Alone and guilty, we need the assurance of God’s love in Christ, just like Jacob.
Samuel C. Degner
Have you ever felt so alone that it seemed even God was far away?
Jacob was a long way from his home in Beersheba, far from his mother and father. He was on his way to his uncle’s house in Harran. When the sun set, he had to stop right there on the road, somewhere near a place called Luz. There, all alone, he lay down for the night (see Genesis 28:10-22).
Making matters worse was the reason for his solitude. Jacob had stolen his father’s blessing from his twin brother, Esau. Now Esau, the hunter, had his sights set on Jacob. Jacob chose to run from Esau.
Imagine the loneliness that must have settled on him along with the darkness as he laid down his head on a stone. He had deceived his father and enraged his brother. He had also failed to trust God’s promises. Had he alienated his God too?
Loneliness is bad enough, but guilt adds to the pain like a stone under the head. We have all been there. Your sibling won’t talk to you because of an argument you started. Your friends stop calling because you let them down. Sometimes it can even feel like you’ve driven God away.
In those rock-bottom moments, look up!
Look up with Jacob as he dreams. See a stairway resting on the earth and reaching into heaven. Watch the angels ascending and descending. Jacob was not alone! God’s messengers attended to him. God himself spoke—and not a word of condemnation. To the homeless one, he promised the land on which he lay. To the one who fled his family, he promised descendants like the dust. To the one traveling alone, he promised his presence and protection. He even promised to use someone from this guilty one’s line to bring blessing to the whole world. God assured Jacob of his forgiving love—the same love he promised to his grandfather, Abraham, and his father, Isaac.
Just what Jacob needed to hear!
Just what we needed too. When we were lying in guilty solitude, God sent that descendant of Jacob to us. Though he was one with the Father and never wandered from him, Jesus lay his head down on a piece of wood and felt what it was like to be truly estranged from God. He suffered that loneliness so that we never would.
Jesus once told Nathanael, “You will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man” (John 1:51). Jesus is that stairway, our bridge between earth and heaven. He is our constant connection to God. Because of him, our cries of loneliness rise to heaven and God sends down his comfort: He will not break his relationship with us.
When Jacob woke up, he seemed surprised. “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it” (Genesis 28:16). He took the stone on which he slept, set it upright, and anointed it. He renamed the place Bethel, “house of God.” He still had many miles to go and many years before he would see his family again. But he knew that, wherever he was, God would be with him.
Let his simple monument be a lasting reminder to you too. No matter how isolated you may feel, you’re never alone. Your God is always with you.
Contributing editor Samuel Degner is a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.
This is the fifth article in a nine-part series on Old Testament monuments and what they mean to us today.
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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 104, Number 9
Issue: September 2017
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