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As we choose to follow God, our commitment will inevitably be challenged.

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5 And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. 6 And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, 7 and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. 8 And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth. – Genesis 35:5-8

Jacob has already begun his journey to Bethel – the place God calls him to go. After burying the foreign gods and changing his clothes for the long journey ahead, we drop in on Jacob’s story along the way. The narrator comments on several aspects of this journey. First, we notice God’s protection. Jacob and his family make it safely to Bethel because God sends terror on the surrounding cities. Undoubtedly, Jacob is strengthened as he sees God’s hand of protection so vividly.

Nevertheless, although God protects them from the other nations, God does not spare them grief. During this same journey, there is a death in the family. It would be easy to overlook this detail because the narrator presents it in such a matter-of-fact way. However, tragedy is never easy to bounce back from and we should consider what impact this event had on their journey. Imagine the decision to leave Shechem and travel thirty miles with a sick nurse. Then, upon arriving at your destination, she breathes her last. Certainly a wave of gloom rested upon this family along with a second wave of uncertainty.

As we choose to follow God, our commitment will inevitably be challenged – through pain or doubt or simply because the journey takes longer than expected. For Jacob, the death of his mother’s maidservant stirred up many questions and decisions to be made along the way. Jacob had a choice to make. Would he sit in his grief blaming God for less than perfect protection along his journey or would he press on resting in God’s sovereign provision along the way? As you enter a new day, listen to Oceans by Hillsong and let this be your anthem to trust God no matter what comes.

 

Not that I have already obtained this
or am already perfect,
but I press on to make it my own,
because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
– Philippians 3:12

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By Yvonne Biel 

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