17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 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.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
The following is an excerpt from Sunday's sermon:
God leads Israel along the hard road because that is the best road for them. God leads Israel along the hard road because Israel belongs to Him, and He loves them. And God refuses to give anything less than His best to them. We ask, "O Lord, why has my life not turned out the way that I dreamed it would?" And God answers, "Because you belong to Me, and because I love you. And I refuse to give you anything less than My best for you."
I know that is a hard truth: that God leads us into the wilderness because He loves us. Because there is something in the wilderness that God wants us to see, wants us to have, wants us to possess that we cannot get any other way. And not only is it a hard truth, but the logic itself seems frustratingly circular and irrefutable. There's no way to test it. It just depends on faith. Right - it just depends on faith. We have to trust God.
That sounds cliche, but I want you to notice for a moment what breaks the cliche. Notice what Israel is carrying with them on their journey that is a little bit strange. What are they carrying with them? They are carrying the bones of a dead man. They have in their possession the bones of Joseph. You remember the story. They knew the story well. Joseph's story was a story of a man God led into the wilderness. Joseph's story was a story of a man God led along the hard road in order to form him, shape him, build him, and ultimately, to use him as an instrument of blessing to the entire world.
God knew what was best for Joseph. God knew what was best for Israel. And God knows what is best for you.