Finally, finally. The Israelites are released from Egypt — actually, driven out by Pharaoh, as God said they would be. And now, approximately two million people (with all their flocks and possessions) are on the move toward the Promised Land.
With so many people to move, and with a still-fickle, raging king behind you, it seems reasonable that you would want to take the shortest route, right? Perhaps reasonable to us. But that’s not what God does. I guess there is no "shortest distance" setting on the God-GPS.
There was a much shorter route to Canaan through Philistine country, but God determined that this wouldn’t be the best way to lead His people. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. In Exodus 3:12, God had told Moses that they would return to Mount Horeb to worship: "And God said, 'I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.'"
God knows the way. He knew that confronting the Philistines at that moment would be too frightening for the people. And He also knew that the Red Sea (which would eventually end up in the way) was not going to be a problem. So, for us, it is worth remembering that when we look on the landscape of life and when God looks on the landscape of life, we don’t see the same terrain. God sees things in a way that we can’t.
And He knows the way. He knows the best way. He may not take us the shortest way or the easiest way or the fastest way. But He will take us in the best way. And He will be with us the entire way. During our journey, He will never abandon us. Just like the Israelites who "wandered" in the desert, we may take the longer road, but with God, we will never be lost. He knows the way.