Have you ever been on a long journey and discovered that you had unknowingly taken the long way around? The journey could have taken half the time, but no, your trip took forever!!!! It was an accident, right? Surely, if you had know that you could take a shorter route, you would have, unless you took the "scenic" route on purpose.
In the case of the children of Israel, their prolonged journey was not an accident. God led them the long way around. Now, it's important to note that this passage is not talking about the time when Moses sent out the twelve spies to survey the land, and ten of them came back and said, "Nope, we can't do it." That's later in the story. This is the initial departure from Egypt. From the very start, God decided to take the long way around, and if you look at the map, it was certainly the long way!
But just as the passage in Exodus tells us that God took them the long way around, it also explains why. The land of the Philistines was at war. His people were tired, weak and for the most part, unarmed. God did not want to subject them to the perils of war. How many would have died if they had gone that route? How many would have been injured? And knowing what we know about the children of Israel, how far would they have gone before they decided, "You know what? Egypt wasn't so bad after all. Let's just go back there." You see, God had a better plan for His children, but that plan involved taking a longer route.
Sometimes God does the same with us. He has great plans and an indescribable destination for each of us, but often those plans entail us taking the long way around. There are few shortcuts when it comes to God's plans for our lives. God knows we need the time and we need the strength that can only be gained through the journey. Think about it, a beginning hiker cannot hike as fast or as far as as a seasoned hiker. So how did the seasoned hiker gain such speed, strength and stamina? By hiking, of course. The more we hike, the more proficient we become at it and the more hike we can tackle in the future. We can read about hiking all day long, but the only way to truly prepare our bodies for hiking is to start hiking. I believe the same is true in our spiritual journey.
The children of Israel had nothing to fear. God was leading them every step of the way. He was their shield against all enemies. And above all, they could follow Him because He knew where He was going. Even though the road was long and rough, they could rest assured that God would get them to their final destination. After all, He'd gotten them this far. Why would He stop caring for them now?
I pose the same question to you. God has gotten you this far on the journey. Do you believe He's stopped caring for you? Absolutely not. He's still leading and guiding. I know the road is rough and long, and I'm sure you've made your fair share of requests for a shortcut, but take heart, dear friend. God has a purpose for this journey. If He could accomplish what He wants in your life through the shortcut, He would. But masterpieces take time, and that is exactly what you are--a masterpiece of God's mercy.
Keep walking. You'll get there, and when you do, it will be better than anything you've ever imagined. And in the end, you'll be glad you didn't take the shortcut.