When Pharaoh let the people go, "God did not guide them by the road towards the Philistines, though that way was the shortest.... God made them go round by way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea" (Ex 13: 17, 18 NEB).
The direct route would save time as well as wear and tear on the people, but God had something infinitely more important than economics in mind--He wanted the people to be able to sing the song of praise of chapter 15--"The Lord is my refuge and my defence...my deliverer. He is my God and I will glorify Him; He is my father's God and I will exalt Him" (Ex 15:2 NEB). They sang this song because they had firsthand experience of God's power and deliverance. Pursued by all the chariots and horses, cavalry and infantry of Egypt, they had passed through the Red Sea in safety and seen the enemy drowned. They would have missed this glorious lesson if they had taken the short road.
When we are puzzled by delays and detours, let us think about the great purpose of life: to glorify God. The lessons He wants to teach us "in the wilderness" are priceless means of providing us with a song we could not otherwise have sung: "In Thy constant love Thou hast led the people!" (Ex 15:13).
~ Elisabeth Elliott