Exodus 13:21-22 says:
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people (ESV).
The lesson here is an obvious one. The Lord will not leave his own. Those He deals with favorably He defends. He liberates, redeems, and He surrounds. They will not wander aimlessly (see next chapter’s opening verses). If you are a believer, you are hemmed in by God’s mercy. You are perfectly shielded in an eternal fortress grace, love, and strength. The same one who did not depart from before the people of Israel promises, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
Exodus 4:1-4 says:
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.
I’ve moved about 12 times in 15 years. I hate having to fill out application forms that require me to list all my previous addresses for the last five, seven, or 10 years. Every time I do, I have to think back to trace all the places I’ve lived; and I always run out of space to fit them all.
I get embarrassed when I think about at all my previous addresses. My own family teases me about it. By now they have two address books–one to record all their friends’ and family’s addresses, and one to record all of mine.
It was never my plan to move so much, but life happens and there I was. …And then there I was. …And then there I was… And now I’m here–for now.
It seems I’m in good company though. Israel sure moved around a lot during the days immediately after leaving Egypt, and certainly in the 40 years after that. But what did God tell them? The world may look at them and think they are lost and confused, but God was with them. He was in the pillars of cloud and fire above them. He was with them all the wandering while.
What’s more, the Lord wasn’t with them just watching them. He was leading them. Their wanderings were not without purpose. “I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord” (14:4). God would be glorified.
We look back over our lives and things don’t always make sense to us. Yet, like the Israelites, God is with us and God is leading us. All this sounds very familiar:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).”
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).”
Paul wasn’t referring to cardboard boxes and rented U-Hauls, but when I read Acts 17:28 his words take on a whole new meaning. In God “we live and move…” I don’t know why the Lord has had me move so much, or why He may yet have me move a whole bunch more (my wife just shuddered, I’m sure). But I know that God will be glorified. His wisdom in all his dealings in your life and mine will one day be fully revealed, and He will be worshiped because of it.
And that is reason enough for any of us to take the long way around.