Exodus 13:17-22 The easy route is almost never the route to abundant life

Exodus 13:17-22 The easy route is almost never the route to abundant life

Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.” 20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Background

God chose the southward route for the people away from the enemy territories. For God knew that the people would certainly return to Egypt when they see war. And despite travelling on the easier route, the people did not make it to the promised land. Therefore, it is not the nature of the route but people’s attitude that is the cause of failure. The Old Covenant that is heavy on outward conformance to religion cannot fulfil God’s salvation plan for humanity. Having seen the shortcomings of the Old Covenant, God instituted the New Covenant which focuses not on behavioural conformance but regeneration of the heart. Today’s devotion teaches us: The easy route is almost never the route to abundant life.

Observation

Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near.

The shortest way to the promised land of Canaan was to pass through the territory of the Philistines (see green arrow) towards Beersheba. It was the default route for the Egyptians. But the route chosen by God was southward (see red arrow). This route stays clear of enemy territories that might cause the people to turn back to Egypt.

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.”

Throughout the 400 years of slavery, the Israelites constantly reminded themselves of freedom as prophesied by Joseph. The bones of Joseph is proof of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant.

The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light.

The people journeyed to Etham supernaturally guided by a pillar of cloud in the day, which became a pillar of fire at night. The Lord’s protective and providential presence is present in the cloud.

Truth

The easy route is almost never the route to abundant life

The Lord chose for the people the southward route as opposed to the eastward route. The eastward route though much shorter passes through enemy territories. To keep the people from returning to Egypt, God steered them southward so that they might not see war. The southward route albeit longer leads to the promised land. But in reality, the people never made it there and their bodies were buried in the wilderness.

The two kinds of mentalities and covenants

Herein lies two kinds of mentalities: The first kind prefers a path of easy blessings with little challenges. Such is fiercely loyal to himself being focused on his own benefit. The second kind defers to God the decisions of life, fully trusting in His plans and provision. And he lives to serve God and others. The Israelites who harboured the first kind of mentality never made it to the promised land. Their unbelief and selfish attitudes were evident in their murmuring and disparaging words towards Moses. The first and second mentalities correspond to the Old and New Covenant cultures respectively. Because the Old Covenant culture failed to bring the people into the promised land, God will institute a New Covenant culture for future generations by putting His Spirit within them. God said by the mouth of prophet Jeremiah,

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it. – Jeremiah 31:31-33

A different Spirit

In the New Covenant, God puts His Spirit within believers causing them to speak and act with divine virtues, wisdom and authority. Among the Israelites, two men (Joshua and Caleb) stood out because they bore the New Covenant mentality and had a different spirit. God said concerning Caleb,

“But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.” – Numbers 14:24

Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land because they harboured a different spirit. People of both Old and New Covenant are in the church today. Even though all profess Christ as their Saviour, but by their traits and mentality we will know them.

Traits of the Old Covenant people

  • They are fiercely loyal to themselves and do all things for personal benefit.
  • They see the world as revolving around them and their purposes.
  • They will not obey God’s directives until they are personally convinced.
  • They look at their shortcomings and justify their inadequacy to do God’s will.
  • They murmur and complain whenever they are treated unfairly or when things do not go their way.
  • They seek physical comfort, wealth and worldly pleasures.

Traits of the New Covenant people

  • They are loyal to God and do all things for the wellbeing of others.
  • Their lives revolve around God and His kingdom’s work.
  • They obey God’s directives despite not knowing where they are going.
  • They believe that they can do the impossible as long as God is with them.
  • Even in unfavourable circumstances, they give thanks and are grateful for the little things in life.
  • They seek eternal life and the glory of God.

The Old and New Covenant Ministers

Just as there are Old and New Covenant people, there are also Old and New Covenant ministers. Moses is the quintessential minister of the Old Covenant, and Jesus, the New Covenant. We see a difference in the way both ministers from different covenants ministered to the people. Moses continued to feed the people with manna for 40 years even though their hearts remained hardened. But Jesus refused to feed the 5000 who did not repent and left them.

Application

Do you feel that your life is overwhelmed by waves of difficult and unfavourable events? You could be travelling on God’s preferred path that leads to His kingdom. Challenges hone and mold us in preparation for greater things. The other paths may be easier, but it leads only to emptiness and death. Spend some time recounting the events in the past 2 years and ask God to reveal to you His purposes. You will find God’s gracious hand guiding you towards a glorious future.

If you are a minister of the gospel, do you continue to serve and fan the people’s unbelief and lust for the world? A New Covenant minister shepherds those who give their lives to serve God’s purposes. Ask God for wisdom to discern between the two kinds of people. New Covenant people are genuine, they possess an aura of selflessness, and are precious in the sight of God. Old Covenant people put up an outward appearance of worship and loyalty towards God, but couldn’t care less about other people’s problems. Such will not go through tough times with the church preferring to take the easy route.

Dear Lord, I thank you for choosing me for great and eternal things. I recognise the challenges that I face are divinely arranged. Help me to grow in wisdom and patience, and to know when and how I can use divine authority to overcome my troubles. Put the New Covenant mentality within me and cause me to see all things from the heavenly perspective. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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