hardships (that were sure to come) in a way that would teach them His faithfulness. It also made their return to slavery more difficult.

God also wants something more for us than merely a life of ease. In His loving wisdom, He’ll sometimes take us down the crooked path—but He will also be with us, leading the way (v.21).

—Winn Collier

365-day-plan: Luke 15:11-32

Scan the next several chapters of Exodus. How did the Israelites’ crooked path take shape? How were they challenged to trust God with their questions and their fears? 
Where does your path seem crooked right now? What unexpected gifts might this crooked path offer you from God’s hand?