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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Bethel (Genesis 28:10-16)

    Jacob came from an established line of people who walked with God. Jacob’s father, Isaac followed God and leaned on God’s guidance for his life. Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, had a very intimate relationship with God, and heard His voice regularly. Abraham was a great man of faith, who regularly had encounters and experiences with God where God spoke directly to Abraham and Abraham correctly discerned the Lord.
    However, despite the fact that Jacob came from this line of men of faith, Jacob did not know the Lord. In the passage we’re going to look at today, we’re going to see how God revealed Himself to Jacob and shows us what He desires from a relationship with each and every one of us.
    I’m going to be in Genesis 28:10-16 today, but I want to set the scene for you, because this is a great story. As I said, Jacob did not know the Lord. He had, through lies and manipulation, stolen the birthright and blessing of his older twin brother, Esau. Esau hated Jacob for it, and had tried to kill him, and so Jacob had run away from his home, from Esau who was hunting him down, and from his father Isaac and mother Rebekah.
    This is where our passage this morning picks up, with Jacob fleeing his home. Join me in Genesis 28:10-16.
    “Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he happened upon a particular place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and made it a support for his head, and lay down in that place. And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Then behold, the Lord was standing above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, 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 awoke from his sleep and said, “The Lord is certainly in this place, and I did not know it!” (NASB)
    Last week, the first point of my sermon was that even when God’s word is rare, He is still speaking. The first thing that Jacob’s story here tells us is that God is always SPEAKING, even when we aren’t listening. This is always true. God is never silent. Even in the 400-year time period between the events in the book of Malachi, and the coming of Christ told in the gospels, God was not silent. He was speaking. There were people who were following Him, and listening to Him. Mary, Jesus’ mother is proof of that fact. When she heard God speak to her, she knew it was Him because she knew His voice. God was still speaking, even though His word was rare, because He is always speaking, even when we aren’t listening.
    Take Jacob in this story. Remember that he did not know the Lord. Or Samuel in last week’s story, who also did not know the Lord. Yet, God was still speaking. To Jacob, He spoke in a dream. To Abram, God spoke when Abram was old and settled in a land and settled in his ways of worshiping pagan gods. He surely wasn’t listening for God, but God spoke.
    To Moses, God spoke from a burning bush while Moses was tending sheep. Moses didn’t set out that day to hear God’s voice, he set out to tend the flock. But God spoke.
    In the New Testament, He spoke to Saul, even as Saul was on his way to persecute and sentence to death those who followed Jesus. Saul was not listening, but God spoke.
    This should be a comforting and reassuring thought to us. Sometimes we aren’t listening. Now, we know as disciples of Jesus that it is important for us to be listening, to be pressed in, to be hearing all the ways He tries to speak to us, but even when we aren’t…He’s still speaking.
    In this dream, God says to Jacob, “Behold, 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.”
    For this being the first time Jacob had ever listened to God speak, that’s a mighty promise, isn’t it? God promised that He would go with Jacob wherever Jacob went and that He wouldn’t leave Jacob until He had fulfilled His promise.
    I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. God has also promised us that He will never leave us and will go with us wherever we go. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist starts, “God is our refuge and strength, A very ready help in trouble.” (46:1, NASB). He goes on through the first 11 verses to show how God’s power displayed all around us is a reminder that He is always with us. The Psalmist talks about God’s presence seen throughout all of creation, that we can see clear evidence of God’s presence in the world around us.
    The Psalm that one of our Sunday school classes covered just last week was Psalm 139, and part of this psalm talks about how there is no where we can go in all of creation where we can hide from God’s spirit. “How can I get away from your Spirit? Where can I go to escape from you? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in the deepest parts of the earth, you are also there. Suppose I were to rise with the sun in the east. Suppose I travel to the west where it sinks into the ocean. Your hand would always be there to guide me. Your right hand would still be holding me close.” (139:7-10, NIRV).
    His presence is clear in creation, and there is no where in His creation we can go where we can escape His presence. He is truly always with us. Jesus made this same promise as well in Matthew 28:20, to His disciples, then and now, that He will be with us always, even to the very end of the age.
    Jacob has this incredible dream where God reveals Himself to Jacob, and Jacob is made aware that God is always with Him, always there wherever Jacob goes. And what happened next? “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “The Lord is certainly in this place, and I did not know it!”
    While God was speaking, and while even creation cried out that God’s presence is all around, Jacob was not aware of God’s presence or voice until this dream.
    The same is true for us many times. God is speaking, even when we aren’t listening. He is with us wherever we go, always. But still, we aren’t aware of His presence. He’s trying to make Himself known and whispering to us in the course of our day, but we are unaware that His presence is right there. We have times in our lives when we can all echo Jacob’s words, “The Lord is certainly in this place, and I did not know it!”
    Even this morning, His presence is here. Are you aware of Him? Do you see how He is moving here in our hearts, in your heart? Do you hear Him whispering to you this morning? Are you aware of His presence?
    We want to be. We want to be aware that He is always here, always with us, always speaking, and we want to be able to recognize what He is saying when He is speaking.
    There’s a place I like to go, up in the mountains, down south 47 between Rio Communities and Mountainaire. It’s the Abo Ruins, and if you’re not familiar with it, it’s the ruins of the old Spanish Mission that was integrated into the Native pueblo that was already there. I go there when I’m feeling particularly disconnected from the Lord, or when I need to really press in to His presence and connect with Him in a deeper way.
    The reason it helps me connect with Him in that place is because I can see His beautiful creation all around me, and because when I stand in the ruins of what was a church 400+ years ago, I’m reminded that they served the same God I serve, that they worshiped the same God I worship, that they prayed, and sang, and heard the word of the Lord just like me. I can use my imagination and imagine that maybe someone in that pueblo was struggling with something and cried out to God in desperation, just as I have done during difficult times. I imagine them singing songs of the resurrection of Christ on Easter. I am reminded through His creation around that place and the ruins of their walls that God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow, though everything around me changes, He remains constant.
    This idea of connecting to God’s presence in a specific place isn’t new. After all, that’s what the place in our passage this morning became to Jacob. It became a place where he connected to God in nature and became more aware of God’s presence there. He called that place Bethel, which means the House of God.
    Jacob was not the only person in the Bible to make that connection between God’s creation and connecting with God’s presence. In Genesis 12, when Abraham became aware of God’s presence as he was following God’s command, he named that place Bethel. Bethel became a prominent place in the Old Testament, and it was a place where time after time, God revealed Himself and people were made aware of His presence.
    Sometimes, when the world around us gets too noisy, and we have allowed our ears to become deaf to the voice of God, we must go to Bethel. We must go to a place where we can drown out the noise and tune our ears again to the voice of God. A place where we can connect with His presence in a special way. A place where we see His presence displayed in the power of His creation.
    Jesus did this as well. In Luke 5:16, we see Jesus slip away to the wilderness to pray and refresh after ministering to others. So, when we’ve had an intense time of ministering to others, pouring into others that God has asked us to share His love with, then it’s time to go to Bethel. After you minister and pour out to others, take time to go to the place you connect to God’s presence and pray and refresh.
    In Luke 6:12-16, we see Jesus go alone into the mountains to pray to hear God’s direction. So, when you’re unsure of what decision to make, which direction to go, how to handle a situation, then it’s time to go to Bethel. Take your confusion and uncertainty, take your questions and doubt to the place you connect to God’s presence and ask Him to show you the way.
    In Luke 22:39-46, when Jesus knew He was about to be pressed and tried, He went into the garden alone to prepare Himself for what was to come. So, when you’re being pressed, crushed, persecuted, tested with trials and temptations, then it’s time to go to Bethel. Take your pain, frustration, fear, anger, guilt, shame, whatever it is that you’re feeling during those challenging trials and temptations to the place you connect to God’s presence and let Him bear your burdens and give you peace, comfort, strength, encouragement, and boldness.
    Yes, there are times when we are not aware of God’s presence, we cannot hear His voice. During those times, we need to go to the place where we can be more connected with Him: BETHEL. This is one of the habits we can develop to make sure we are listening to Him and hearing His every whisper.

1. When are you most aware of the Holy Spirit in your life? Why do you think that is? Why do you think we can sometimes forget about God’s presence with us through the Spirit?

2. How do you see God’s presence all around you every day? How do you remind yourself to be aware of His presence?

3. This week, take at least 15 minutes every day to be completely alone with God. Silence any distractions or noise. Spend that time to pray, to refresh and rest in His presence, to hear His direction and guidance, to repent, to prepare you for what might be ahead, to lay down burdens, to thank Him, but most of all, to just be in His presence.

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