Old Testament passage for Thursday, January 17, 2013: Genesis 35:1-36:43
Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone. Genesis 35:3 (NKJV)
Jacob was headed home. He had been somewhat like the prodigal son of which Jesus spoke in Luke 15:11-32. Like the prodigal, he had foolishly left his father's house and gotten himself deeper in trouble. Now it was time to go back where he started.
The Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni
Someone once described Jacob as having a "rabbit spirit." Every time he got in trouble he would run! He was a "supplanter". That is the meaning of his name -- one who lies and steals to get ahead. He had two times deceived his older brother Esau and stole the birthright and the blessing. When Esau's anger finally erupted in threats of murderous revenge, Jacob ran for his life. Then, after twenty years of getting some of his own medicine, Jacob got crossways with his father-in-law Laban. Once again he bolted.
The easiest thing for us to do is run. Some people run their entire life. They slip from one tight spot to another. But, the "hound of heaven" is on their trail.
Both at the beginning and the end of Jacob's journey, God met him in dramatic fashion. First, it was a dream in which he saw a ladder that reached up to heaven (Genesis 28:10-22). He called that place Bethel. Second, God finally cornered Jacob near a stream called Jabbok ("flowing") (Genesis 32:22-32). Jacob and the Angel of the Lord wrestled all night long. It changed Jacob for good.
We might ask, "Where was God while Jacob was going through all this rebellion and running?" Where was God while the prodigal son was out in the world? I can go even further. Where was God when you were going through those rough years? Where was God when you felt like you had lost your way?
Some might answer that God was back at home waiting for you. In a sense, that would be true. Like the father of the prodigal son, God waits at the gate looking for your return. But, I think it is more. In all the days of running, GOD WAS WITH YOU. When the prodigal slid down into the pig pen, God was with him. When Jacob wandered in the wilderness looking for a new home, God was with him.
All that time, you thought you were far from God, really God was right there beside you. And, He answered your cry in distress. He answered you when in darkness you cried out.
Jacob's testimony was, "God has been with me in the way which I have gone." The amazing truth is that God is working in our mountain tops and in our valleys. He is working in our times of success and he is also working in our failures. He did not want you to leave home, but when you did, He still went with you. And He brought you back home.