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.” (Exodus 13:17)
Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the sons of Israel, ‘They are wandering aimlessly in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ Thus I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. (Exodus 141-4)
GOD’S BEWILDERING DIRECTIONS
When we read the Bible or commune with God in prayer, we are sometimes bewildered by His leadership.
Here in Exodus 13-14, God gave Moses two directives about where the Israelites were to go. At first look, these would seem to be the exact opposite of what would be best. In one command, he tells Moses to take a wandering route to Canaan instead of a direct route. In the other directive, He tells them to position the people with their backs against the Red Sea with seemingly no escape. They were setting themselves up for defeat, by all reasonable thought.
But here is where we must remember that God has a higher perspective. He sees from the vantage point of omniscience (He knows all things past, present, and future) and perfection (He does all things perfectly) and perfect justice (His mercy and justice are perfectly dispensed). Therefore, His will is "good, acceptable, and perfect for us in every single command. (Romans 12:2)
God had great plans for the Israelites. The first command in Exodus 13 was to protect them from getting discouraged quickly and returning to Egypt foolishly. The second, was to finish off the evil men who had opposed God and enslaved His people for 430 years. And further, to show the Israelites how incredibly powerful His salvation was if they would trust Him. Both commands saved the people. Both directions, seen in retrospect, were brilliant in wisdom. In fact, perfect. And both illustrations have inspired and directed millions for centuries.
THE WORST LEADERSHIP MISTAKE
But both commands would not at all have been what Moses nor the people would have naturally done. This should be sobering to us, for how may times have we run off in some direction without ever consulting the Lord, later to discover that we have made serious, humanistic miscalculations. Or, worse, missed seeing the salvation of the Lord and our lives being a testimony to others of His saving power.
THE RIGHT POSTURE FOR LEADERSHIP
If you are a spiritual leader you must position yourself to lead spiritually. You cannot afford to miss hearing from God. Each decision must be made through deliberate searching of the Scriptures, reliance upon the Spirit of God through prayer, and the counsel of godly friends who are also hearing Him. You cannot afford to lead people into enemy territory at the wrong time, nor away from the enemy when God wants to display His victorious power. You must hear from God and follow Him explicitly.
God knows what He's about. Have the humility to admit that He's bigger than you are and yield your will to His at every turn. He will lead you, and those you lead, in "all the right paths for His names sake." (Psalm 23:3)