The Shortest Distance Between Two Points


Once the Israelites escaped from Egypt, they had a clear path to the Promised Land. If they would only walk along the Mediterranean seashore, through the land of the Philistines, they would have reached the area that we now know as the land of Israel. But that’s not how it worked out. Instead, God took them in the opposite direction and into some of the harshest desert on earth—the Sinai Peninsula. The Israelites didn’t complain (yet), and followed where he was leading.

  • Have God’s plans for your life ever seemed irrational, or just not make sense to you? How did you respond?


17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. Why didn’t God lead the Israelites through the land of the Philistines?
  2. How did Moses pay respect to the traditions of Israel?
  3. What is the most striking thing about verses 21 and 22?
  4. How do you sense God is leading you? Are you willing to follow where he leads?


Philistines. War. In time, the Israelites would have their fill of both. But after leaving Egypt, God knew that the Israelites were not spiritually or emotionally prepared to go through the land of the Philistines. Their faith had already been tested greatly in the exodus, and they may have reached a breaking point if they walked into a land of war. So God led them elsewhere. Sometimes we can see our destination, but God seems to be preventing us from getting there. We may feel like he is taking us the long way around, but maybe that’s the point.

  • Pray that you will trust where God is leading you and your family—even if it doesn’t seem to make sense.