Devotional for Monday, May 11
Exodus 13:17-18 (NLT)
When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.
Perhaps one of the hardest aspects of the COVID-19 crisis is that it reveals how much time we spend fooling ourselves. Take your minds back to New Year’s Day. How many of you thought our May would look this way?
In a very compressed time frame, we have been reminded of what life in general tries to teach us. The present seldom looks as we imagined. As Søren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.”
We all already kinda-sorta know this, but normally, we are able to bury the thought. I suspect repression is a technique the human race developed to stay sane in a scary, broken world.
So far, this is a real downer of a devotional, isn’t it? Stay with me.
In the little snippet of the Exodus story above, we’re reminded of another truth we tend to repress. God actually knows better than we do what is good for us. What we were imagining regarding the future might not have been the best possible outcome for us, anyway.
Now, don’t let me lose you here. I’m not saying God poured out COVID-19 on the world to teach us a lesson any more than he put warlike Philistines in the most direct path to the Promised Land. Sin has allowed a lot of brokenness to creep into the world, and that is the collective fault of humanity’s poor choices. (And yes, unless you are without sin, you are partially at fault.)
What we can take away from our Exodus text is pretty straightforward. God helps his followers navigate all these messes, and long term, God’s best possible plan unfolds for his disciples. When we’re in the middle of the twists and turns, it is hard for us to feel good about what’s happening. But as people who trust God, we can be deliberate about remembering we’re headed for an outcome that is far better than we can imagine.
Frankly, that detour into the wilderness didn’t work out well for most of those individual Israelites. God was right, they weren’t ready for a battle. As the story goes on, we see they were not exactly a single-minded, determined people.
God did with them the best he could, and out of them came a more determined, holier generation, one ready to take back the Promised Land. The Israelites, being human, then continued to meander through the centuries in their own broken, faltering way, but they gave us Jesus Christ, and through Christ healing from brokenness was made possible for all.
Throughout this crisis, try to hold on to the idea that we are part of something much bigger. God is leading the way! In Scripture, God has painted us pictures to encourage us about where we are going: Paradise; a pearl-gated city of gold; a leafy, well-watered place of healing.
These images of our future can seem a little vague, but one thing is for certain. They describe a place we want to be, and the joy they represent flows into this life now.
Lord, help us to trust you more deeply every day, regardless of how far our circumstances deviate from what we imagined. Amen.