The God Who Is There

The God Who is There      Genesis 28:10-17

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Do you remember the dreams you had last night? Whether you remember them or not, we all dream. The purpose and meaning of dreams is still a mystery. Dr. Ilana Simmons, in an article in Psychology Today, wrote about five theories on why we dream:

*We Dream to Practice Responses to Threatening Situations. Ever notice that dreams have a blood-surging urgency to them? In dreams, we are rehearsing fight-and-flight responses, even though the legs and arms are not actually moving.

*Dreams Create Wisdom. Dreams sort through memories to determine which ones to retain and which to lose. Sleep turns a flood of daily information into what we call wisdom: the stuff that makes us smart for when we come across future decisions.

*Dreaming is Like Defragmenting Your Hard Drive. Dreaming is a shuffling of old connections that allows us to keep the important connections and erase the inefficient links. They are a reordering of connections to streamline the system.

*Dreams Are Like Psychotherapy. In dreams we confront difficult and surprising emotions and sit with those emotions in a new way. We think through emotional stuff in a less rational and defensive frame of mind. We come to accept truths we might otherwise repress.

*The Absence of Theory. Others argue that dreams have no meaning at all —that they are the random firings of a brain that doesn’t happen to be conscious at that time. The mind is still “functioning”, but there’s no conscious sense behind the film.

Philosophical Brazillian author Paulo Coelho wrote:

“We must never stop dreaming. Dreams provide nourishment for the soul, just as a meal does for the body.” ― Paulo CoelhoThe Pilgrimage

What if you had a dream about God that changed your life? In our text today is a dream by one the prominent Old Testament Patriarchs has a dream that shifts his life toward a greater consciousness of God.

Genesis 28:10-17  Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Jacob’s Dream

It wasn’t a typical dream – there are no other dreams in the Bible just like this one. There are 21 dreams recorded in the Bible – this is the second one.  You can likely recall some of the dreams of the Bible. Old Testament Joseph had dreams of his brothers bowing down to him.  New Testament Joseph had a visit from an angel in a dream about Mary’s faithfulness. These recorded dreams are all different and have varying elements. In the Bible, dreams are not typical of one another. This dream is unique in it’s elements and message.

This dream was a reinforcement of the promise made to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.

God doesn’t only give dreams of meaning to the good guys. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a giant statue that revealed the periods of history both past and future. Pontius Pilate’s wife had a dream about Jesus and urged him to let him go. Jacob actually wasn’t that great of a man of God either. In fact when Jacob has this dream he is on the run after stealing his brother’s birthright through deception.

We shouldn’t give equal weight to every dream. Jacob was a human being who, like us, had many dreams. Even vivid dreams may not contain any Divine information for us. But if you go to sleep with a rock for a pillow you might have strange dreams.

After his dream Jacob awoke with this thought:

Genesis 23:16 “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

What We Learn From Jacob’s Dream

-God keeps his promises. God keeps his promises even when we fail. Sometimes we find this hard to accept. True, there are conditional promises in the Bible, but even then God keeps his word. But if God revoked his promises every time we slip up or when we fail to live up to His word perfectly, then we could never be sure that He was going to keep his promises.

-God is near, even when he seems far away.  I imagine Jacob was feeling pretty lonely about this time in his life. He had betrayed his father and his brother. He had to run for his life. He was uncertain what lie ahead for him and his future. Here is the grandson of the Father of the Faithful, who, with the help of his mother, was nothing more than a liar and a thief on the run. She sent him away to her brother’s and would never see him again. It wasn’t his brightest day.  Someone said, “It must have been tough for Jacob to live with Jacob!” Yet God was near. God is so near that Jacob thinks, “This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven!” In the CEB: “It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven.” In our times of trouble I pray we can all look around and recognize God’s presence and know that heaven is near.

“Bethel” means “the house of God.” By renaming the site Jacob made a lasting statement about the meeting he had there with the living God. “Bethel” is wherever our Lord meets with us. The hospital bed, the assisted living facility, our living rooms, and especially our places of prayer can be “Bethel’s.”

-God fulfills many of his promises through Jesus. In our accounting we may not understand why God renewed Abraham’s promises with the unworthy Jacob, but we are grateful that he did. There’s an interesting story in John 1 where Jesus called Philip to follow him. Philip told Nathanael that he had found the Messiah. Remember Nathanael’s response? “Can anything from Nazareth be good?” (John 1:46) Philip told him to come meet Jesus and when he did, Jesus gave Nathanael a great compliment. “Here is a genuine Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” We’ve been studying about Jacob who was quite a deceitful character, but Nathanael was not. Though Nathanael doubted at first Jesus won him over and said, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.

LeRoy Garrett: Scholars agree that Jesus is thinking of the Genesis story in making this statement. If so, that means that Jesus sees himself as the ladder in Jacob’s dream that reaches from earth to heaven. He, as the risen Messiah, would be the access to heaven for all mankind. It is one more instance of the Old Testament anticipating the future Messiah…  He is the ladder to heaven!. Nazareth is not all that bad after all!

Conclusion

Surely God is in this place and I did not know it. When do we need to recall this significant statement of faith? It needs to remain on our minds as we face the battles of life. Jacob is a reminder of the words Paul wrote about himself in Philippians 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” His dream at Bethel was just one marker on the journey.

LifeGroup Questions

1. Can you recall a dream that was either touching … scary … or that was so vivid it remains in your memory? Or are you one of those who never remember any dreams? If you could choose to dream about something what would it be?

2. Jacob is a moral mixed bag in his life story … like most of us. Some take the view that if we disappoint God by failure He will no longer keep his promises. What do you think about that?

3. God keeps his promises. Can you name some of the promises of God … especially any promise that is very meaningful to you? Twelve Promises: A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.

God’s presence—“I will never leave thee” (Heb. 13:5)

God’s protection—“I am thy shield” (Gen. 15:1)

God’s power—“I will strengthen thee” (Isa. 41:10)

God’s provision—“I will help thee” (Isa. 41:10)

God’s leading—“And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them” (John 10:4)

God’s purposes—“I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil” (Jer. 20:11)

God’s rest—“Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28)

God’s cleansing—“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)

God’s goodness—“No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly” (Psalm 84:11)

God’s faithfulness—“The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake” (1 Sam. 12:22)

God’s guidance—“The meek will He guide” (Psalm 25:9)

God’s wise plan—“All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28)

From Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985, Posted HERE

Or

If it is possible, watch THIS BRIEF VIDEO that touches on the more than 3,000 promises in Scripture. Which one or two really catches your attention?

4. The setting of today’s text begins in the previous chapter when Rebekah led her son Jacob through a deception of his father. What deceptions do you see at work in Genesis 27:1-4, 15-22?

5. Jacob named the place of his dream “Bethel” which means “house of God” … what are some “Bethel” places in your life … some places that you connect with God’s presence?

6. In spite of the sketchy character of Jacob at certain points of his life, over 22 times in Scripture God is described as the “God of Jacob.” In Matthew 22 Jesus is talking about the resurrection. In your view, what point is Jesus making when uses the term “God of Jacob”?

Matthew 22:31-33 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” 33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

7. What dreams do you have for your life with God?

Bonus: Jacob’s Dream statue on the campus of Abilene Christian University

Next Week: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17 – God’s Name is Revealed

 

Resources

Dreams in the Bible infographic

What Do Dreams Do For Us? 

Jacob’s Ladder: The Messiah, essay by Leroy Garrett