The Long Route

What is the reason, one may ask, that the children of Israel were led from Egypt to Canaan by such a roundabout course when there lay to the northeast a more direct way? The answer is given in the book of Exodus, thus: "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that 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 of the Red sea."

Left to their own devices, these freedmen might have chosen differently. We can imagine them saying among themselves: Naturally, we shall go by the nearest way, and quickly reach our destination; that is the only sensible thing to do. But, no! divine Love had another and a wiser plan; and so they were conducted in a wide circuit to the southeast, by way of the Red Sea. They needed preparation. They were not ready to enter the promised land even when they first reached its borders, but, because of their fear and unbelief, they sentenced themselves to wander in a desolate region for forty years. So they certainly would not have been able to cope with and vanquish the Philistines, had they straightway attempted an advance through their territory. Testing and training were requisite to their success; hence the long route which they followed and the experiences of the forty years.

In the Bible we read that Moses spent forty years in the land of Midian, during which time he was fitted for his life-work of delivering his fellow Hebrews. During forty days of retirement and loneliness, Jesus was tempted of Satan in the wilderness. After this season of trial, he began his public ministry. Similarly, the forty years' journeying constituted a period of needful discipline before Israel could enter Canaan. It was a greatly chastened and purified host that eventually crossed the Jordan, as compared with the multitude of liberated bondmen who had passed through the Red Sea. In after years the Israelites did win a victory over the Philistines; but they were not ready to do this at the outset of their pilgrimage. So the designation of the long route was a proof of God's tender solicitude and loving provision for His chosen people. They needed the encouragement to be derived from the overthrow of Pharaoh's army; they needed to receive at Sinai the Ten Commandments for their instruction and guidance; they needed to have inaugurated, and to carry on, the worship of the tabernacle, the forerunner of the more permanent temple afterward reared in Jerusalem. They required repeated evidence of divine supply and protection; they had to learn step by step to be trustful and obedient. Then, with the obstacles of the desert surmounted, enemies subdued, and rich lessons gained, they were prepared to possess the land of their inheritance.

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More Love—A Proof of Progress
January 19, 1929

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