Twice this week I was delayed on my way to meet someone. Traffic, construction, getting lost and missing a turn, and once leaving a few minutes after my plan of action were the reasons. But I really don’t know if there was something else at work that was for my good even though I really hate being late.
Sometimes a delay is just what life hands me, but sometimes there is a purpose I may discover later because that has happened to me. More often I don’t find out the cause. Delays and waiting reveal my frustration about the lack of control I have over so many things. They can also expose a bit of demandingness I really don’t want to see.
This week as I was reading in Exodus I was reminded once again of the delays the Israelites experienced on their way out of Egypt. After 430 years they were leaving behind the only culture they had ever known. Joseph was long dead and the favor these people had known during his lifetime had disappeared into torturous conditions of slavery. A careful reading of the early chapters of Exodus gave me a glimpse of how cautious they might have been to risk trusting this Moses who showed up promising God was going to deliver them.
Many of these people would likely have lost a sense of the identity they had before Egypt offered them safety through Joseph’s favor with Pharaoh. Even in the worst conditions, Egypt was home.
The plagues had decimated the Egyptians and the wariness of what response might come against them, I would think they were thinking it was time to get on the road to the land Moses said was promised to them. Little did they realize how long the trek would be − 40 years − or why God would take the long route to get there.
Most would not have considered it a divine delay, but it was.
The Israelites had a great deal to learn. Not only was their identity tied to the Egyptian culture, but also their thinking. These people undoubtedly saw themselves as victims to the tyranny of what was then the greatest political-military-economic power of that time. They were also heading into the wilderness where those people groups already inhabiting the land would oppose them and knew how to fight and had experience in battle against other cultures. As oppressed people, the Israelites had no experience with weapons nor did they own them.
After the plagues the Israelites would think (or assume) that God would not only go before them, but also make a smooth trek of it. If He was good and powerful and had demonstrated that during the plagues, those ideas would not be surprising. Fair enough, but they didn’t really know Him or what his plan was.
Douglas K. Stuart in a commentary on Exodus notes this:
“God was at work to bring his people to a right relationship with him and to teach them dependence on his provision for them. He was shaping and educating them, allowing them to learn (frequently the hard way since that is all too often the only way people really learn a lesson) what it meant to trust him in all sorts of situations.
In addition he was treating them in a way that has always been difficult for people to accept: he was not telling them everything they wanted to know. He told them what they needed to know in order to receive his salvation.”
Yikes! Here we are all these years later and those are still lessons most of us are trying to learn.
We want to know where and He tells us He will go with us. We want to know when and He says “in due season.” We want to know what and He says “I am with you always.”
The delays are still one of the ways God is educating us, shaping us, teaching us about Him and also ourselves along the way. He has told us what we need to know, but He wants us to learn to trust Him in all sorts of situations, to discover his goodness and provision, his faithfulness, and our dependence on Him.
The Bible is rich with promises to remind us of those truths:
“His massive arms are wrapped around you, protecting you.
You can run under his covering of majesty and hide.
His arms of faithfulness are a shield keeping you from harm.”
Psalm 91:4 (TPT)
“We all experience times of testing, which is normal for every human being. But God will be faithful to you. He will screen and filter the severity, nature, and timing of every test or trial you face so that you can bear it. And each test is an opportunity to trust him more, for along with every trial God has provided for you a way of escape that will bring you out of it victoriously.”
1 Corinthians 10:13 (TPT)
“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love. 39 There is no power above us or beneath us—no power that could ever be found in the universe that can distance us from God’s passionate love, which is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!”
Romans 8:38-39 (TPT)
God’s delays have a purpose.
He is not random.
He is utterly consistent, but He didn’t promise us a short easy route after we accepted Him any more than He did the Israelites as they were leaving Egypt for a better land.
He did promise to never leave us or forsake us, to lean into Him and trust Him, to come to know Him more intimately, and to grow our character to look more like Christ.