Genesis 28:12-15 (NIVUK)
12 He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’
What we now call dysfunctional families have not emerged in the last 30 years and families that just don’t get on together that are divided by jealousy are as old as humanity itself, certainly since the fall. Jacob is well known as a cheat having diddled his older twin Esau out of the blessing and deceived his father Isaac in the process by taking advantage of his failing eyesight. The result, he had to flee for his life to Paddan Aram and his uncle Laban. On the way God revealed himself in a dream at Bethel in which he assured Jacob in the words “I am with you”. That didn’t of course mean that Jacob’s action at home was approved by God but God had chosen to work through Jacob’s line rather than his brother’s. That said he was in God’s academy and his life now would be shaped by God’s blessing and discipline. There after initial kindness he was subject to the same kind of trickery and deceit that he had dished out to his brother. Just deserts you might say and few would disagree that he deserved it. He agreed to work free for seven years to marry his uncle’s daughter Rachel, only to find on his wedding night that he had been deceived into marrying the “plain Jane” sister Leah which meant that he had to agree to work another seven years with no wages to marry the girl he loved in the first place.
The following years were years of sibling rivalry intrigue and deceit, and if Jacob had thought deeply about it he may have wondered what had become of the blessing of God, and his promise to be with him. The bitterness of one generation seemed to have spilled over into the next and life was just as messy.
We often expect God to work above the circumstances of life and straighten out everything for us. We forget that this is a fallen world, that people are imperfect and self centred and often we’re as bad as the next one. It is in this world and in these circumstances that God has chosen to work. It is through people and events, through trials and joys that God shapes the lives of those he calls and loves, teaching them by his word and Spirit, conforming them to the pattern of Christ thus fulfilling his purpose in their lives, and working their lives into his overall plan of redemption.
A few years ago I came across a hymn written by John Newton previously unknown to me and certainly in my experience little if ever used. It’s certainly not on the “happy clappy” play list and probably that’s why I’m thinking you’ve never heard it.... until now! It is deep but have a listen and perhaps it will put a different face on your trials for in them God’s providence might just be working out for you. A promise though is a promise and another name of Jesus, Immanuel, reminds us that in him God is with us.