In Joshua 14:10 [KJV], quoting Joshua, we find this: And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while [the children of] Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I [am] this day fourscore and five years old.

Ever see one of those Family Circle cartoons in the Sunday newspaper, where Billy wanders the neighborhood - a dashed line showing a crazy, disorganized path? Or perhaps you’ve seen this cartoon:


This is what I think about when I hear the word “wandered” – a sort of purposeless or aimless or distracted ambling around – not necessarily without objective or destination, but certainly without a determined path. Is this a fair application of the word “wandered” in regards to what happened with Israel? 

The Hebrew word translated “wandered” in Joshua 14:10 means “to go, walk, come, depart, proceed, move, go away” or “to lead, bring, lead away, carry, cause to walk.”


It stands in stark contrast to word used for Hagar’s wandering as outlined in Genesis 21:14 [KJV] And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave [it] unto Hagar, putting [it] on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. The word used here means “to err, go astray, wander, stagger.” This definition more costly aligns with the modern use of the word wander. Hagar staggered around in the wilderness – with no clear objective as to where she was headed and it could have resulted in the death of her son had God not intervened.

But Israel did not wander, in the way Hagar did. They were lead. God cause them to depart, to proceed, to walk. 

Siri – that all-knowing, talking app on my iPhone has lead me astray a time or two. Construction in the roadway often throws her off. But, mostly, I can rely on her to get me from point A to point B via the fastest route, which, as you know, is not always the shortest distance. Even when I have no idea how to get somewhere, she does. I cannot read the phone screen while I drive, so I must listen to her voice. 

Exodus 13:18, 21-22 [ESV] 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. ... 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.

God was taking Israel to the promise land. Perhaps their journey would have looked more like the man shopping (in the diagram above), if they hadn’t sinned. However, due to their sins, it looked a little more like the woman’s shopping path. It was not the shortest route. However, it would be a misrepresentation of our Loving Father to say that He didn’t plan every step of the way. You think He didn’t know the exact distance to the next clean water source? That He was surprised by the weather they encountered along the way? Of course not. Everything was in His control. 

Every single step Israel took along the way was led by the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night. Whether they rested or moved forward was directed by God through these clear signs. They knew that the destination was still their promised land, but they no longer knew the path. So, they had to trust God to lead them via the cloud and the fire. 

In a way, He even packed for them. Nehemiah 9:21 [ESV] Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. He provided their food – quail and manna. He led them to water. He made sure their clothes didn’t wear out.

God is the perfect trip planner. If we let Him control every aspect of our journey through this life, He will never lead us astray. We will never wander aimlessly. We already know where we are going – to the promised land of eternity in His Kingdom. But we don’t know the way. We have to ask Him to lead us.  Even when He leads me through a storm, even when the path seems unclear to me, even when I wonder if my life has taken a wrong term, even when it feels more like wandering than navigating, I must trust Him to lead me. 


When I updated my iPhone, I was able to just say, “Hey Siri, navigate to” and offer her an address or simply give her name of the contact already setup in my phone. Similarly, the Psalms are full of examples of asking for God to handle the directions. 

Psalm 5:8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. Psalm 27:11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Psalm 119:35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Psalm 139:24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

Note that the Psalmist even asks for level ground. I sure ask for that too – level ground, a smooth path, safe travels, clear direction – even the quickest path with the least traffic. Trust me, sisters, you can ask for that too. He wants to handle the navigation. 

Dare we say, “Hey Abba, navigate to Your Kingdom!”? Go ahead. You can rely on Him. You won’t wander aimlessly. He knows the way – not just the destination. 

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.