“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.” Genesis 28:15
God gives this promise to Jacob: that he will inherit the land on which he’s standing, and become the progenitor of a great nation.
But, this promise comes immediately after and within the context of the vision of Jacob’s ladder, stretching into heaven, with angels ascending and descending. That imagery foretells the rise-and-fall future of the Israelites – of Jacob’s descendants.
In the coming centuries Jacob’s descendants will rule and be ruled; they will be enslaved and build a powerful kingdom; they will languish in the wilderness, build their temple, see it destroyed, rebuilt and destroyed again.
The future laid out before Jacob is a tapestry of victory and defeat, joy and misery. But, through it all, Jacob has the constant promise of God: that he will bring Jacob back to his Promised Land, to the fulfillment of God’s promise.
For Jacob there is a literal meaning to this: his descendants will be led back to this spot, to conquer Canaan and to the rise of Israel. That is a rich and important part of our faith history. But, for us, the promise of being brought back to the Promised Land carries a deeper spiritual meaning.
As Christians our Promised Land is nothing short of the Kingdom of God. And Jesus tells us in Luke 17:21 that the Kingdom is not here, nor there, “for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Our spiritual destination, the end of our journey in God’s promise, then, is not some far-off land, or future accomplishment out in the world.
The Promised Land, to which God always promises to return us, lies within, in the peace and love of Christ. No matter what happens around us in this world, good or bad, desirable or detestable, no matter how far we may wander, spiritually or physically, God always is waiting for us to return to our true selves – to the selves made in God’s image, made to inherit the Kingdom.
God, help us today to strip away the distracting fear and anxiety that come with our travels through this world, and to focus instead on the perfect peace that resides in your Kingdom, within us. Amen.