Up Close and Personal with God: Divine Leadership

We need a relationship with God to know Him as He is — our personal Creator, Redeemer, and Savor. We also need leadership from God. We need God to lead us because when left to ourselves, we will end up leading ourselves right off the cliff. We need God to lead us and God to direct us. 


Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.” –Exodus 13:17-18 NKJV


Leadership from God

In this passage, we see a moment in the life of Israel. God was leading them out of the place of bondage into the place of blessing. After living more than 400 years in Egypt, the people of God were now being led by God, under the leadership of Moses, to leave their place of oppression and servitude to a place of blessing and abundance. Moses was leading them under the authority and influence of God. 

There were 600,000 men excluding women and children. Based on logic, we recognize that the crowd is much larger than this number because some men might have their wives and children with them. So, this crowd must be around 1.2 million to about 4 million individuals coming out of oppression. These people were seeking to experience abundance, and they were being divinely led by God. 


God leads us into formation in an orderly fashion. 

God leads us in an orderly fashion. From a practical perspective, if three to four million people are coming out of Egypt en route to the Promised Land and moving impatiently, there's no order or structure in their departure. It would end up being a mob of millions that might end up stampeding each other. But, whenever we allow God to lead and direct us, He does so in an orderly fashion. The reality is that God wants to bring order to every facet of our lives. Conflict, chaos, and even complication is often the facet of your life that is not being led divinely by God because whenever God is involved, He brings order. He brings structure to whatever it is that He's a part of. This is why Scripture says that, “all things should be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).” 

God wants to bring order to your finances. God wants to bring order to your family. God wants to bring order to your business. God wants to bring order to every facet of your life. Whenever we submit ourselves to God’s leadership, we must all fall in formation.  


The frustration with God’s divine leadership

How often has it been the experience in your life that you found yourself in a place where you’re just really frustrated? And sometimes, we find it hard to confess our frustration with God as He leads us.


Have you discovered that there are moments where it appears or you perceive that God is somewhat irrational in how He moves and operates? Many of us have been trained never to have such an inquiry of God. Still, there have been moments in our lives when it just felt as if God was a bit irrational in how He was moving and operating. We sometimes cannot grasp how God is moving in our situation. 

Perhaps this is the reason why Isaiah wrote: 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts." 

Isaiah 55:8-9

There's a reality about God that is irrational to our consideration. In the Exodus, perhaps the cause of frustration was when God decided to leave them around the way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea. The people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt in formation, equipped, and prepared for battle, yet God did not lead them in the shorter way. 


Sometimes, we question God's timetable. But as with the Israelites, God did not lead them in the shortest, swiftest, or smoothest route to their destiny. He's saying, "I designed a different route to your destiny. You're going to get there, but not how you think you should get there. And not when you think you ought to get there. Let me be God, and move to my cadence." God is God, and the seemingly irrational moves have real purposes under His direction. 

When you look at a map of Egypt, you will see why the Israelites were irritated and bothered. They were in Goshen, a small land in Egypt, but they needed to get to Canaan. To get to Canaan, the shortest route is to take a direct line without walking along the Sea of the Philistines. But out of Goshen, God allowed the Israelites to cross over the Red Sea, drop down the Sinai Peninsula, all the way to the bottom of the Peninsula, and then forward to Canaan. So, it seems that God made it hard for them. And sometimes we ask, "God why are you making it hard for me?" 

God says, "I have assessed your life, and I have determined that you're not ready for a short route. You must have forgotten that you spent some 430 years in Egypt, and over the decades that you spent in Egypt, you spent decades building bricks. While you were building bricks, you were not built for battle. And, if I take you the way of the Philistines, there are some thugs on that route, and they have been trained in warfare. They'll end up putting something on you, and you will end up finding yourself running back to Egypt. You may not understand it as much as you may not like it, but I'm saving you from some drama. You are not yet emotionally fit to take that route." 

These are the moments that we get upset with God. We’re ready to get to our destiny, but God says you're not ready. To truly appreciate God's mind and the ways He moves in us, we have to stick around to see where He leads us. Let’s take a look at Deuteronomy 8:1-3

Remember the Lord Your God

“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.


God says there are two reasons why He will not lead us into the shortest or swiftest route but the road less traveled. 


The first reason is our discernment. 

To discern means to know some things you need to know. But God is also leading us along the difficult route for our development and for the development of our discernment. We need to grow in some things, and God says He's interested in your knowing and growing

God says, "I'm not interested in your intellectual ascent, but I'm also interested in your spiritual maturation." You're growing, so you'll know where God is leading you as you go through the long, difficult route. 

But what do we need to know? As paradoxical as it may sound, He wants us to understand suffering. He says, “I know suffering is something you want to circumvent. You want to avoid it. You want to just go to the Promised Land, but you don’t want to suffer. You want prosperity with no pain. You want blessings with no burdens. You want sunshine with no rain. You just want everything to be like tiptoeing through the tulips. You don’t get to the Promised Land this way. You got to go through the wilderness.” 

There will be moments of suffering, but God says suffering is the gateway to your normal, up close, and personal moments with God. If you didn't have these moments, you wouldn't have the discernment. 

You also need to know yourself. God allows us to go through the wilderness because this is the best terrain for Him to reintroduce us to who we are. In Egypt, the Israelites lost a sense of their identity. God had to detoxify them from their Egyptian way of thinking so that they could come to the end of themselves. God wanted to break their poverty mindset. God is ready to give them more than what they already have. And He also wants the same for us. We need to reacquaint ourselves so God can do more in us and through us. 

God also wants us to know the sovereign. He led us through the wilderness so that we would understand that He is our supplier and sustainer. Similarly, with the Israelites, we need to learn these not in Egypt but in a real personal way. For 40 years, God sustained the Israelites. In those years, none of their clothing has worn out. They were given meals and their other needs. God sustained them. And they know of His promise that they won't stay there forever. 

God says, “I’m not gonna keep you here in your inhospitable setting. Folks have been looking at your life knowing that you have been going through a wilderness season, and they’ve been trying to figure out how you have kept your head and maintained your composure.” And, if you’ve gone through a similar situation, you can testify that it was God who sustained you. He was the One who supplied all your needs and kept you. 

Let us not miss the sufficiency of Scripture. In these wilderness moments, we discover that man does not live by bread alone. But we will see that every word that comes out of the mouth of God has been keeping us alive. 

Think about this moment: it hasn't been the physical substance that kept us alive in our loss, grief, discouragement, doubt, or fear. Instead, it was God's Word that gave us the faith, hope, and joy that we need. 


The second reason God brought us to the wilderness is for our development. 

God is interested in both your knowing and growing. Even as God chastens us as His children, He has sent us into the wilderness not for our detriment but for our development. God sent you in the wilderness, not because He is upset with you. God says not every wilderness season is not for your detriment. It is for your development. He equips us as His children. God says, “I have to develop you. The best context for your spiritual maturation and development is in the wilderness.” 


You might ask, “God, what is it that you’re trying to develop in me? In us?” Here are at least five things that He wants to develop. 


First: God wants to develop your character. 

God wants to develop who you are under pressure. The real essence of a person is not seen when everything is going well. You really see the true colors of a person under pressure. You really see what a person is made of under pressure. It’s easy to sing and shout in church when the bills are paid or when your health is well. But when you find yourself in the wilderness, the real witness of your Christian character is revealed.  

Second: God is developing your confidence. 

Confidence is whom you trust under pressure. When you find yourself in the wilderness, that’s when you really determine who you trust. When you find yourself in an inhospitable place of desolation in your wilderness, God wants to see who you trust. He wants to know where you place your faith because there are moments when your wilderness can become so difficult that your moment, family, friends, education, and skills can't bring you out of it. There are times when the wilderness will lead you to have complete confidence in God.  

Third: God develops our capacity. 

He did not leave them by way of the Sea of Philistines towards Goshen over to Canaan because they didn't have the capacity to fight yet. They spent years building bricks. They haven't been built to battle. God wants to build their capacity and their ability to handle pressure. When you go through the wilderness, you develop so much capacity that some things now really don't bother you like they used to. The wilderness has built something in you that you don’t trip over small stuff now. You’re not tripping over insignificant stuff now. You can handle more. 


Fourth: God wants to develop your commitment. 

You're more committed now in this season after having endured some wilderness moments. The wilderness has caused your spiritual roots to grow deeper. Most folks cannot understand that they look at the exterior of your life and see how you're prospering and flourishing but don't understand how deep your roots of commitment run. You've decided, "God I'm committed to You, come what may, no matter what.”  

Fifth: God wants to develop our calling. 

When He clarifies our why under pressure, there's one thing you need clarification on among everything else in life. You might be asking, "Why do I exist?" and you've yet to live until you’ve come up with an answer to this question. Your “why” gives you meaning. Your “why” makes you get up in the morning and tackle a new day. “Why” is what makes you persevere. “Why” is when you get exhausted, you find yourself pushing through it. You have a sense of meaning. 


God says, “I’ve had to let you go through the wilderness. I know you don’t like it. I know you’re kicking and screaming against it, but you gotta trust me. It is for your discernment and development.” 


Let’s take a look at Exodus 13:19


“Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.’”

This seems to be an odd verse out of everything that happened thus far. Moses and the multitude were about to leave Egypt. Moses gets Joseph’s bones, which have been mummified according to Egyptian culture and customs. He takes the corpse of Joseph, and packs him up to take him to Canaan. Why? Because God told Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He was going to give them a Promised Land. Joseph heard about this promise and he wanted the Israelites to take him there. 


Moses nor Israel have ever been to the Promised Land. But God said it and based upon what God said, Moses is doing something that looks crazy and ridiculous because Moses and the multitude are going to a place they’ve never been before, in a direction they’ve never traveled before. On top of this, they’re taking a dead corpse. 

How willing are you in allowing God to lead you to do something that others would think is absolutely crazy and ridiculous? 

The real challenge of faith is whether or not you believe it. But do you believe enough to act on what you believe? Even when people around you think you’re ridiculous, crazy, and you have lost your mind? 

Faith would make you do something crazy which seems to be ridiculous, illogical, and impractical. 

David goes and takes down Goliath with a sling and a stone. 

Joshua brings down Jericho’s wall with marching and shouting. 

Naaman was healed of leprosy by dipping seven times in the Jordan River. 

Peter paid his taxes by catching a fish and finding a silver coin in its mouth. 

The disciples and Jesus fed the multitude with five barley loaves and two sardines. 

God always has a way of doing something that is absolutely illogical to see whether or not we have faith to follow. 

Back to the story, they’re going back to the Promised Land. God is leading them. God tells them to make a quick turn. They end up at a cul-de-sac. Pharaoh thought they had them. There are barriers on one side and wilderness on the other. They have mountains and battles. In front of them was the Red Sea. But they also held on to a promise that is beyond them. 

They were troubled on every side. 

God says that the problem is that their faith is at sea level and at see level. For this kind of trial, you need to have a different type of faith. Sometimes, you are exactly where God wants you. And even when you’re pressed on all sides, you’re in the miracle zone. 

Even in these times, God is teaching you to discern. He is developing every aspect of you. What you need right now is a miracle. You have no one else to trust. But God says, “I’ve led you this way to bring you to this place.” Get ready to see the salvation of the Lord. 

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