“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not”- Genesis 28:16
Here we find Jacob, fleeing from his brother, Esau, in a waste howling wilderness. He has left the comforts of his home, a loving mother and a wise father as he makes his bed under the starry skies with only a rock for a pillow. As he sleeps, he sees in a vision, a ladder reaching up to the stars with angels ascending and descending upon it. He realizes that this is no ordinary dream as he wakes and proclaims his startling discovery, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not”.
Jacob’s discovery is one that every Christian will make at some point in their experience. They, too, will learn that the Lord is in THIS place, wherever they may be. There is a story of a little boy who went to church and the elders of the church felt the boy was progressing very well in his religious training and wanted to encourage him. So, they decided to ask him a simple question and give him an apple for the correct answer. So, they ask him, “If you can tell us where God is right now, we will give you this apple.” The boy considered for a moment, looked them in the eye and answered, “If you can tell me where God isn’t, I will give you two apples each.” Apparently, the boy knew more about God’s omnipresence than the men.
Surely, this truth is of great comfort to God’s people. Just to know that the Lord is with us at every moment imparts hope to the troubled soul. If the very hairs of our head are numbered, the Lord must know about our head, where it is, and what it is thinking. If God was with Jacob in the waste howling wilderness, surely, surely, He is with us. If a sparrow can not fall to the ground without the Father, His people can not either.
Jacob is a figure of God’s chosen people. His name was changed to Israel which means chosen or favored. To every Jacobite, God’s promise runs thus: “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee”- Isaiah 43:1,2. With promises like this to the elect of God, who would argue against the doctrine of election? Should the adopted child argue against the parent who chose them, brought them from the orphanage, provided them a home and sees to their comforts?
This story reveals the sovereignty of God. It was God who chose Jacob and not the other way around. Jacob is like us all. He is in the waste howling wilderness and he is looking for anything but God. But God, in His abundant mercy, has chosen Jacob and marked him out. This is true of every heir of grace. The Lord found Peter, Andrew, James and John as fishermen. He found Paul as he was persecuting Christians. And if you are found, my friend, it was the Lord that found you in this waste howling wilderness, set His love upon you and brought you into His fold. The Lord was present when you drew your fist breath, took your first step, spoke your first word and He will be there to escort you home to glory when you take your last breath. He is faithful and as David describes Him, “A very present help in time of trouble”. And though we may have been ignorant of His presence in the past, He was still there. We would never have known of Him unless He had chosen to reveal Himself unto us.
We may wonder why the Lord does not reveal Himself to all. Yet, we must be satisfied with the answer our Lord has given us: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him”- Matthew 11:25-27. If it seems good in His sight, it must seem equally good in our own. We should not be surprised at those who say there is no God for He has not revealed Himself to all. Only to His chosen and redeemed family is this knowledge of the most High given.
Finally, we must know that there is a difference between the Lord’s presence and the Lord’s manifest presence. Though the Lord is everywhere present and nowhere absent there are times He chooses to reveal Himself more powerfully or manifestly that others. This is known by experience. We are hot and we are cold. We feel close to Him and then we seek Him on our pillow at night. In our worship service there are times that His train seems to fill the temple and then there are times that we feel He has forsaken us. So it was with Israel of old as they sought the Lord in their wilderness wanderings. They followed His cloud in the wilderness as it provided a shade from the scorching sun. His presence was visible by the resplendent Shekinah of light reflecting from the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. He is here. Let us seek His face!