This article is the first in a series looking at the blessings of God’s presence; using a number of character case studies or incidents in the lives of a number of biblical figures, covering both the Old as well as the New Testament.
There are of course those who would argue that God has promised in His word that He will never leave nor forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5); and again, ‘Lo, I am with you, even to the very end of the age’. (Matthew 28:20). Their argument is that God is always with His children. Yet having said that we each need, a deep, personal, tangible and practical awareness of what it means to know and experience the presence of God; not only on an ongoing basis but at key moments in our lives.
In Genesis 28: 10-22 we read the story of Jacob; the son of Isaac, he was running away from his brother Esau, from whom he had not only taken the birth right but the blessing. He was on his way to his maternal home. By sundown he arrived at a certain place. It seemed a good place to set up camp for the night. He found a stone, set up his pillow, settled down and slept.
As he slept, Jacob dreamed a dream where there was a stairway that reached from earth to heaven. He saw the angels of God ascending and descending the stairway. At the top, God stood and spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of your grandfather Abraham and father Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you, and I am giving it to you and your descendants.’ God then goes on to say how numerous his descendants will be. In the fifteenth verse 15 God says, ‘I am with you and will go with you wherever you will go’. In the same breath, God committed Himself to bringing Jacob back to the land, stating emphatically that He would not leave him until He had brought to pass everything He had promised.
Jacob awoke from his sleep and exclaimed, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it!’ He went on to declare that ‘this place is none other than the house of the Lord.’
Let us pause for a moment and consider some of the implications of Jacob’s experience. Firstly, we see that Jacob was a man on the run; he was afraid.
Secondly, we see also that he was in a place of extreme isolation and loneliness. Thirdly, he was a man facing an uncertain future.
It was at this very low point in his life that God engaged him; speaking positively into his future about the greatness that lay ahead of him and the protection he was going to experience. He would not only return to the land, he would inherit it.
I don’t know where you are in your journey; maybe you too are afraid, lonely and feeling isolated. The same God who encountered Jacob is speaking to you saying, ‘Don’t be afraid; you will make it through’.
The interesting thing is that when Jacob woke up from his dream, he exclaimed that God was in that place, and he didn’t know it. Indeed, he was not aware that God was already in the place before he arrived. However, after the dramatic dream encounter, he most certainly knew that God was there.
My prayer for you is that like Jacob you will know; you will have a deep awareness of God’s presence wherever you are, whether in prison or in a very lonely, broken and dark place; that you will know God speaking to you right now, even as you read these words.
Having woken up very early the next day, Jacob poured olive oil on the stone he used to rest his head and named it Bethel, meaning the house of God. Not only did he worship, he made a vow: ‘Lord, if you will protect and keep me in my journey and bring me back, give me food and clothing and I come back to this place, this will be a permanent place of worship and I will give you a tenth of everything you give me’. So, the place of the presence of God is also a place of deep commitment, worship and sacrifice to God.
My prayer is that wherever you are in this journey called life, like Jacob you will encounter the life-transforming power of God’s presence.
Copyright Emmanuel Mbakwe 2014©
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