“Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”
Have you ever felt the presence of God in your life? I don’t just mean knowing intellectually that he is always there with you, I mean some kind of sensation that you cannot explain, but which you just know is the presence of God? I’ve experienced this a couple of times: once when I was a child and I was visiting Southwark cathedral with friends from my church; on another occasion when I was on the North Downs in the midst of a storm.
Jacob, we see in our verse today, had complete confidence in the presence of God in his life at all times. Throughout his twenty years or so of roaming, he knows that God has been with him wherever he went. Whether it was fleeing from his family after tricking his father into giving him a blessing that should have been his brother Esau’s, roaming around the desert, living with his uncle, returning to his fatherland and making up with Esau, dealing with the fall out of the rape of his daughter, or any number of the other situations he faced, he just knew and trusted that God had been with him. He also knew that God had answered him on his “day of distress,” giving him the support and guidance that he needed in every circumstance. Jacob believed that because of God’s constant love, support and guidance, it was only right that he built an altar on which to make sacrifices to acknowledge his love – and debt – to God.
Just like he was with Jacob, I believe that God is with us wherever we go, offering love, guidance, support and encouragement to us. I believe that when we come to our “days of distress” God answers us too. Since the death and resurrection of Jesus we no longer make animal sacrifices to God, instead we offer him our lives as living sacrifices. Let’s give thanks for God’s love today, and renew our response to him by seeking to honour and serve him in all areas of our lives.