Imagine if you will Jacob, getting rather along in years… gathering up his two wives, two concubines, eleven sons (Joseph still being in Egypt), their wives, a gaggle of grandchildren, livestock, and all the stuff a guy with a huge family can accumulate in a lifetime… packing up, and moving out. The whole brood — lock, stock and barrel… to a foreign country. A foreign country with strange beliefs and strange gods, where his father Isaac had been specifically told not to go during a previous famine (Genesis 26:2). In fact, Abraham had been warned that his descendants would be enslaved in a foreign land (Genesis 15:13), and that by itself might have been enough to make the family a bit wary of relocating.
It must have been quite the undertaking, and quite worrisome for Jacob. Moving is stressful enough, after all, without the choice of leaving behind your promised land or letting your family starve. In either case, it must have seemed, he’d have to give up on one of the promises God gave to his father, and his father’s father: to make Abraham’s descendants a great nation, and to give them possession of the land forever. (Genesis 17:1-8, 26:3-5)
But he set out for Egypt, and along the way, he came to Beersheba. Beersheba, where Abraham had camped after making a peace agreement with Abimelech in Genesis 21… where Isaac had camped and met with God before making peace for himself with the Philistines (Genesis 26:18-33).
Jacob came to Beersheba in need of peace. He was carrying the weight of the promises made to his father, and when he arrived, he set out to seek God, the God of his father. And God met him there.
God reassured Jacob that going to Egypt was part of the plan. Not only would his descendants still be made a great nation, God would go with them to that foreign, frightening place, and would bring them back.
What interests me in this passage is that Jacob related to God as “the God of his father”. He’d had his own relationship with God for many years at this point, but that legacy was still strong — the faith of his father, and his father’s father.
I was raised in a household with a strong legacy of faith, and it has made me who I am today. We all have to come to a point, like Jacob did in Genesis 28:20-22, where we make it personal — the LORD will be my God, and I will build my own altar — but there is something beautiful in seeing the heritage of faith passed down from generation to generation.
I am blessed to know and serve the God of my father — and my mother.