Thursday, October 01, 2009

Jacob’s Spiritual Awakening -- Genesis 28:16-17

Then Jacob awoke 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 the gate of heaven.”

Can you think of anything more exciting than to be in a place where you know God Almighty is? I can’t. That is exactly what happened to Jacob as he awoke from a deep physical sleep where he had seen the vision God had presented him with. But his awakening was more than physical – it was symbolic of his spiritual awakening. Although a grandson of Abraham and a son of Isaac, Jacob may not have been personally acquainted with the God of his father and grandfather. It is more than likely he had heard about Him, but had never come to see Him as His God. For if he had, perhaps he would not have been involved in the taking of his older brother’s birthright and in the trickery, along with his mother, of robbing him of his blessing. Now Jacob recognizes God’s presence in the very place where he had laid down to sleep. He was definitely surprised by that realization and it is fair for us to wonder why.

We know that people in those days had a very parochial view of the world, life in general, and certainly of any spiritual beings they may have believed existed. Abraham’s family knew about their God, but they also knew that other people had gods of their own that they worshipped in their part of the land where they lived. We could assume that to someone like Jacob who may not have traveled far and wide like his grandfather Abraham, God, whether he knew him intimately or not, was a God who lived and ruled in the known area of which Abraham’s descendants currently dwelt. Yet Jacob had gone beyond the boundaries of that area and lo and behold, here was God!

Have you ever been somewhere or doing something where you were surprised to find out that God was there? To the Christian, that should be a rare or non-existent experience. But when it does happen, how do we react? The text says that Jacob was ‘afraid’ when he made that discovery. The active verb form of the word translated ‘afraid’ here also has the following meanings: to fear, be afraid; to stand in awe of, be awed; and to fear, reverence, honor, respect. Given the context of the verse I would tend to go with the second group of meanings – to stand in awe of or be awed by. Now once we experience this awe – are we comforted by it or do we become truly fearful of God’s presence?

Every true worshipper and lover of God has a type of ‘Jacob’s dream’ experience. It is not necessarily during one’s sleep. It is a point in time when the believer recognizes God’s active presence in his or her life. It is then we need to understand that every inch of this world and the universe beyond is indeed an awesome place – He made it and He owns it; it was not a creation commissioned for someone else. We simply have the privilege of living on it and serving Him. It is His house and therefore, especially in that context, it is ‘awesome’. For Jacob this realization was the opening up on his life to the eternal (what he called the ‘gate of heaven’). Up to now he was involved in the material and the temporal concerns of life. From now on, his life had to consider the spiritual and the eternal. That is exactly what happens when one personally experiences the presence of God.

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