In Disney’s classic animated feature, The Lion King, the evil Scar sends a few of his hyena henchmen to an elephant graveyard to eliminate his nephew Simba – a threat to his future kingship. While pursuing Simba, the hyenas encounter Simba’s dad, Mufasa, the mighty king of the land. Recognizing their imminent defeat, the hyenas tuck tail and run back to Scar’s lair.
The hyenas had entered the elephant graveyard ready for a fight. They were confident in their ability to attain victory, but their foe proved mightier than they anticipated. The battle overwhelmed them and sent them fleeing back to the darkness.
In Exodus 13, God prevents the Israelites from making a similar mistake as they leave Egypt and begin their journey to the Promised Land.
I’ve often considered the first part of verse 18, which describes God leading them “by the way of the wilderness” as a means of protection. He recognized that Israel would likely run themselves right back into slavery if they faced battle with the Philistines. I’ve found comfort in these words, knowing that God’s ways are for my good—even when they don’t make sense to me.
I had not, until recently, given much attention to the second half of the verse. The ESV states it this way, “And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.” Look at those last three words!
While there is some debate about the best way to translate the Hebrew here, the passage makes it clear that the Israelites had prepared themselves for battle as they left Egypt. They anticipated encountering foes on their journey.
Like the hyenas in The Lion King, the Israelites likely thought they were prepared, but God knew the truth. He saw the full strength of the opposition. In the very next chapter, the people see Pharaoh’s army approaching and are immediately overcome with dread, telling Moses that he should have let them stay in Egypt.
The Israelites might have prepared, but they were not yet ready for battle. God, in His grace and wisdom, protected them from their false sense of assurance, and He does the same with His children today. Those who sense a calling to ministry are especially in need of His provision in this area.
Consider this example from Shane Pruitt who speaks at churches, conferences, and camps across America. He said that a question he gets frequently comes from people asking how they can get started in a speaking ministry like his. This question may stem from a good desire to be used more by God for His glory but often reveals a misperception about ministry. You can read Shane’s full response here, but he begins by encouraging those people to serve faithfully where God has them right now.
Trusting God to open the appropriate doors in the right time does not mean that we neglect preparing ourselves to the best of our abilities. That might mean enrolling in seminary, updating your résumé, stepping out of your comfort zone to meet new people, or something else entirely.
Obedience is one step at a time. Don’t allow yourself to get ahead of God’s plan for you, lest you too get overwhelmed and turn away. Dream big and then place those dreams in His hands. Prepare yourself for battle to the best of your ability, but trust God to know when you are truly battle ready.