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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 28:10–19

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. (NRSV)

“Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it.” For me, this is one of the most memorable things said in all of scripture. It is a timeless confession of ignorance and a paradigm for worship all at once.

What was the place Jacob lay down that night? Just “a certain place.” Why did he choose it? “Because the sun had set.” What were his furnishings? A stone (a mystical stone? no, just “one of the stones of the place). What was the place again? Just “that place.”

It occurs to me that perhaps the Lord is present in that place not simply in spite of Jacob’s ignorance but because of it. Had Jacob been looking for a holy truck stop, I wonder if he would have wandered to some other locale, finding in it his preexistent criteria for places in which the Lord could be found. Maybe there would be a big mountain in view. Maybe a babbling brook the shores of which would be suitable for meditating. God may not have been in that place, but Jacob might have found a way to tell himself that God was.

Instead, Jacob just needs a place to rest himself. He’s not thinking of holiness, or even of God, as he beds down with his rock pillow. And that is how God finds him. Because Jacob wasn’t looking.

God comes to us. That is the good news. We may be seekers, yes, but our seeking after God will never come close in ardor or insight to the seeking after us that God is doing all the time, in the least likely of places.

Speak to us, O God, in those places of our ignorance, where we are thinking of everything and anything but you. Then arrest us and make your claim upon us once again, so that we might know again that we are yours and you are with us. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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