I grew up in a Christian home, so I’ve gone to church all my life. I became a Christian at the age of 7 or so, but while I grew in head knowledge, I never really grew as a Christian. By the time I was in junior high school, I really didn’t want to go to church. Oh, I suppose I enjoyed being with my friends at church, but there were other things I preferred doing.
Then our family changed churches, and I really started disliking church. It was so different from my old church. The worship time seemed to drag on forever, and the people were very different from me.
But everything changed in a moment. I started going to a Bible study when I was in ninth grade, and usually, we would start with a few songs, and then go into the Bible teaching. But that night, it was different. I don’t know to this day whether it was planned or not, but we started the singing, and we just never stopped. And it was on that night, that I really sensed the presence of God in a room for the first time. He felt so close, I almost felt like I could touch him. I’d been a Christian for 7 years at that point, but it was the first time I realized, “Hey, God is really here! He’s not just out there somewhere. He is really here!” That realization changed my life forever.
I imagine Jacob had those very same feelings that night at Bethel. For a long time, he’d heard about God from his grandfather Abraham and his father Isaac. He probably even believed in God. But he had never really encountered God in his life. And then one night, he goes to sleep and he has a dream of angels going up and down a stairway to heaven. More than that, he hears the voice of God speaking to him, giving him all the promises that had been given to Abraham and Isaac.
And suddenly, God wasn’t a God far away. God was a God who was near. And Jacob said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (verse 16)
God, of course, had been there all along, but Jacob never noticed. He had been too busy trying to make things happen in his life. And in the process, he totally messed up his life. Now he was on the run, in fear of his brother, wondering what what was going to happen to him, and in the midst of it all, God breaks through, and says, “Hey Jacob! I’m here. I’m with you.”
How about you? Have you had your encounter with God? Or is he just someone way out there somewhere? Do you sense his presence in your life? Is he real to you? Or is he just a story in a book?
Have you had your encounter with God, only to lose sight of him? Maybe before, God felt so close that you could touch him. But now, you’ve come down from the mountain top, and find yourself entangled with the pressures of “real life.” And God doesn’t seem so near anymore.
God’s calling out to us as he did with Jacob. “I’m here. I’m with you. And I will not leave you until I’ve done for you all that I’ve promised. And even beyond.”
Lord, I’ve had my encounter with you, but I don’t want it to be something that I simply reminisce about. I don’t want it to be just a pleasant memory. I want to encounter you everyday. Don’t let me get so wrapped up with everyday life, that I fail to see you. Let me know your presence every moment of every day. Thank you for never leaving me, even when I’ve failed. Even when I’ve lost sight of you. Help me to know you more each day. In Jesus name, amen.