God’sPresence in the Lonely Places of Life”


Ihave a very special pillowcase that might tempt you to make fun ofme. It is my “Where’s Waldo” pillowcase. Actually, it belonged to one of our children, but I use it as mypillowcase when I go camping in the wilderness. My wilderness gearconsists of leftovers from around the house. There’s no pointin taking anything too nice into the woods. This particularpillowcase serves a very important purpose. An empty pillowcase isthe lightest, most compact way to have a comfortable pillow at night. I simply stuff the pillowcase with come clean clothes, and I’mready for a comfortable night’s sleep. There are many thingsthat I sacrifice when I go camping, but a comfortable pillow is NOTone of them.

That’sone of the memorable pictures from this story from Genesis 28. Wefind Jacob fleeing his home and resting his head on a stone! Assomeone who’s spent many nights out of doors, I can tell youthat Jacob had a miserable night’s sleep!

Anight without a pillow can be difficult.

Anight with a painful pillow is completely unbearable.

I’velearned that a soft pillow is essential for sleep while you arecamping. Jacob’s pillow of stone shouts out to us that he isunprepared, alone and miserable.

Wefind this story in Genesis 28:10-22

Jacob’sDream at Bethel

10Jacobleft Beersheba and set out for Haran. 11Whenhe reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sunhad set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head andlay down to sleep. 12Hehad a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with itstop reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending anddescending on it. 13Thereabove 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 youand your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14Yourdescendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spreadout to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. Allpeoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15Iam with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bringyou back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what Ihave promised you.”

16WhenJacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lordis in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17Hewas afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is noneother than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

18Earlythe next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his headand set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19Hecalled that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

20ThenJacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and willwatch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food toeat and clothes to wear 21sothat I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lordwill be my God 22andthis stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house,and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

A.Ross notes the importanceof our passage, showing“how a place became a shrine, a stone became an altar, and afugitive became a pilgrim—God in His grace revealed Himself toJacob in that place. Quotedby K. A. Mathews, vol. 1B, Genesis 11:27–50:26, The NewAmerican Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers,2005), 442.

Jacobis in a lonely place. His lessons teach us about the lonely placesin our lives. The main goal of this message from Genesis 28 is toencourage us that God uses the times of loneliness and isolation tospeak to us in profound ways that would otherwise be missed.

First,notice that GodBrought Jacob to a Lonely Place. 28:10-11

Iknow that we see Jacob traveling here on his own, but don’tmiss the fact that God’s sovereignty is in focus in whattranspires in this passage.

Jacobwas living with his father Isaac and mother Rebekah in Beersheba, inthe central Negev dessert, south of Jerusalem. His conflict withEsau has forced him to leave home and his broiling wrath. Rebekahhas convinced Isaac to send Jacob back to their family in Haran,about 1,000 miles away in the area of modern day Syria. This musthave been devastating for Jacob. Don’t forget, he was the onewho “dwelt near the tents” (Genesis 25:27).

Hisdeparture was swift. It was painful. It was unannounced. It wasunplanned.

Thetext informs of that upon leaving Beersheba on his way to Haran, herests one night in a “certain place.” The place wascalled“Luz,” and was 50 miles into his 1,000 mile journeyto Haran. Most likely, this was about 2 days of travel from the timeof his departure. Jacob is by himself, most likely riding a camel. He had a great deal of time to contemplate his sorrows andloneliness.

Jacobis truly alone

Leaveshis father. Isaac instructed him to“Go to Padan-Aram, (Gen28:2)

Leaveshis mother.

Leaveshis brother (even though his brother was ready to kill him, Jacob isnow left as an isolated man without family, except the distantrelatives in Haran whom he has never met.

Heleaves his comfortable life

Eventhough we see Jacob’s involvement in the decisions that led tothis departure, we can say that God’s sovereignty brought Jacobto this place.

JACOB’Sown doing is laid out in Genesis27:19–21 (NIV84)

19Jacobsaid to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done asyou told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you maygive me your blessing.”

20Isaacasked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

TheLordyour God gave me success,” he replied.

21ThenIsaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, toknow whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

Jacobwas the “Supplanter.” The “Grabber”

Jacobgrabbed Esau’s heel

Jacobgrabbed Esau’s birthright

Jacobgrabbed Esau’s blessing

LATER,Jacob would grabtheANGEL of the LORD and not let go until God blessed him!

Rebekahwas also responsible (in human terms) for Jacob’s suddendeparture. She put Jacob up to the deception that stole Esau’sblessing. She coddled Jacob and ruled the roost, causing greatdivision in the family.

Butultimately, God was in charge. Even though Jacob and Rebekah sinned,and even though Esau and Isaac were a great disappointment, God wasworking through these events to bring Jacob to a place where he wouldlisten to the voice of God.

Now,Jacob finds himself in the desert, without protection, without aplace to sleep.

Thisscene is written of in the hymn, “Mansion over the Hilltop”

Tho’often tempted, Tormented and tested, And like the prophet, Mypillow’s a stone

Andtho’ I find here, No permanent dwelling, I know He’ll give me, Amansion my own!”

Theidea of a stone for a pillow resonates with us and reminds us ofloneliness.

Godallows us to find lonely places so that we can experience Hispresence as never before. CS Lewis wrote in “TheProblem of Pain;” “Godwhispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, butshoutsin our pains: Itis His megaphone to rouse a deaf world

Ifyou fell alone, you’re not alone! In his book, The Search forSignificance, Robert McGee writes, “Ninety-two percent of theChristians attending a recent Bible conference admitted in a surveythat feelings of loneliness are a major problem in their lives. Allshared a basic symptom: a sense of despair at feeling unloved and afear of being unwanted or unaccepted.” Robert S. McGee, TheSearch for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth through God’sEyes (Nashville: Word Pub., 1998), 54

Ifyou are alone, you might be just where the Lord wants you!

Rememberthat although Jacob was responsible for his life of “grabbing,”that it was God who ultimately brought Jacob to his lonely place.

Thesecond point in our text is that GodMet Jacob at his Lonely Place. Gen28:12-15

Thisis Jacob’s first encounter with God! Jacob witnessed the lifeof his father Isaac. He heard the stories of how God spoke to hisgrandfather Abraham, but there is no evidence in either the text orin the life events of Jacob that he personally knew God at this timein his life.

Godgets Jacob’s attention by revealing himself to Jacob in adream. His beloved son Joseph would later have many dreams. This isJacob’s first and the first encounter between the youngpatriarch and the Lord.

Jacobheard the Covenant repeated from ISAAC (Genesis 28:3-4), but nowhe is hearing directly from GOD! The point for us is that you and I need to hear directly from God ifwe are to experience his presence.

Thedream is one of a ladder going from earth to heaven, with angelsgoing up and down the ladder. Actually, the word “Stairway”is better than ladder. The emphasis of this picture is transportfrom one place to another. It gives us the concept that God issending his message to earth, directly to Jacob. God has somethingto say, and he is going to say it to Jacob!

Afteronly hearing about God’s presence, and seeing his father’sfaith, God now has a message for Jacob, and he can deliver it onlybecause Jacob is in a lonely place. It makes me wonder if the lackof God’s presence in Jacob’s life was because Jacob wastoo busy doing things his own way, working things out according tohis own wisdom, so that he was immune or unable to hear the voice ofGod.

Interestingly,there is really nothing new in the revelation that God gives toJacob. The message repeats the Covenant that God gave to Abraham.

28:13-I will give you the land – LAND COVENANT.

28:14- yourdescendants will be multipliedDAVIDICCOVENANT

28:14- Allpeople of the earth will be blessed through your descendants. NEWCOVENANT

Thekey difference is that Jacob has never been ready to receive thismessage until now. That’s how it is with us as well. God hasa message for you. It’s the same message that the apostlesdeclared after Christ’s resurrection. But you will not beblessed by this message until you are ready to listen to the voice ofGod.

Jacobis made aware that the answer to his problems is only found in God. Jacob is learning that his own efforts to solve his problems onlylead to frustration and pain. He is learning what it means to callout to God.

Thefilm, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of myfavorites. You may remember the scene where George Baily is alone inMartino’s bar, contemplating how alone he is. Thisexceptionally gripping scene was later explained by Jimmy Stewart for“Guideposts” magazine.

JimmyStewart shared the story about the filming of the movie, It’s aWonderful Life. “It’s hard to explain. I, for one, hadthings happen to me during the filming that never happened in anyother picture I’ve made. In one scene, for example, GeorgeBailey is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing whereto turn, ends up in a little roadside restaurant. He is unaware thatmost of the people in town are arduously praying for him. In thisscene, at the lowest point in George Bailey’s life, Frank Caprawas shooting a long shot of me slumped in despair. In agony I raisemy eyes and, following the script, plead, ‘God . . . God . . .dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’reup there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the endof my rope, Show me the way, God. . . .’ As I said those words,I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere toturn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This wasnot planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realizationthat our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reducedme to tears.” Guideposts, December 2005, p. 82

So,God brought Jacob to a lonely place, and God met Jacob at his lonelyplace… NOW

God’sPresence Comforted Jacob In His Lonely Place. Gen28:16-17

Jacobencounters the LORD

TheLord’s Presence” was there. Jacob knew it. You and Iknow it when we find our need and God’s sufficiency to meetthat need.

Jacobunderstood that God was on his side!

Romans8:31 “What,then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can beagainst us?”

Jeremiah29:11 “ForI know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give youhope and a future.”

Whenwe are comforted by God, all of the pain of our lonely place ischanged into a memorial to God’s grace.

Jacob’sLonely Place Because a Memorial to God’s Grace. Gen28:18-22

Jacobbuiltan altar usingthe stone that was his pillow the night before (18).

Jacobchangeda nameof a city that didn’t even belong to him!

Thiswas an act of FAITH

Itwas also an act of WORSHIP

Jacobmadea vow

Iwill SERVE the LORD (TheLORD will be my God)

Iwill WORSHIP the LORD (“thisstone will be God’s house”)

Iwill HONOR the LORD (Iwill give you a tenth)

Thepromise to give a tenth is patterned after Abraham’s gift toMelchizedek in Genesis 15.

Question: Do you see your LONELY PLACES as merely OBSTACLES or as Godappointed events in your life to bring you closer to the verypresence of God?

Inhis book, “bumps are what you climb on,” Warren Weirsbewrites,

Thetrouble with most of us is that we are accustomed to paved roads andlevel sidewalks. But life is not made that way. Sometimes the road islevel and easy, and the birds are singing and the way is wonderful.But sometimes the road is rocky and bumpy, and we hear no music andfeel no helping hand. Then what? Complain? Give up? No, that’sthe time to remember God’s promise: “For he shall givehis angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”God’s invisible army is at your service, and God can see youthrough.” Wiersbe, Warren W. (2003-01-01). BumpsAre What You Climb On, The:Encouragement for Difficult Days (Kindle Locations 138-142). BakerBook Group. Kindle Edition.

Finally,if you are facing a lonely place today, the most important lesson foryou is to recognize that God was communicating that there is amessage for you from heaven. God wants to speak to you. He wants tohave fellowship with you. But the key is the Lord Jesus Christ. Heis the ultimate reason for the Abrahamic Covenant.

TheStairway to Heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ

John14:6 “Jesusanswered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No onecomes to the Father except through me.”

John14:8–9 “Philipsaid, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough forus.” ” “Jesus answered: “Don’t you knowme, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyonewho has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show usthe Father’?”

John16:15 “Allthat belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spiritwill take from what is mine and make it known to you.”

Thesecret to climbing higher is to look away from yourself and yourdifficulties, and look by faith to Jesus Christ.” Wiersbe,Warren W. (2003-01-01). Bumps Are What You Climb On, The:Encouragement for Difficult Days (p. 14). Baker Book Group. KindleEdition.

Ifyou are in a lonely place, recognize that you are there by God’ssovereign will. He has something to say. He has not put you in alonely place so that you might be kept from him, but rather that youmight come to and end of yourself so that you can put your entirefaith in him. He wants you to experience his presence. He wants youto hear from heaven, and experience salvation and forgiveness. Ifyour pillow is a stone, turn that stone into an altar. Worship theLord and reach out to receive his forgiveness and blessing.