And Israel pulled out and all which was his, and he came to Beer-sheba and sacrificed sacrifices to the God of his father, Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in the visions of the night and He said, "Jacob, Jacob." And he said, "Here I am". And He said, "I Myself am the God, God of your fathers; do not fear from going down to Egypt, for into a great nation I will make you there. I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will you bring you up, indeed, I will bring up. And Joseph will place his hand upon your eyes." And Jacob arose from Beer Sheba, and the sons of Israel lifted up Jacob their father, and their small children, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh sent to exalt him. And they took their livestock and their possessions which they acquired in the land of Canaan and they came to Egypt, Jacob and all his seed with him; his sons and his sons' sons with him, his daughters and his daughters' daughters, and all his seed he brought with him to Egypt.
I couldn't wait to grow up, when I was a young child, primarily because I thought that when I became an adult, I could then walk wherever I wanted to walk, and go wherever I wanted to go. I quickly learned that it wasn't like that. You have to take into consideration the needs of friends and family, and you must heed the will of those over you like the government or your boss before you go anywhere.
Adding to all the people you must take into account before you take a single step, there is also God to think about. Once you become a Christian, His will becomes primary for you. Just as Jesus prayed at Gethsemane, His disciples today echo His sentiments, "Not my will, but Thine be done." As it turns out, the steps you take and where you go, aren't really your decisions, as a Christian. For God determines where you go, having prepared good works for you to walk in, each step of the way.
That was true for believers as far back as Jacob. God had given him the new name *Israel* and had given him that promised land named after him. Then, God told him to leave the promised land and go down to Egypt. Not just him, but every single member of his family. Going from the promised land to a foreign land of a potential enemy? Didn't seem to promising. But God directed their steps all the way down to Egypt with the promise that He would go with them and bring them back out again.
Some New Testament believers received the same directions from God. Mary and Joseph likewise took there relatively small household down into the foreign land of Egypt to protect the young boy Jesus from Herod's wicked plans. God then instructed them to return when the coast was clear, leading them back home once more. This fulfilled what was prophesied for Jesus, that out of Egypt God would call His Son. The Israelites in Egypt in the Old Testament were a type of Jesus in the New.
These parallel stories teach us much about our walk with God, primarily that it is always to be *with* God. Jesus promises to be with His Own people. He remains with you to guide your walk on the straight and narrow path each step of the way of your life here on earth. And those times you wander off the path like straying sheep, your Good Shepherd comes to gather you up into His arms to return you to safe ground, with both a stern word of admonishment, and with a comforting word of caring.
These stories remind us that our walk with God seems difficult and challenging at times. God leads you down a few dark roads you wouldn't choose to travel. The Lord directs your steps along paths you would never choose to go on your own. But don't be deceived by how things seem at first glance. For you know that your God does not allow anything beyond what you can handle, and in your weakness, He is your Strength. You are God's Own, purchased at the cross and brought into His family at baptism.
These stories about walking with God also teach us that He is the one who directs our footsteps. We may think that we choose to come to be with Him in church today, but really, no one comes to the Father unless Jesus draws him. We ask ourselves what we can do to get more folks in church on Sunday, but that's not the right question. Since it is the Holy Ghost who gathers folks around Word and Sacrament, we ought be asking what *God* would have us do, what steps/gifts He has for His church.
Your walk with God is never promised to be an easy one, this side of heaven. But you do have the promise of His protection each step of the way, as He promises to come to be with His people even if only two or three are gathered in His name. He gathers us together as He has this day, to receive the blessings. We do well to go with Him where He leads, to the font as baptized children of God, to His preaching/teaching to listen to the one thing needful, and to His Table to feast on His body and blood.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#918 Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer
#385 From East to West
#729 How Firm a Foundation, O Saints of the Lord