February 25, 2018
Pastor John Hering
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
I remember what I had for supper last Tuesday night. But, I’m not so sure about Wednesday or Thursday’s evening meal. Let me tell you why. God designed us with this thing called “emotion” that our brain uses to enhance the memory of experiences that have importance for us. Emotion acts like a highlighter pen that emphasizes certain aspects of experiences to make them more memorable. You can remember certain things that happened in your past because that event was probably connected to some strong emotional event. If you want to make a memory stronger, then you better be prepared to be emotionally invested!
Today our OT lesson is about Jacob’s Ladder—the dream he had in Bethel was one he’d never forget! Like Abraham, Jacob also was called by God to be a vital part of God’s plan of salvation. This account was also chosen as the second Sunday of Lent, traditionally called Reminiscere –a Latin word that means “Remember.” You might think that having a Lenten service dedicated to remembering isn’t a bad idea. We have fond memories of our childhood, where you grew up, or even memoires of loved ones who are now enjoying the bliss of heaven. But, it is Lent—a season of repentance and of Jesus suffering and death. So, a Sunday of remembering may bring a past trail of Dirty jokes, Envy, Rude words, wasted Money, Cheating, Lying, Obstinate to authority, Stingy, Failing to encourage, and Silent when we should have spoken up . Add to this the call of Jesus who said we would bear crosses and your emotions might rise as you remember those crosses you’ve had to bear as a spouse, parent or child. Now you might be thinking that Reminiscere Sunday isn’t such a good idea!
Well, I have good news. “Remember Sunday” is not calling for us to remember our past, but our focus is what we hear in Psalm 25
“Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love.”
Therefore, as we continue our Lenten walk with God let’s join Jacob with this confident prayer:
Remember Me, O Lord!
- With your Promise of Pardon
- With your Promise of Protection
You probably have a picture in your head of Jacob in this account. Remember, he left Beersheba because his mother had devised a plan to steal the birthright from his brother Esau, tricked his father into the blessing and now was running for his life. He was heading to Harren (300 miles) because his Uncle Laban lived there. Scripture records the age of Jacob to be 76 years old [he lived to be 147] (Gen 26:34, 35:28, 47:28).
“11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said:….”
Scripture doesn’t record for us the thoughts running through Jacob’s mind as he traveled. But, you can well imagine he regretted stealing the birthright from his brother for a bowl of soup, or listening to his mother and plotting with her to steal the birthright from Isaac rather than trusting in the Lord’s promise. And now he’s going to Uncle Laban’s house under his mother’s pretense, “To find a wife.” He must have thought, “Will I get there safely? Will my brother organize a posse and track me down? Will I find a wife? Will I ever get to return home to see mom and dad again?” And even worse he was lugging the guilt of his tricks and that his whole life was basically a sham! And now stopped dead in his tracks face to face with God in a dream/vision! There was no way out and God was about to speak. The big question Jacob must have anticipated was this: “God, how deep in Hades are you going to bury me for my lying, cheating and sinning?”
Let’s say this Sunday afternoon you were home and felt the Sunday Afternoon nap coming on. As you’re half way to LaLa Land some memories pass through your mind….
Dirty joke you told at work to get a couple of cheap laughs;
Envy you felt when your neighbor got a new truck;
Rude words you said to your spouse;
Money you wasted on gambling;
Cheated on a test;
Lied to your parents;
AND THEN all the things you were supposed to do that you didn’t!
Stingy use of the blessings God has graciously given to you because you mistakenly thought they were yours to horde!
Encouragement from God’s Word to your sister when she was grieving, and didn’t;
Kept your mouth shut because you didn’t want to be labeled a religious nut;
Suddenly God is standing next to your couch! The big question that you’d be asking yourself is this: “God, how deep in hell are you going to bury me for all my sins?” But what God, no, what “the Lord” said to Jacob was this:
“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”
Shocking! Jacob must have remembered this blessing as being the exact blessing the Lord [Savior God] had given to his grandfather Abraham. And another one of his questions was answered: He would find a wife because he was going to have children! And from one of those children the Lord was going to send the Messiah! This was a promise of heaven. This was a Promise of Pardon! No wonder Jacob said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
The Lord remembered Jacob with his promise of pardon and this changed Jacob’s life. Reminds me of the story of a Chinese emperor who learned that his enemies had started a revolution in a distant province. He said to one of his officers, “Come, follow me. We will quickly destroy my enemies.” On his arrival everyone expected the emperor to smash the rebels like bugs, but instead he treated them kindly. His officer objected, “Why are you doing this? You have pardoned your enemies! What about your promise to destroy them?” The emperor replied, “I promised to destroy my enemies. I have fulfilled my word, for they are no longer my enemies. I have made them into my friends.”
The Lord remembers you, too. He remembers that he sent Jesus for you who never told a dirty joke, envied his neighbor’s new camel, rude to anyone, wasted money on gambling, cheated on a test at synagogue school, or lied to his parents, was never stingy, always encouraged people and made sure he spoke people God’s Word. Then Jesus went to the cross to Pardon all your sins. Yes, the Lenten season is certainly a time for remembering—we remember it was our sins that placed Jesus on the cross and remember his forgiveness proclaimed to us all. So, we pray with Jacob, “Remember Me, O Lord, with your Promise of Pardon!” You already heard God’s answer—it’s the same answer the Lord gave to Isaiah: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Thank you, Lord, for remembering us with your Promise of Pardon for Jesus’ sake!
Jacob had the Lord’s promise of Pardon and loved hearing it. But, I wonder if he felt like that person on the airplane – you know, the one wants to talk the whole flight, so you find yourself with the opportunity to share Jesus with him. As you chat it becomes obvious that he doesn’t have a close relationship with God. Then you tell him the wonderful news that God loves everyone, sent Jesus to pay the penalty of all our sins, and on account of Jesus we have Divine Peace! Then he responds, “That’s nice to know, but I’m just trying to make it to Friday!” Perhaps just like Jacob, this person needs to Remember the Lord, and his
Promise of Protection
Jacob learned from the Lord God that his greatest joy and comfort was knowing that the Lord God did not count his sins against him and had opened the gates of heaven. But, just like the passenger there must have been other questions still plaguing his mind: “Will I make it to my Uncle’s house? Will I ever get to return home again?” The Lord God graciously answered those questions for Jacob as well:
“15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
God promised Protection! Maybe you know, as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story!” Jacob made it to Uncle Laben’s house, ended up marrying two wives, having 12 sons and 1 daughter. After 20 years of working for his Uncle Jacob returned home with a huge family, servants, huge flocks, and the Lord has softened the heart of his brother Esau so that their reunion was wonderful. He even was able to see his father Isaac again before he was called to heaven.
I know, you believe what Scripture says,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”
—but truth be told there are those days when doubts and fears creep into our minds just like Jacob. Well, isn’t this similar to falling in love? When you fall in love your passion runs high, your intimacy sky-rockets and your commitment to your spouse is solid. But, as time wears on those emotions begin to weaken and simmer? Aren’t those the exact times when you want your spouse to remember you with words of promise, passion and protection for your heart? In the same way we can never be reminded enough that God has us in his tender care. We can never hear the Lord God’s Promise of Protection too often,
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”
And for those time when we’re ….
sick with the flu, or struck with cancer, or stabbed with heart disease
kids disappoint us
income is frozen and bills are piling up;
parents disappoint us;
It doesn’t mean God has forsaken us. No, he did something about all of it. He sent Jesus to deliver us from this veil of tears to live with him forever in heaven. Let the dangers, disasters and disappointments of this life serve to remind us that comfort in this life is not our goal, but simply a part of our journey as the Lord prepares us for our eternal goal—to be with Jesus in heaven. Yes, rest secure in the promises of the Lord’s Protection now and for eternity.
I remember what I had for supper last Tuesday night because my loving wife told me that I could not order 6 tacos, but only 4. At the time I didn’t realize what an emotional impact that would have on my life! LOL! I’m thankful God designed us with this thing called, “emotion” so I won’t forget those important moments in my life. Today, join Jacob in giving thanks to the Lord for all the blessings he has granted to you during your time of grace on this earth. Give thanks to the Lord that for Jesus’ sake, that even when we forget, THE LORD WILL NEVER FORGET his promises of Pardon and Protection. Amen.