Today, as we come closer to Holy Week, we hear of how Jacob goes down into Egypt, together with his family and his entire household. Already old and frail, he had good reason to fear, but God came to him in a vision, instructed him not to fear, and promised to be with him and lead him, and to make his descendants into a great nation. Saint John Chrysostom writes,
Because Jacob dreaded the length of the journey, accordingly He says, ‘Have no regard for the weakness of your old age—I will make you into a great nation there. I will accompany you and make everything easy for you.’ Notice the considerateness of the expression: ‘I will go down with you to Egypt.’ What could be more blessed than to have God as traveling companion?
Before this, however, we are told that Jacob had first gone to Beersheba and then ‘offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.’ He had responded to God and offered prayers to Him, and God had then come to him at night. Saint Ambrose of Milan writes,
The man who has searched out the knowledge of God offers a good sacrifice. Now “at night in a vision God spoke to Israel, saying, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ He said, ‘What is it?’ God said, ‘I am the God of your fathers, do not fear, go down into Egypt; for there I will make you into a great people, and I will lead you forever.’
God is capable of coming to us however He wants to – He is ‘everywhere present and filling all things,’ as we pray each day. However, by being faithful to prayer we open ourselves to recognizing and becoming aware of His presence. We give Him space in which to work in our lives so that we too can follow Jacob’s example and learn to trust in Him. As Saint John Chrysostom writes,
On hearing this, let us learn in whatever we do, whether embarking on some project or beginning a journey, first of all to offer a sacrifice to the Lord in prayer and, by calling on his help to address the matter in hand.
A Reading from the Book of Genesis 46:1-7:
So Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night, and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here am I.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for I will there make of you a great nation. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” Then Jacob set out from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. They also took their cattle and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his sons’ sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt.