Just like God was leading the Israelites on their journey, we can have every confidence that he has been leading us on ours. Just like every twist and every turn they took was within the wise providence of God, so too every step we’ve taken forward and every step we’ve taken back. He planned that we would approach mountains and valleys, rivers and seas, and he has used them all for his good purposes.
When I was a child, the maps in my Bible got me through many a sermon. I was rarely interested in listening to the preacher, so I would flip to the back pages of the Bible to study the maps there. I would gaze at the contours of the lands of the Middle East. I would observe how Abraham had obeyed God and left his country and his kindred and his father’s house to journey to the land that God would show him. I would study the ancient world as the Patriarchs knew it. Best of all, I would see how God had miraculously delivered his people from their long captivity in Egypt.
Like just about every Bible, mine had a map that traced the route the Israelites followed after they escaped from Egypt and began to make their way toward the Promised Land. The map had a line in blue that began in Egypt and then traveled south for a time toward the bottom of the Sinai Peninsula. Eventually, it bulged north for a short while before dipping south again. Then finally it turned permanently northward and led the way to Jericho before it terminated on the banks of the Jordan.
The route the Israelites followed is far from straight and hardly looks efficient. Instead of taking a direct approach leading straight from Egypt to Canaan, the route appears to wander and meander, to turn this way and then that, to progress for a time and then bog down.