This division of the Genesis text allows us to distinguish two moments of the event—one where God takes the initiative and a second one where Jacob is the protagonist. It seems that verses 16 and 17 occur just as Jacob wakes from sleep, but dawn has not arrived. He gains another view of the place where he has settled for the night: God is here!
Then three expressions follow: “I did not know it,” “he was afraid,” and “how awesome is this place.” They offer an inter- esting sequence from ignorance through fear to admiration—or perhaps we would say adoration.
Many years ago while in a forced labor camp, I sat in the dark on Christmas Eve and felt haunted by loneliness and fear. Many sad and bitter thoughts rushed through my mind because “I did not know” that God was with me there. I felt so scared that when I heard the guard screaming my name to present myself at the entrance gate, I decided not to answer. But the second call and third shout shook me to my feet, and I ran to the gate. There stood an unknown cousin of my mother and her husband, two elderly persons with a hug and a kiss and a small gift in their hand—soda crackers and guava jam! At that hour of the night I gathered with several brothers in the faith, and we feasted in great thanksgiving. How awesome!
Jacob then converts the very stone that served as his pillow into an altar and acknowledges that lonely place as “the house of God.” Did you recall your own Bethel experiences yesterday? Turn each one into a service of thanksgiving and praise! Build your own altar!
O God, thank you for accompanying me each hour of the day and night. May I be sensitive to your presence so that I can truly discover you and worship you in my own Bethel experi- ences. I shall pour oil on those altars. Amen.
This week’s texts depict a broad span of settings of God’s activity, from Jacob’s encounter in solitude to the broader context of creation itself in Romans. The texts also tell of God’s commission of human agents, weak and inadequate, to carry out divine tasks. Jacob may not be totally aware of God’s plans for him, but the reader knows. Paul declares that the people in whom the Spirit of God dwells are very much in tune with the pain of creation. They also long for God’s nal deliverance. Just at the point of the reluctance of God’s agents to carry out the tasks, the parable from Matthew about the wheat and weeds gives hope. God will take care of the weeds in God’s own time. Psalm 139 is a moving statement on the ubiquitous nature of God’s presence.
• Read Genesis 28:10-19a. When have you “wakened” to acknowledge that you were in a holy place? What did you do to memorialize the place?
• Read Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24. Do you regularly take time in a set-aside place for an intimate relationship with God? If not, what steps could you take to ensure that relationship?
• Read Romans 8:12-25. Do you feel close enough to God to call God “Abba”? Why or why not?
• Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. What are you doing to discourage the growth of evil in your life? How does your garden grow?
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