There is a difference between ready and able. We see that the mindset or attitude of the Israelites was one of a people ready to engage in conflict. But that wasn’t God’s initial plan; He needed something far more significant from them than their physical muscle.

Though the Israelites left Egypt ready to take on the world, it had been almost 500 years since they had actually been in the rest of the world. For the past five centuries, they had lived entirely in Goshen—initially during the period of Egypt’s drought, then as slaves. The Israelites had no idea what lay beyond the boundaries of Egypt. Still, they were ecstatic from witnessing God’s hand against Egypt and exited their slavery with a certain level of esteem. Unfortunately, God knew this enthusiasm and confidence would be short-lived at first sight of conflict. God knew the Israelites needed something more than just a “quick win.” God knew they needed to mature their faith in Him.

The descendants of Ham inhabited Canaan, and these tribes were not docile—they would not allow the Israelites merely to walk in and conquer their land. No matter how invisible they felt at the moment, the Israelites were not yet a match for the Canaanites, and God didn’t want them to become discouraged and return to Egypt. Therefore, God guided the Israelites elsewhere instead of directing them along their destination’s shortest path.

After two months of being on their journey, God lays His strategy before the Israelites (Exodus 23:27-31). Additionally, He informs them that His terror will drive out their opponents, not their strength. In some ways, perhaps, this was defeating to these nomads who had just witnessed the defeat of their owners. After all, the Israelites were ready for battle, yet they were being instructed not to fight. In other ways, they may have felt a sense of relief—God was going to continue His deliverance.

When facing our own battles, we, too, may share similar feelings. On the one hand, we want to charge and conquer, while on the other, we desire to rest. But, regardless of how we feel, we must realize that whether we fight or rest, it’s not our effort that ultimately wins the battle. Instead, it’s our faith in our Deliverer. Remember David’s response to Goliath? “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled.” (See 1 Samuel 17:45) David came ready for battle, but he knew that it was God who would give him victory. This is the type of faith God sought to cultivate in the Israelites; this is the type of faith He aims to produce in us. And while God could take us from start to finish in a straight line, He sometimes leads us in roundabout ways so that our faith in Him can have a chance to grow. We only need to be patient and not rush the process.

As Christians, we must always be on guard and ready to fight. However, we must realize that our faith is more precious than our might.