Understanding the Word Detour

Detour or Umleitung

I don’t know French. My exposure to French is French fries and French toast. When I want to know more about a word’s origin and meaning, I often use Google. The French word “detour” comes from the verb destorner. It means to  “turn aside.” Out of curiosity, I looked for the word used in the German language. In German, the word for detour is “umleitung.” It is amusing that the German word “leitung” means “management” which means controlling or dealing with things or people. It is important to understand that “um” means around. Umleitung means to go around management or take a detour. Most of the time, we don’t like the long way. It isn’t comfortable or convenient. There are too many unknowns. When driving, my GPS cannot see the sign, so it throws my GPS into panic mode, encouraging me to return to the original route.

Why Detours?

Let’s be honest. No one looks at a detour sign and says “Terrific! A new exploration or experience for my enjoyment and for good purposes!” Perhaps we don’t really appreciate the value of a detour, unless we have an appreciation for the purposes of God in our lives. In Acts chapter 8, Philip the evangelist was having a very profitable ministry in the villages of Samaria. Philip was in Samaria because of Saul’s terrorism of the believers in Jesus. When Philip went to Samaria, he had success: “And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip, when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.” Acts 8:6-8 ESV Success, healing and joy. There were crowds of people impacted by Philip’s work in Samaria.

Detour Destination: Desert

Eventually Philip was able to return to Jerusalem. When he did, God sent an angel to give him a message. He was instructed to leave Jerusalem, but it wasn’t to go to another heavily populated area. He told the successful evangelist to go to the desert. Talk about a detour! It was a detour, on the surface, that seemed crazy, but it was an amazing detour. “Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’ So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’” Acts 8:25-30

Detour Benefits

Philip went from being a blessing to hundreds to spend some time with one individual. We don’t know his name, but he was someone of influence and importance from a place Philip would probably never visit. The man was the treasurer of all the Ethiopian queen’s treasure. Think about his influence. Think about his opportunities. This man was reading the scriptures in the book of Isaiah and didn’t understand what he was reading. Philip explained the gospel. He told the treasurer about Jesus. You should read Acts 8 if you don’t know the story. This detour could easily have impacted thousands of people in Ethiopia. We don’t know, but we don’t need to know. We do know that one man in a desert heard some good news and accepted it. This was for his eternal benefit.

Afterwards, Philip continued his work as an evangelist. The detour didn’t discourage him.

Even When Life Makes No Sense

John Piper reminded his readers this morning that nothing God does is wasted. Even caring for someone who may be a cast-off from society is not a waste of time or talent. Piper shared this illustration, so I share it with you to remind you and me that our impact may not be on thousands, but our words, works and efforts have value when done for Jesus.

In a home for retarded children, Catherine was nurtured twenty years. The child had been [mentally handicapped] from the beginning and had never spoken a word, but only vegetated. She either gazed quietly at the walls or made distorted movements. To eat, to drink, to sleep, were her whole life. She seemed not to participate at all in what happened around her. A leg had to be amputated. The staff wished Cathy well and hoped that the Lord would soon take her to Himself.

One day the doctor called the director to come quickly. Catherine was dying. When both entered the room, they could not believe their senses. Catherine was singing Christian hymns she had heard and had picked up, just those suitable for death beds. She repeated over and over again the German song, “Where does the soul find its fatherland, its rest?” She sang for half an hour with transfigured face, then she passed away quietly. (Taken from The Best Is Still to Come, Wuppertal: Sonne und Shild)

How do you view the Covid-19 detour? It probably depends on your view of God. Here is a link to Piper’s article: John Piper