Summary: God uses certain means to guide His people in the decision making process.
Building on Faith:
How God Guides
Exodus 13:17 – 14:31
The Atlantic salmon leaves the place of its spawning, swims downstream as a silver streak in the sunlit stream, and makes its way 900 miles out into the ocean. By some unknown process, it makes its way back to the exact tributary it left. No certain reason exists for this navigational guidance. Some scientists believe that the Atlantic salmon is sensitive to slight chemical differences at the mouths of different streams. It senses its own stream and swims back to its original spawning grounds. For the believer, there is a more fundamental explanation: God guides the fish, and God guides many other animals, too.
We now have Global Positioning Satellite technology that is being used for so many things. New cars and trucks have GPS systems where all we have to do is type in a few coordinates, or even an address, and the computer guides us to where we want to go. We think if only God’s guidance was as easy for us as for the animals and automobiles.
The need for guidance belongs to every level of life. The longing for direction, the need to be navigated, and the desire for leadership is discovered at all levels of life. Faith lives with the certainty that God does guide.
But by what process does God guide people? Many of us will stand at a crossroads in the campaign before us. We will seek God’s guidance on matters of overwhelming significance to our families and our church. We will make decisions in the present, grounded in God’s ability and willingness to guide us both now and in the future.
People approach God’s guidance in two large schools of thought. One view emphasizes the direct guidance of God through constant intervention. The other view emphasizes a slow road by which God guides through God’s protection and our recollection of God’s past faithfulness. Whatever our approach to God’s, we may be sure that prayer plays a vital, central role. Whether God’s guidance comes quickly and intuitively or slowly and by process, the atmosphere in which God guides is always one of persistent prayer.
We experience the guidance of God in different ways, but have assurance that God does guide. God guides us by His protection, our recollection, and His direction. Exodus 13–14 reveal in a striking way how God guides His people collectively and individually. I want to organize our thoughts about God’s guidance around the words “protection, recollection, direction.”
GOD GUIDES US BY HIS OWN PROTECTION
God protects us from dangers we have never seen and do not even know exist. We see this clearly in the Exodus experience of Israel. One cannot overstate the significance of the Exodus in biblical revelation. Other than the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the Exodus stands as the mightiest expression of God’s power in the Bible. Six hundred thousand Hebrew men, with their families and animals, left Egypt and walked out to their destinies. Not only did the slave force of Egypt leave, the Egyptians requested them to leave. Not only did they request them to leave, the Egyptians even paid them to leave. This magnificent story reveals how God guides. We can see God’s guidance in the routes, the reasons, and the revelation that God makes.
We can see God’s guidance in the routes. God did not guide His people from the land of slavery to the Land of Promise by the short, direct, obvious route. God guided them by a long, indirect, and unexpected route: (Exodus 13:17)— “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them on the road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest way from Egypt to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt’.” There were two ways to go to the Promised Land from Egypt. One was the short way, the Via Maris, the Way of the Sea. By that route, the Israelites would have taken only five days to march straight from Egypt to the Promised Land. It would seem the reasonable and obvious thing that the captives for centuries would move directly and triumphantly by the shortest route to the Land of Promise.
Instead, God sent the Israelites home by the long route. They trekked along the waters of the Suez arm of the Red Sea. More than that, it appeared to be a bad alternative. Having lived there for the previous 40 years, Moses knew there was nothing to eat or drink. God intended to lead them by the longer route. God’s direction for their future began with a detour. We may even identify with that. Perhaps we feel that God has sent us on a detour. Why does God lead us the long way around?