“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land” (Genesis 28:15).
This verse comes from Jacob’s vision of the ladder extending to heaven. The words are spoken to encourage the Patriarch as he is about to enter the Promised Land, and in this short sentence we find the core of the Christian experience, the manner in which God deals with us.
First of all God promises Jacob: “I am with you”, something Jesus echoes right at the close of Matthew’s gospel when he tells his disciples “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The presence of God’s Spirit within us is a constant reality, a closeness to God at each stage of our lives. To stop and to pray is to remind ourselves that God is not absent, that we are never beyond his reach.
Next Jacob is assured that God “will keep you wherever you go”. Here is an expression of God’s care and oversight: Jacob will be kept, and so he needn’t be concerned about his future. Speaking of his followers, Jesus later promised: “they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). What it is to be held in Christ’s grip, to have a confidence in your eternal security!
Finally Jacob can rely on God’s guidance, as he receives the promise that God “will bring you back to this land“. We too have a Good Shepherd in Jesus, one who will guide, guard and feed us. He is “the way” (John 14:6), the one who will lead us all the way home. The path may be tough at times, we may even go through “the valley of the shadow of death”, but the Shepherd will ensure we get to our destination.