Sometimes a badly programmed GPS can seem to make more sense than following God. We expect God to take us on the most efficient route to our destination, but He doesn’t. Sometimes, we get driven right into a lake.
This shouldn’t surprise us, since God did the same thing to the Israelites as He was bringing them out of Egypt. These people were being directly led by God. He led them as a pillar of cloud during the day and as a pillar of fire at night. (I don’t think many of these people were writing books at this time debating the existence of God or the difficult mystery of finding God’s will.) Wherever the pillar went, the people followed as God set the route. And from the way God led them, we can learn at least two things about the way that God sometimes leads. God leads us for what we need and for His glory.
God leads us for what we need. In Exodus 13:17-18 we read:
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.”
God knew that the direct route would not have been good for the Israelites. They thought they were ready for a fight, but they weren’t. Out of His wisdom and love for His people, He would not give them what they wanted right away. It would not have been good for them.
God leads us for His glory. Then we read that God specifically led them to the sea so that He would get glory over Pharaoh and His army. Exodus 14:1-4 reads:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Baal-zephon; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.’ And they did so.”
First God leads them away from the direct route. Then He leads them to the sea and pins their back against the wall. The point is that you can be following God, exactly like you should be, and He may lead you on a detour or He might lead you into a tight place.
In those situations, you might be tempted to think—as the Egyptians would have thought—that God no longer has your best interests in mind. You might think that God has abandoned you, or that He no longer cares, or that God is not in control, or that He is mad at you, or that He no longer loves you.
I don’t know what kind of curve ball God might have thrown into your plans, but remember that the God of the Bible is not like the capricious gods of the Egyptians; He faithful and keeps his promises. When God leads you on a detour or into a tight place, remember: God leads us for what we need and God leads us for His glory.