“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” — Exodus 13:17-18.
I always try to find the most direct route to where I want to go. When I’m driving somewhere, I get there quickly. When I’ve tried to reach life goals that way, it hasn’t worked out so well. Maybe if I had known how to listen to God years ago, I would have found a roundabout path that would have actually gotten me where I wanted to go.
The ancient Israelites were leaving Egypt to go to the Promised Land. These people had never known freedom from oppression. Neither had the grandparents of the oldest among them. In a perverse way, slavery is a protection from making hard decisions. Freedom is difficult for people who haven’t known it. Of course, they thought they were ready. They were all armed for battle, but not trained.
We, like them, are fleeing from oppression to freedom. The god of this world (a title Satan stole from Adam in Eden) has held the whole human race in bondage to sin and does not want to let anyone go. He will make sure that we meet conflict and opposition. God will determine where the battle takes place.
Israel would see war in any case, but God saw to it that they met and overcame an old enemy before they ever met a new one. He also saw to it that their encounter would be so terrifying and so beyond their ability that only he could bring victory.
Only when we truly break free from old bondages are we ready to face new challenges. Satan will always stand in our way. We are no match for him, but if we follow God, then no matter how roundabout the way seems and no matter how terrifying the opposition seems, he will see to it that we prevail.