The Way and God's Leading

"...God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt: But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness..." -- Exodus 13:17-18.

They taught us in school that "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line." On the roadway of life, however, the roundabout—not the direct—is often the shortest way home.

God leads His people out another way that often defies reason.

The wise men, who visited the newborn Babe of Bethlehem, Jesus, went out another way (Matt. 2:12).

The quickest and best way for Joseph to rise to prominence in Egypt was by the famine that came and by his brothers’ selling him as a slave. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good and sent Joseph before them to preserve life.

Moses spent forty years in the backside of the desert, tending sheep, to fit him for the herculean task of caring for the people of Israel in their prolonged journey through the wilderness.

Moses’ life of 120 years is divided into three distinct parts. The first forty years, he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. As the son of the daughter of Pharoah, he became a somebody in Egypt.

Next, he was at the backside of the desert with the lowly task of tending sheep. (Every shepherd, we read, is an abomination unto the Egyptians--Gen. 46:34.) Moses learned that a somebody, to be useful for God, had to become a nobody.

When he took things into his own hands to deliver the people of God, he was able to destroy one Egyptian; but when God delivered His people Israel, Pharoah and all his hosts perished in the Red Sea. God brought them forth with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm.

The detour into the wilderness was the long way around, but it was necessary to fit Moses to be a deliverer.

Recently, while I was flying home from New York to Miami, the pilot announced, "Look out to the left and you’ll see Andros." Now, Andros is about 170 miles southeast of Miami. He had gone way out of his way in order to spare the passengers a very bumpy ride through some thunderclouds.

The Lord also often brings us to our destination in another way. His paths are in the sea, where

"We cannot always trace the way where Thou, our gracious Lord, dost move;
But we can always surely say that God is Love."

The long way around may not be the shortest, but the safest way home. We read, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13).

He knows what we can endure. He remembers that we are but dust.

"I know my heavenly Father knows
The storms that would my way oppose;
But He can drive the clouds away
And turn my darkness into day.
He knows the storms that would my way oppose;
He knows, and tempers every wind that blows."

Every doctor knows that the very medicines he gives you might kill you in large doses, but will be a help to your health in small doses. The Great Physician is even more keenly aware of this, and is working all things together for good to those who love Him.

Through Samuel, God anointed David to be King of Israel. For years, he knew nothing but trial and heartache on the way to the throne. God’s promise was sure of fulfillment, although, in the intervening years, he was hunted as a wild animal, even though he was son-in-law to the king.

Out of these varied experiences, David learned to sing praises to the Lord, which he otherwise would not have done. In Psalm 40:1-3 we read: "I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord."

The song the Lord planted in David’s heart had a two-fold effect: (1) praise to the Lord, and (2) led others to trust in the Lord.

Paul and Silas, in the prison at Philippi, could have been sighing (their backs cut with the cruel whip), but they sang instead, and their fellow prisoners were listening. When we are singing, instead of sighing, the world will sit up and take notice and put their trust in the Lord.

"What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart!
I have light in my soul for which long I had sought,
Since Jesus came into my heart!"

"I have a song that Jesus gave me;
It was sent from heaven above;
There never was a sweeter melody—
Tis a melody of love.
In my heart there rings a melody of heaven’s harmony.
In my heart there rings a melody of love!"

God prepares His people for the work He intends for them to do. David’s time spent tending his father’s sheep; his time with King Saul; his time as a rejected king, being hunted unjustly, were all steps to the throne.

The most direct way to the accomplishment of His purposes is often the long way around.

Most of our Lord’s life was spent in preparation for His public ministry. Those unseen years were not wasted years. Eighty years of Moses’ life were spent to prepare him for those forty years of service in the wilderness.

Saul of Tarsus’ training at Gamaliel’s feet, and his persecution of the early Christians were all steps on the way to his becoming—with the exception of the Lord Jesus Himself—the greatest missionary the world has ever known. While Paul deplored these early years, they played a vital part in his development, for the Lord is able to turn the very curses of our lives into blessings.

No one better understood the Pharisees than Saul of Tarsus, who, before his conversion to Christ, was "a Pharisee of the Pharisees, as touching the law blameless."

Peter’s experience of denying the Saviour with oaths and curses was humbling to him, but was the God-overruled means—using even Satan—of getting rid of the chaff in Peter’s life. The Lord said to him, "Satan hath desired to have thee that he may sift thee as wheat, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when (not if) thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

Peter later writes: "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth...might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:7).

Job was led the long way around, for it was when he prayed for his friends that the Lord turned the captivity of Job.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."


"By a way that they knew not"—

A way quite new—
And their faithful Guide
Took them safely through;
And their joy would be,
Through the tracts unknown,
That the road was chosen
By Him alone.

"By a way that they knew not!"—
Is that for me
Who have always loved
Both to know and see;
Who by sight and sense
And by human skill
Have followed the path
Of my own free will?

By a way that I know not!
Shall life lose charm?
Shall it be attended
By loss or harm?
Though the things familiar
May pass from view,
Shall I be less blessed
With God’s wonders new?

"By a way that they knew not!"
He says He will bring
Those safely through
Who to Him but cling;
Be it dark or light,
Indistinct or clear,
With our God as Guide,
There is naught to fear!

                   ... J. Danson Smith