The Lord is in This Place
“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
Genesis 28:16 (ESVUK)
Jacob is probably excitable when he gets to the location he would name Bethel, meaning “house of God”. Aided by his mother, Rachel, he had just cheated his brother, Esau, out of the birthright by deceiving their father, Isaac. Now he is fleeing lest Esau kill him in a fit of rage.
Towards dusk Jacob arrives at the area of Luz, where he would see the well-known staggered strata of limestone rock, for all the world looking like a stairway to the starry skies. He finds a stone to use as a pillow, and begins to fall asleep, his head reeling with the words of Isaac’s blessing, and he has a bizarre dream about God, angels and what his father had said to him. When he wakes up, he declares, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it”.
By this point in Jacob’s life his understanding of God is not well developed. He does not grasp how God’s presence is not limited to any particular physical space. At the time when Jacob lived it was commonplace to think that divine activity was restricted to or concentrated in certain places like rivers, mountains, trees and, also, stones. Later, the prophets mocked those who imparted spiritual or mystical meaning to such things, to those “who say to a tree, ‘You are my father’, and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth’” (Jeremiah 2:27).
People today can also get confused about the presence of God, thinking that perhaps God is viewing us from a distance or that he can be found more particularly in buildings such as churches and cathedrals. The reality, however, is that God’s presence is everywhere. As King David wrote, “Where shall I go from your Spirit?” (Psalm 139:7), and the answer is nowhere because God’s Spirit is wherever we go.
This means that one day those who choose not to believe in God might say the words of Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it”. It also means that no matter what happens to us, and no matter how hard life is, God is always with us.
Wherever you are right now, whatever the circumstance of your life, God is in that place.
Thank you, Father, for your presence, that you are with me always through your eternal Spirit. In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
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