Wake Up and Recognize
WAKE UP AND RECOGNIZE
By Mark E. Hardgrove
Text: Gen 28:10-22; Read vv. 16-17
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." 17 And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!"
Has it ever occurred to you that a person could be in the presence of the Lord, and not even realize it? (Examples, Peter, Thomas, Jacob) There are people who come to church and then leave disappointed thinking that nothing happened, thinking that God didn't move, thinking that lives weren't changed and that going to church is just a waste of time. I'm talking about people who keep coming to church, but who really feel like church and religion, and all the hoopla of Christianity may be nothing more than a myth; or an emotional catharsis at best, but nothing more. So, they come to church and they go to church, but they never get to God, they never experience Him.
I believe that it is possible that people can come to church, go through the motions, and leave as empty as they came. Not because God isn't there and not because God isn't real, but because it is possible for us to be spiritually asleep while God is working and we miss it. We miss it because we are preoccupied with life. We are overwhelmed with circumstances and situations that we are dealing with, and so while we are physically awake, we are spiritually asleep to what God desires to do in us, to us, and through us.
I think that it is time to wake up and recognize. It's time to recognize that God is still alive and well. It is time to recognize that when Jesus said He would be in our midst, we can stand on that promise and believe that the potential for an awesome manifestation of God's power is possible every time two or three people gather in the name of Jesus.
Look at your text. Go back to verse 10 and let's review how Jacob got to where he was when He recognized God's presence.
I) DISTRACTED BY OUR PROBLEMS
Jacob was a man who had taken advantage of his twin brother Esau by convincing his famished brother to sell him his birthright for a bowl of soup. Esau was born first, so Esau was the eldest son of Isaac and Rebekah. The eldest son, simply by virtue of birth order, was the son who received a double portion of the inheritance of his father compared with the inheritance that was divided among the other brothers. For example, in this case, with two brothers one brother would get two-thirds of the inheritance of his father and the younger son would get one third of the inheritance. Along with the double portion the eldest son was also given the responsibility of caring for his parents into their old age.
In addition to getting the birthright from Esau, Jacob (with the help of his mother Rebekah) tricked his father Isaac into giving him the father's blessing. Isaac was an aging man whose sight was going bad and at this point Isaac was prepared to pronounce the father's blessings over his sons. A father's blessing was considered to be prophetic, in that, it was a declaration of how the son's future would unfold.
Esau was Isaac's eldest son and Esau was Isaac's favorite son, so Isaac had a special blessing to pronounce over Esau. However, Jacob tricked his father into declaring Esau's blessing upon him. Such a blessing was viewed as a prophetic word from God and once it was declared it could not be revoked. So after Isaac speaks the blessing over Jacob, and Jacob leaves, along comes Esau looking for his blessing and suddenly Isaac realizes what he has done. Esau is crushed and cries out for a blessing, but it is not the preferred blessing that Isaac had mistakenly spoken over Jacob.
Naturally, as a result of these events Esau was very angry. So angry that he made no secret of the fact that he intended to kill his younger brother Jacob the next time he saw him. In light of this threat, Rebekah convinces Jacob to leave Canaan, travel to her brother Laban's home in Haran, and find a wife there from among her family. Jacob agrees and embarks upon his journey, which brings us to verse 10:
10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.
Jacob was weary. He was weary emotionally and physically. He traveled as far as he could until the sun was setting, and then with nothing but a rock for a pillow, he laid down to sleep.
Up to this point in his life there is no record of Jacob being particularly spiritual, or devout. There's no record of Jacob praying or seeking God's guidance in anything he has done. He has been entirely motivated by avarice (greed). He wanted more and he was willing to do anything to get it.
In the process he managed to alienate himself from his brother, and to a lesser extent, from his father. As a result of his own choices Jacob was overwhelmed with his problems and he was out of his element. Esau was the hunter and outdoorsman, but it is Jacob, the mama's boy, who is now out under the desert sky with nothing but a rock for a pillow.
Let's face it, most of us are where we are today because of the choices we've made along the way. The problems, concerns, and the situations that overshadow our life and distract us from God and His presence, are usually (not always) the problems we created.
II) DREAMING OF OUR PROMISE
Jacob wasn't thinking about God. Jacob was thinking about Jacob. He wasn't seeking God, but God found Jacob. Jacob was plagued by his problems, but God was persistent in His promises. Look at verse 12:
12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said:"I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 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 spoken to you."
God had promised Abraham that He would make him a father of many nations. God promised Abraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea. Jacob, Abraham's grandson, had not been faithful, but God is faithful even when we aren't. The promise that God had given Abraham ran through Jacob and God intended to keep His promise. God had promised Abraham the land of Canaan as his inheritance and even though Jacob was leaving, God promised to bring him back.
Based on the genealogies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we know that Jacob must have known his grandfather, Abraham. In fact, it wasn't until thirty-five years after Jacob and Esau were born that Abraham died at the age of 175. Like any good grandfather, one can imagine Abraham telling his grandsons how God spoke to him and about the promises God had made and the covenant God cut with him. One can see the wide-eyed grandsons sitting at Abraham's feet realizing that the promises of God included them.
Instead of owning land, or riches, or servants or cattle, Jacob was alone sleeping in the desert with a rock for a pillow when He had a revelation of the presence of the Lord. In his dream Jacob saw a ladder with angels ascending and descending, indicating that the Lord's host was still moving between heaven and earth to bring the plans of God to fruition in Jacob's life. Jacob may have forgotten about the promises, but God hadn't. In his dream, God reminded Jacob of those promises.
You may feel like you're alone in a desert place with a rock for a pillow. You may feel like everyone, including God, has deserted you. But the truth is that sometimes God has to get us to that hard place before we will pay attention. God had never left Jacob, but Jacob hadn't been paying attention, until now.
III) DISCOVERING GOD'S PRESENCE
Jacob had been asleep. Not only had Jacob been physically asleep in the desert with a rock for a pillow, but Jacob had been spiritually asleep to the promises of the Lord. He had been moving through life oblivious to God's presence and willfully ignorant of God's plans and purposes for his life. But something happened. Look at verse 16. It says, "Then Jacob awoke from his sleep." This was not only a physical awakening, but this was also a spiritual awakening for Jacob.
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it."
The verb tense in the Hebrew indicates that the Lord had been there all along, but Jacob did not recognize it. He wasn't alone, the Lord had been there. He wasn't forgotten, the Lord had remembered him. He wasn't forsaken, the Lord was going to fulfill His promises in Jacob.
So many people go through life sleepwalking. They go through the motions, but they are unaware that God is near. They fail to see His hand at work in their lives. They are unaware that it has been God's grace that has kept them safe this far, and that grace will lead them home. Church, it's time to wake up and recognize!
We can just go through the motions and pretend we are living in God's presence, or we can wake up and recognize that this is the house of the Lord. We can recognize that God doesn't forget His promises, and that even after we've messed up and we feel like all our desires and dreams are beyond hope, God is faithful. It's time to wake up and recognize that when two or three of us come together in the name of Jesus He is here.
When Jacob woke up and recognized that he was in the presence of the Lord, the Bible says, in verse 17, ". . . he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!'"
Jacob was awestruck. It was an awakening to the presence of the Lord that took his breath away and moved him into a new relationship with the God. For the first time in the record of Jacob's life we read that he built an altar. Look at verse 18:
18 Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.
He used the rock that was his pillow, built a pillar or an altar with that stone on top of it, and then he anointed it with oil. This stone, that had been his pillow, was now symbolic of the anointing that God was placing upon Jacob's life.
After building the altar and anointing the stone, Jacob named that place Bethel, which means "House of God." Not only did Jacob worship, but Jacob made a promise to do as his grandfather Abraham had done, he promised to give his tithe to the Lord.
Look at verse 19 and following:
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, 21 so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. 22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."
When we wake up and recognize, we will be awestruck at the presence of the Lord every time we come the house of the Lord. We will begin to worship the Lord with awe and wonder. We will discover the place of anointing at the altars of the Lord and upon our own lives. We will recommit our lives to His plans and purpose. And yes, we will even commit our increase and our future to God. Jacob said, "And of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You."
How many of you know that after this encounter with God, Jacob's life began to change. Before this encounter Jacob had to use deceit and deception to get his blessing, and then after he got what he wanted, his blessings became his curse. But after this spiritual awakening, Jacob was blessed by God.
When Jacob began to work for his uncle Laban and his uncle tried to cheat him, God blessed everything that Jacob touched. Jacob left Canaan with nothing, not even a pillow for his head, but when Jacob came back to Canaan he came back with wives and sons, servant, flocks and herds.
Jacob experienced God's blessings and increase in his life after he woke up and said, "Lord I will trust You. I will worship You. And yes, when he said, "I will pay my tithes to You."
To be honest, when I began to write this sermon, I was not aware of the reference to tithing. I didn't choose this scripture because of the reference to tithing, but there it is and I'm not going to skip past it like it doesn't matter. When Jacob vowed to give his tithe, he was speaking faith. He was anticipating that God was going to keep His promises, and Jacob had already determined that he was going to do like His grandfather Abraham and express his gratitude and faithfulness by giving a tenth of his increase to the Lord.
Things in Jacob's life began to change when he woke up and recognized the presence of the Lord and rededicated his life to God. Too often we live our lives in a spiritual daze, a half-awake state of religious practice but no spiritual awareness. We go through the motions on autopilot with a form of godliness, but no power. But it is time, in these desperate times, awaken to the reality of God's presence and allow that renewed awareness bring us back to the place of promise. It's time to build again the altars and embrace our anointing.
Church, it's time to wake up and recognize that we can't just keep going through the motions. We need to open up our mind, heart, soul and spirit to the presence of the Lord. He's here to remind you of the promises that have been spoken over your life. He's here to let you know that He will never leave you nor forsake your. He's here to let you know that no matter how much of a mess you think you've made of your life, He can fix it and make all things work together for good.
I see so many people coming and going. Physically they are awake, but spiritually they are asleep to what God wants to do with their lives. I just want to shake them and shout, "Wake up and recognize! God is in His house and He can do great things with your life if you will just wake up and recognize Him!"
Do you recognize the hand of God at work in your life? Not just here on a Sunday morning, but do you recognize God's presence in your home, in your car, at the workplace, in the schools, or in the neighborhood? God is always working, but we are not always awake to what God is doing, and we don't always recognize that He is working it out and if we would submit our life and our will Him, He could release blessings and fulfill promises that have been spoken over us.
Somebody asked me once, why I preached so loud. I said, "It's because I'm trying to wake up some people."
Wake Up and Recognize
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