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Exodus 13:17-22

Following God

  • Matthew Dodd
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • August 14, 2022

Matthew 6:10 contains one of the greatest prayers found in the Bible, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Why are there times when we struggle with knowing God and His will for our lives? We are going to look at a thought-provoking passage in Exodus and discover important principles about following God.


  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Following God
August 14, 2022

Exodus 13:17-22 


Matthew 6:10, Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

  1. This is how Jesus taught us to pray.
  2. But have you ever wrestled with knowing God’s will?
  3. Tonight, we are going to look at a thought-provoking passage in Exodus 13 to discover important principles to help us know God’s will so that we may follow Him more closely.

Exodus 13:17-22


  1. After ten plagues, Pharaoh finally broke and told Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 12:37-41).
  2. God led approximately 2 million Israelites out of Egypt along with their animals and some Egyptians.

TransitionThe first principle for following God is this. . .

I. God’s Way is Always the Right Way (17-20)

Psalm 107:7, He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. (NKJV)

APPL – God’s way is always the right way.

  • This principle is a fundamental principle when it comes to God’s will and following God.
  • It is especially important to remember. . .

A. Even when God’s way is the long way (17a)


  1. God did not take Israel by the shortest route. Why?

a. Because sometimes the shortest way is not the right way for God’s people.

b. And sometimes the quickest way is not the easiest way for God’s people, though, it may appear to be at first.

2. We must remember that God’s way is the always the right way and that God has reasons for the path He wills for us.

a. To get His people to the right place, the right way, at the right time.

b. When God’s way seems long, we must remember that God selects the best way to accomplish what would not be accomplished if He led us by a shorter or faster route.

3. And many faith-inspiring events that we treasure as we read the Bible would have been lost to us if God had taken Israel by a different route.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4, For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

ILLUS – Faith-inspiring event at UW Husky Stadium

APPL – When the way seems long and you feel overwhelmed, remember, God will never lead you the wrong way. Have faith.

  • Do not fret, complain, or grumble.
  • Cast your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.

Transition – Not only does God know the right way for our lives. . .

B. God knows our frame (17b-20)

1.Not only did God want Israel to experience victories with Him, He also wanted them to avoid potential threats to their young faith.

a. Remember, Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years.

b. They were beaten down by life in Egypt.

c. If God took Israel by the fastest route, they would have been confronted by the Philistines.

d. God knew they were not ready for war with the Philistines and would have run back to Egypt in fear.

2.God did not want His people running back to Egypt, back to a familiar place, back to the land of slavery.

Psalm 103:13-14, Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.

APPL – It’s heartbreaking to watch people we love run back to destructive habits or harmful relationships when facing a new battle.

  • God wants all who are made in His image to walk in freedom, not live in bondage.
  • Sometimes God will lead us away from those things that will be too much for us because our faith needs to be strengthened.
  • But if you are tempted to run back to those harmful things, ask God to help you.
  • God will always provide a way of escape.

1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

Transition – The second principle for following God is. . .

II. God is With Us Every Step of the Way (21-22)

Deuteronomy 31:6, Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or in dread of them, for the Lord your God is the One who is going with you. He will not desert you or abandon you.

A. Pattern: God leads, we follow

  1. Or to put it another way, God leads, we don’t!
  2. God is the ‘Initiator’ and we are the ‘responders’.

Isaiah 65:1, I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, “Here am I, here am I.”

  1. God led Israel with a cloud by day and a fire by night.
  2. The cloud represented the glory of God’s presence.
  3. Through the cloud, God revealed His character.

a. God’s visible presence brought Israel comfort.

b. God’s visible presence revealed His Shepherd’s heart for His people.

c. God’s visible presence revealed He was their Warrior King.

APPL – God was showing Israel His presence brings blessing. In fact, His presence is our blessing.

  • Imagine if you were there. . . wouldn’t it be reassuring to look out your tent door each morning to see where God’s glory was?
  • Wouldn’t it be comforting to have the glow of God’s glory to light your path by night or shield you from the sun by day?
  • Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know what God’s will was for you each day, all you needed to do was keep your eyes on the cloud of God’s glory and stay close to Him?

B. Problem: We do not have a cloud anymore

  1. But all is not lost because Jesus Christ promised to always be with us.

Matthew 28:20, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

  1. After Jesus ascended into heaven, God the Father and God the Son sent the Holy Spirit to be not only with us but in us.

John 14:16-17, And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.

a. “Another Helper” means another Helper of the same kind.

b. So the Holy Spirit is to us what Jesus was to the disciples, and what the cloud was to Israel.

      • The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is for our advantage. (7)

John 16:7, 13, But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. . . But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what it is to come.

The Holy Spirit guides us in all truth. (13)

  1. The Holy Spirit uses the principles from the Bible to lead us.

a. God led Israel to the Promised Land with the cloud of His presence.

b. But in the Promised Land, He led them with the Law of Moses and the prophets.

c. Today, the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to counsel, guide, and mature us.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

  1.     It is also important to note that Hebrews reveals that the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant in every way.

Hebrews 8:6b-7, He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.

APPL – Therefore, what is available to us through the New Covenant is more personal and superior to what Israel had under the Old Covenant.

APPL – Also, God still desires to lead us by His Spirit in accordance with His Word. But what does His leading look like today?

  • It begins with asking Jesus Christ to be your Savior and then following Him daily – Abide in Christ, to be at home with Him. 

Revelation 3:20, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.

  • Abiding with Jesus means you seek first God’s agenda for your life.

Matthew 6:33, But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

  • Abiding with Jesus means you prayerfully bring your requests to the Lord.

Philippians 4:6-7, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • As you abide with Jesus, He will lead you in the ways that bring life and peace.

Romans 8:5-6, For those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are in accord with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace

  • And as you abide with Jesus, He will make your life fruitful.

John 15:7-8, If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you. By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

Transition – Lastly, following God means that we. . .

III. Keep God’s Charge 

Numbers 9:22-23, Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out; they kept the Lord’s charge, according to the command of the Lord through Moses.     

A. If God says, “Wait” then wait

  1. No pattern: two days, a month, a year. (22)
  2. Though God’s pattern is not predictable, His plan is.

a. He is purifying our hearts and maturing our faith.

b. He is conforming us into the image of Christ so that we do and say what Jesus would do and say.

c. The Point: Do not put God in a box. “Wait upon the Lord and be patient.”

Psalm 27:14, Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

  1. We must remember, even while waiting, that our God is working.

B. If God says “Go” then go

  1. Seven times in verses 15-23, it is said Israel kept God’s command.
  2. We must be ready to move when God says it is time to go.

ILLUS – Caleb’s example of following God wholeheartedly (Numbers 13-14)

Numbers 14:24,  But as for My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring him into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it. 


APPL – Caleb followed God wholeheartedly because Caleb trusted God wholeheartedly.

Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.


Exodus 13:17-22    NASB

17 Now when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” 18 Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.” 20 Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.


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