“God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.
Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.
So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you
and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel,
so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress
and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
See in these verses the important decision and declaration of Jacob. He and his household will worship and serve and devote themselves to this God, and this God Alone. Putting away any other gods that have pulled their focus and their hearts in the past. Purifying themselves, which we do by confession, humility, repentance, and surrender, and through faith that God forgives and cleanses with faithfulness and joy.
This connects to Joshua’s later declaration to the nation of Israel that they must choose that day whom they will serve, whether this God who brought them from slavery, gave them His Law, and won the promised land, or other foreign gods. But as for Joshua and his household, he stated firmly that they would serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).
It is not a light declaration. It is bold and decisive and requires commitment. Which can be scary if we question who God is or if we doubt our ability to remain steadfast.
So within this declaration of Jacob, see also the personal element here. Because this God is not distant. Or unfeeling. Or distracted. He is “the God who answers me in the day of my distress.” He is the God who “has been with me wherever I have gone.”
Jacob had personally experienced the faithfulness and nearness of God throughout difficulty and changing circumstances. And those promises, those experiences, are not for Jacob alone.
They are for you as well.
Psalm 107 paints a beautiful, powerful picture of God’s response to those who call out to Him in the day of their distress. Those wandering in a wasteland, finding nowhere to rest, no home in which to dwell. Those trapped in darkness, “prisoners in affliction and in irons” because of their intent rebellion against Him. Those suffering the consequences of their sin, ignoring any help and running toward their own destruction. Those caught in heavy storms with no apparent hope for salvation or peace.
Each of these “cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress” (verses 6, 13, 19, 28). They didn’t have to prove themselves first. They didn’t have to meet a certain standard. No, they just had to cry out. And He was there. They were given satisfaction and good things and a home. They discovered freedom as their bonds were shattered and they were brought out of darkness. They found restoration as God “sent out his word and healed them” (vs. 20), delivering them from their self-destructive path. They knew safety and rest as He quieted their storms and brought them safely through.
This is the God who answers us. Whose ears are attentive to our cry and does not delay in responding.
And He will be with us wherever we go. Not because of anything we bring to the table. Not because we never falter in our steps. But simply because we are His and He is faithful.
“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,’
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.”
“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”