21 September 2021

I Am with You

Living through a global pandemic is troubling, and for some of us it is a source of deep anxiety. I hope this very brief reflection will prove comforting to those who are feeling anxious. It is a reminder of one of the most profound and sustaining realities of the Christian faith; one that resounds throughout the pages of Scripture. Here is one of its most ancient reverberations. 

Know that I Am with You

Genesis 28:10-17

10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (NIV)

Two features of this account are particularly meaningful for us in our troubled times. First, this is the first time in Scripture the LORD makes the promise “I am with you.” And second, when the LORD says this, he is not standing at the top of the ladder. We are told “the LORD stood beside Jacob.” 

Jacob is running from a brother who has sworn to kill him. He is leaving his home on a dangerous journey to a foreign land where he will spend the next twenty years of his life. And it is at this moment the LORD stands beside him and promises to be with him. And when we read the account of Jacob’s life we see the Lord was with him, and it made all the difference.

Just four monosyllables: “I am with you”. Or one word with four syllables “Immanuel” (God with us). It could not be simpler. But when the God who created heaven and earth and everything in it is present with us, it makes all the difference in the world. The last words Jesus speaks in Matthew’s Gospel. In fact the last words of Matthew’s Gospel are “Know this, I am with you always, to the end of the age”.  

Go with God. It makes all the difference.

Richard Neville
Senior Lecturer
School of Theology