The Long Way Around

***Okay, this needs a little back story, as well as some after story. I wrote this probably a year and a half ago as a devotional to share with a small group of ladies. It’s been in the back of my Bible since then and the other day, I thought I should put it here on my blog. It took me a couple of days to get it wrapped up, but tonight I finally did, and posted it. Then I went to read before going to sleep.

I’m currently reading Priscilla Shirer‘s book, “One in a Million.” I just started the second section, entitled “Deliverance.” The first chapter in that section is called, “The Long Way Home.” Lo and behold, she is talking about the EXACT SAME THING as what I wrote here. Even more interesting is that I’d never heard this particular point taught before God shared it with me for this devotional a year and a half ago. Never mind that her book was published in 2010.

Whoa!

God never ceases to blow me away with His careful weaving together of the details in my life.

I am awestruck.***

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After years of Egyptian captivity, when the Hebrews are finally freed from Pharaoh, “God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.'” (Exodus 13:17) Instead, God took them the long way around.

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How often do I long for short cuts? Yet, the Lord knows the danger they can pose. For the Hebrews, He knew they might freak out and go back to Egypt when obstacles arose. But am I any different? Isn’t it common for us as humans to look at difficult circumstances and become fearful? What do we do with those fears? I think many of us look for a place to retreat. At that point, it’s not always about our sanctification, growing in faith or closer to the Lord. It’s about comfort. But in order to keep us from fleeing in fear, God will sometimes lead us the long way around.

This reminds me of a sort of humorous issue I used to have with a particular intersection in town. There were two left turn lanes and people would very often be in the left of the two lanes and then jump over into the right lane once they were through the intersection (or as they went through it), cutting people off in the process, so they could make an immediate right turn. I would go in the correct lane to make that right turn like I was supposed to. I would pray and try to be patient and calm, but I couldn’t do it. I could never get through the intersection without becoming angry, critical, and controlling. Since I wasn’t able to handle that, God made me go the long way around. It will always be better to take the long way than to fall – or leap – into sin.

When the Hebrews reached the Red Sea, their perspective was probably that they were trapped; cornered by the Egyptian army. So what do they do? They complain against Moses, and ultimately against God. Notice Moses’ response:

“And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.'” Exodus 14:13-14

First he encourages them to not be afraid. Fear completely thwarts our ability to think clearly and rationally. Then he exhorts them to stand still. Naturally, that’s the last thing we want to do when we’re afraid. Usually, we’d rather run. In the opposite direction. They had no choice, though. There was nowhere for them to flee. Then he tells them to see. Fear can cause us to shut our eyes – tightly. How in the world can we deal with a threat, or decide what to do, when we can’t see? But that’s not what God wants them to see anyway. He wants them to see the “salvation of the Lord that He will accomplish for you today“. Not salvation that comes from anywhere else, but from God almighty. And notice that He’s the one to accomplish it. Not with their help. Not with anything or anyone else. It’s God and God alone.

Additionally, look at the incredible miracle that God performed in taking them via the Red Sea. They may not have seen the hand of God in such a way had they taken another route. God’s detours can bring amazing, faith-building miracles. And this has been recorded for all of history to be shared with a multitude of generations.

The beautiful ending to this is recounted in Exodus 14:31 – “Thus Israel saw (seeing the right thing) the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord (the right kind of fear), and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” The long way around may have seemed harder, but ultimately, it grew their faith and trust in God, and in Exodus 15, you can read their song of praise to Him.

So if you feel like your current path is longer than it should be, rest and trust in the Lord, knowing that He has you in His sights all the way. He hasn’t forsaken you, but He has something for you that will be worth it.

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***And now, another edit to this post. I shared this whole story with John this morning and my amazement at the way God wove these two pieces of the story together. Then he got excited as he pulled up his morning devotional from Alistair Begg, entitled “The Joy of Safety” It actually picks up where I left off, with the song of praise to God in Exodus 15. As ever, God continues the story.

The Potter and the Clay

I am always in awe as I watch a talented potter with clay on a wheel. These particular potters are master craftsmen and their skills are amazing.

It will take awhile to both watch the video and read my post. The video is definitely worth the almost seven minutes of time. Hopefully my words are worth the time, too.

God has some beautiful parallels in the story of the potter and the clay. Having seen the presentation by Potter’s Field Ministries numerous times during the past 20 years, I’m always blown away by what He teaches me through it. While there are many lessons, these are the things that stood out to me as I watched the above video.

  • Great repetitive pressure is required to form the clay into the desired vessel. The clay spins on the wheel and the potter continues to press and mold and shape it into a piece of pottery for a specific purpose.
  • In order to be a useful vessel, that which weighs it down must be removed (the gunk inside) or stretched out to make it able to contain something. A pitcher is only functional when it has the ability to hold something which can be poured out for others. But if the inside were solid, there would be little purpose besides perhaps in being a door stop. One pot had a hole cut into it in order to attach a spout, making it lovelier in form and practical in purpose.
  • When it comes time to create a beautiful design, this is neither quick, easy, or comfortable. It takes a very fine, focused cutting away. Or perhaps a beating. No, I’m not saying that God beats and cuts us. But life does. Sometimes the cuts are just on the surface, other times, they cut clear through. Is there anything more beautiful than a person who stays focused upon the Lord while weathering the storms of life? When they’re on the other side of the struggle, still in love with Jesus, radiating joy, it is very lovely to behold. Some vessels were covered by paint after being cut into, but when the excess is wiped away, beauty remains in the contrast of colors.

What analogies have you seen in the relationship between the potter and the clay and God and His children?

Be Still

A couple¬†weeks ago, I stopped at a local park to take a few pictures and just wander around the pond area. It’s funny how you can not notice things, even though you’ve seen them numerous times. For whatever reason, I was quite aware of this No Fishing sign that day. I wondered about it, because I didn’t recall having ever seen fish in the pond in the first place.

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A nearby rock beckoned me to sit. I enjoyed the view, breathing in fresh air, and taking a moment to quiet myself. Life had been so busy and crazy for the previous couple of months. It was a nice respite.

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I glanced down and realized that there really were fish in the pond. Little, tiny fish. They’re not really visible¬†until you stop moving around and just sit quietly. I moved just a little and they all darted away. So I sat still again and they returned. It reminded me of God. Oftentimes, I go through my day, not really thinking about Him or having any awareness of His presence. Yet when I slow down, sit still, and just BE, there He is. Loud announcements and neon banners aren’t His thing. He’s found in the stillness and the quiet.

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…and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11-12

In the midst of life – crazy, boring, busy, or mundane – I have to remember that He’s never the one to leave or not think about me. It’s me who needs to be still and listen for His still small voice.

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