The scripture I want to share with you today is one that has been on my mind for about a week now. It’s the one that actually spurred me to start this website. As a first post, I find it truly fitting. I’ve been really thinking about how I wanted to proceed with a new blog. I’ve been toying with blogs and posts for about a decade now with little traction. I’d get an idea for a direction that I wanted to take a website, buy a domain name, and go to town building the site. By the time I would finish and write a few posts, I’d lose the motivation for that site and move on.
It never dawned on me, until I read this scripture, that there are periods in your life when you may want to do or try a certain thing, but the truth is you just aren’t ready for that thing yet. And that was my truth for many years. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. I want to share this scripture with you because I think it’s a part of the Exodus story that kind of gets glossed over. I mean, who wants to focus on this part of the scripture when the next chapter talks about one of the greatest, most miraculous victories in history? We all want to believe that we are standing on the edge of the Red Sea, staff stretched out over the water, waiting for the sea to part and for dry land to cross. Nobody wants to think “I’m not ready yet.” Nobody wants to focus on what had to be a few days journey of people wondering where on earth Moses was leading them. Or if they did know, surely some of them had to wonder why they were taking a route straight towards the sea when they could just go get the land God had promised them. Right?
So, before we move on, lets read the scripture in its entirety:
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”
20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
–Exodus 13: 17-22
Today I want to talk about the notion of being ready. You see, I know that many of you reading this are facing your own struggles. Some of you may have been facing those struggles for a long time. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Dare I say it? A decade or more. But let me remind you of one simple fact: the Israelites wandered in the desert for FORTY YEARS. Wandered. In the desert. For four decades. Yikes.
So, let’s look at this scripture and see what we can pull out of it. There are three things I want to talk about. I want to talk about changing your mind in the midst of adversity, carrying the bones of Joseph, and the pillar of fire/cloud that guides you.
Change Your Mind
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.
The part that jumps out to me the most in these verses is that the road through the Philistine country was the shorter route. I’m an impatient person. Really impatient. There is so much I want to do in any given day, and I am constantly finding that I don’t have enough time to do it all. So, because of that impatience, I find myself constantly looking for the most efficient way of doing things.
For example, for most of my adult life I’ve never made my bed. I never saw the need to do it. To me, it was just a waste of time for me to make the bed when I knew that within the next 16 hours I’d be messing it up all over again. Why waste five minutes on a task like that? Recently, however, I bought myself a new bedroom set. Sheets, pillows, shams, and a quilt (the whole shebang). I did so because my old sheets were getting absolutely nasty because apparently I also don’t ever think to wash them. So, I threw everything away, went to Walmart, and bought myself all new stuff.
When I got it home, I was so excited, that I actually decided to make my bed. I wanted to see how awesome my new quilt would look on my bed. And it looked awesome for sure. Here, see for yourself:
Do you know what I found? I found that I liked the look of a made bed so much that I’ve been making it every day since. You see, I’ve been so focused on being efficient, on cramming as much as I can into a day, that I forgot to stop and enjoy the little things. There are unseen feelings and suggestions that an unmade bed sends to your brain. Little things like this (what I call the stupid things) can actually affect your whole psychology.
So, I imagine that when Moses started leading them away from the promised land and into the desert, many people had to wonder why. I wonder if someone tugged on Moses’ shoulder and said, “Hey boss, you DO realize there is a shorter way, right?” The Israelites were ready for battle, but God knew better. He knew that if he let them fight that battle, they would change their minds and go back to slavery. He knew something they didn’t, and because of it he led them on a different path.
Carry the Bones of your Father
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”
I love this verse. We are in the middle of one of the greatest, most miraculous stories in the bible, and the writer takes the time to mention the bones of Joseph. He says that Joseph made them swear to carry his bones to the promised land. The fact that they even still had his bones at this point in time was a miracle. Scholars think that it had been somewhere between 300 to 450 years since Joseph had died at this point. That must have been one heck of a promise!
I look at this verse a little differently than most, though. I think this verse is a giant reminder that no matter how far you get in life or what you accomplish (or how far along you are on your journey), you would be nowhere without the influence of those that came before you. Yes, I’m talking about the people in your life who helped shape you. Your mother. Your father. Your family. Those who were there in your youth (teachers, coaches, etc.) who shaped you.
I think this verse is to remind you where you came from and honor those who got you to where you are today. It’s another one of those “little things” that we tend to neglect in the name of efficiency. We don’t have time for those people anymore because we are too wrapped up in our own lives. But these people not only saved his bones for four centuries, but they carried them around in the desert for 40 years until finally laying him to rest in the promised land. Some may see those bones as a burden, but it may just well be that they are a blessing. When you honor those that come before you, you honor the part of yourself that came from them. And in that way, you experience that psychological boost that something as stupid as making your bed can have.
The Pillar that Guides You
After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
I actually went looking to see how long that pillar of cloud/fire led them. I couldn’t find anything, but I did find a verse where it talks about the manna they were eating being cut off. It’s in Joshua 5:
11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after[d] they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.
I like to think that the pillar of fire/cloud stopped on that day too. Do you want to know what was special about that day? It was the day they first stepped foot into the land that God had promised them. A promise that was made centuries before had been fulfilled, and the first night there they ate the fruits and produce of the land. Now, I don’t want to say that’s the day God stopped guiding them, but I will say that’s the day that they were FINALLY ready.
How do you know you’re ready? To which I say simply: when you’re eating the fruit of the new land. There are many seasons in your life. Perhaps this season of your life is one in which you have to wander in a desert or go the long way because you’re too weak to fight the battle. Perhaps you’ve been depending on “manna from heaven” or outside sources to get you where you are. The day that you are ready is the day that you can step out on your own without the cloud to guide you. The day that you are ready is the day that you harvest the food from the land for yourself instead of waiting for God to rain it down on you.
I see this moment in Old Testament history as the changing of the seasons for the Israelites. I see it as a time when they thought they were meant to go one place, and were led by God to another. I see it as a time when Israelites were grumbling because they thought they knew the most efficient way. They thought they were going to straight to the promised land from bondage. They didn’t realize that they needed to toughen up.
You see, if you find yourself wandering around in circles, perhaps the message for your life is that YOU ARE NOT READY YET. You are spinning your wheels now, repeating the same drudgery over and over again, because it is building strength within you. Because if you were to move forward into a new land or phase of your life, it would literally knock you off your feet and kick your behind. Perhaps you should rejoice and be glad for this moment in your life because you’re being given a chance to toughen up before you go fight the battle. When life seems to stall, when all you do is repeat the same habits day in day out…when you can’t see the point in making your bed…all of this is meant to make you stronger. You draw strength from the daily habit. You gain wisdom from going the long way. You build perseverance because you’re faithful in the little things and you honor those that have gone before you. So, keep the faith, make your bed, carry the bones of your fathers, and follow that cloud. You are not ready yet, but the day is coming when you will be.
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment below. Also, please share it with someone who could use encouragement. Thank you for your patience and God bless!