Being stuck between a rock and a hard placePublished 9:45am Monday, August 8, 2011
“Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 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. 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. 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; 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. 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.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place— and I did not know it!” 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.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.” Genesis 28:10-19
I cannot think of a more uncomfortable position than to be sleeping with a rock for a pillow. I have camped outside before with a sleeping bag on the ground, and it was the worst night’s sleep I have ever had. I can sympathize with the discomfort Jacob is feeling here in this text. Not only because of the method of his sleeping arrangements, but also the reason why he is sleeping with a rock for a pillow. He has left home because of his sin. He cheated his brother out of his birthright or inheritance and lied to his father about being his brother to receive it. When Esau found out, he set out to kill Jacob. Jacob is in this uncomfortable situation because of his sin. One thing is for sure, sin always has consequences. For Jacob it meant leaving behind everything he knew and destroyed relationships. Sometimes we get into places of discomfort because of our own mistakes. When we follow our own path, our own way it can bring discomfort.
One might think Jacob blew it and God is done with him. When we sin we might think the same thing. Don’t begin to believe that lie! What this text shows us is the exact opposite! Yet in spite of us God is still active in our lives. Jacob fell asleep and in the dream he sees a ladder and angels descending from heaven to earth, a kind of behind the scenes look into our present reality, but most importantly the Lord himself stood beside him. He tells Jacob the covenant he told his grandfather, that God has chosen him to become this great nation. In the middle of all of his blown plans and discomfort God was with him, and he would keep him, and will bring about exactly what he promised.
Even in the middle of your sin and consequences, God’s presence and grace is still there with you and keeping you, and he is still bringing about his plan for your life! You are always in the care of the Redeemer. How can a holy God do that? How can he still use sinners like Jacob? How can he use us, because we are all sinners like Jacob? The ladder in the dream he had gives us a clue. This ladder Jacob dreamed about allowed the angels of heaven to come to earth. In the New Testament there is not a ladder that bridged the divide between heaven and earth but a cross. God’s grace was with Jacob, and it is with us, because Jesus did what we could not do. He lived a sinless life. He died a death we should have died. He took our sin and God’s righteous wrath and anger due to us on himself on his cross, and rose again three days later. By that act Jesus brings from heaven to earth all the grace we need to overcome our sin, and all the righteousness we need given to us so that we could be co-laborers with God. It is through Jesus that God can be with us. It is through Jesus that God can continue to keep us, and it is through Jesus that he is bringing about his plan for your life. The basis for our qualification to be in communion with God is not based on our work or ability but Christ’s work and abilities. He continues to keep us and qualify us, not our goodness or obedience.
The grace of God makes Jacob proclaim, “The Lord is in this place and I did not know it!” Jacob called this place the house of God, because the house of God is a house of grace! There is still a place for sinners in the house of God. At the same time when we really realize all that God has done for us, and how much he has given to us, then Paul’s saying comes true. “It is the kindness of God that brings repentance.” We will turn from our way to God’s way in true love and devotion to him! Are you in a place of discomfort right now? Is there a rock under your head? Is it because of some sin in your life? Run to God, he has all you need to relieve it, and place you on the right path again.
Mike McMorris is a religion columnist for The Atmore Advance.