‘When he reached a certain place, Jacob stopped for the night because the sun had set’
Jacob’s travelled more than forty miles over a period of four days. En route he reaches ‘a certain place’ and the sun sets. Thick darkness covers the cooling dusty landscape. Street lamps and neon lights are non-existent. The night sky blacks out the Middle Eastern wilderness. Jacob’s forced to sleep over.
Likewise, with our personal life journey. We experience times when the sun sets. The sun sets on our hopes and the sun sets on our dreams and the sun sets on our goals. We all experience dark times which eclipse the light of the soul. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re on journey and you can’t see which way to go. Incidents occur and obscure our vision. The way ahead is not visible as we pass through the valley of the shadow of death. Blinding distractions emerge and halt our progress to the things we want to achieve. Every journey is vulnerable to delays. Jacob was forced to stop by the wayside until he had light to continue his trek. Some stopovers are short others are prolonged. Considering this to be the case I would make an encouraging suggestion.
If you’re unable to move towards your intended destination presently; it’s not necessarily the end of the road. Maybe the sun has merely set on your plans. It happens to every pilgrim. But the sun rises again. Like Jacob you may be stopping over for a while. But when the time is right you can start moving again. Tomorrow is another day for opportunities. Next week you can move ahead by re-starting your tasks. Next month you can continue working towards your goals. This year can be the year you progress forward. Don’t lose heart, sunrise is coming. Admittedly you’re forced to stopover and it’s a delay. But it’s not the end of the road or the final point of your destination.
The original Hebrew phrase Jacob ‘reached a certain place’ has the definite article. Jacob reached ‘The place’. He ‘struck upon the place’ or ‘hit upon the place’. As far as Jacob is concerned he arrived at ‘the place’ by chance.
The sun happened to set as he coincidently visited ‘the place’. Keep in mind there were other places. So, the text which says, ‘Jacob reached a certain place’ has various implications. For example, it can mean that Jacob reached,
‘the place’ which was best suited for him to rest.
Not all places in the wilderness were suitable for Jacob to sleep. Elsewhere Jacob may be more vulnerable to wild animals. Other places may be infested with deadly snakes or prowling killer lions. The ground could be waterlogged and inclement for Jacob to settle in other places. Elsewhere Jacob may be in danger from bandits. Like robbers lurking in a subway ready to mug a defenseless person. However, this was not the case. The providence of God led Jacob to ‘the place which was best suited for him to rest’.
We might think it’s inconvenient when the sun sets on our plans and we are forced into a delay. But we must have confidence knowing that God has our best interests in mind. I recently read that,
‘A reporter once asked Mrs. Einstein if she understood the theory of relativity. She replied, “No, but I know Albert and he can be trusted.”
As Christians, we may not understand why God makes us wait at times when it seems that we need immediate answers. But we do know the Lord Jesus Christ and He can be trusted’
Trust God in your delays. Fear not if your running late. Don’t stress if your adventure is postponed. The stopover is all in God’s plan. The Lord knows the best place for you to rest. The text might have a further possibility.
‘The place’ where Jacob reached can be understood in the sense that it was ‘the place’ of special significance’
‘The place’ was sacred ground. Not sacred as a holy temple or religious sanctuary or even a famous place. But rather the place was of special significance because of what Jacob experienced there.
The place was ordinary when Jacob arrived. Jacob didn’t make the spot of ground sacred by dedicating it to God. But it was God’s presence which made the place very special. God turns up at the most unexpected places and reveals his character in the most thrilling ways.
I worked in a factory for five years. It was an ordinary industrial unit. It wasn’t special to me in anyway, though like everyone else I earned a living there. But one day I had a conversation in the ‘bay 2’ area of that factory. As a result of that conversation in ‘bay 2’ I became a Christian.
Thirty-two, years have passed since I was employed at that factory. Nevertheless, time has not eroded the special significance which ‘bay 2’ has for me. I can’t walk anywhere near that place without revering what occurred in ‘bay 2’. For me it’s a sacred spot where ‘my heart was strangely warmed’. What happened to me in that factory had a massive emotional impact on my life. I will never ever forget ‘bay 2’ it will always be a place of special significance.
I’ve sometimes traveled the road across the factory gates with passengers in my car. Even now thirty years later I point my finger at ‘bay 2’ and say to my passengers ‘that’s the place where the direction of my life radically changed’.
And so, it is. You will have your sacred spots in life. Even now a place where you’re stopping over may seem very inconvenient. You wish maybe you wasn’t stationed there. But that’s the place where God is doing something special. The Holy Spirit is arriving in that very place to breath a new and exciting experience into your soul. You’ll look back and you’ll know that it was a significant spot in your circumstances. A venue for receiving God’s blessings. A place for a momentous victory. The arena of a unique occasion. A place with a great memory. A place of significance.
Finally, the idea of the text may also bring out a thought that Jacob reached ‘a certain place appointed for him by God for the revelation’.
God could appear before Jacob in every place Jacob happened to walk, visit or reside. But God didn’t do that. God likes to choose his own venues and schedule His own appearances. God is independent like that. God is omnipresent. But invisible to the human eye unless there’s a revelation.
Moses received his revelation on top of mount Sinai. Samuel received his revelation in a temple. Gideon received his revelation in a cave. Joseph received his revelation in a prison. Saul received his revelation on the road to Damascus. Apostle John received his revelation on the Island of Patmos. Each of these Bible characters have their own appointed place to receive their divine revelation.
Sometimes God’s revelations are very dramatic. Even now God can arrive at any time, in any place and transform a person.
Consider for example the former heavyweight boxing champion George Forman. He had a revelation from God in a dressing room after losing a boxing match. The winner had paraded his victory belt in the ring and the crowd were making their way home. But God was arriving. Of all the places God was appearing it was in the loser’s dressing room. George foreman says that,
“the most profound thing that ever happened to me in my life,” was “That night in the dressing room after the Jimmy Young fight. I was so tired and so hot, and I just couldn’t keep on fight, fight, fighting for my life.
Then I heard a voice in that dressing room that asked,
‘Do you believe in God? Why are you ready to die?’ I had just been talking about God. I didn’t really believe in religion. I started fighting, trying to make a deal. Still then, I wasn’t fighting anyone I knew. I said to the voice, ‘Look I am George Foreman. I can give money to charity and for cancer,’ and the voice answered me back, ‘I don’t want your money, I want you.’
In a split second, I was dead, fighting off death in this dark place, an empty dump yard. It was all over. I screamed, I got mad. I said, ‘I don’t care if this is death, I still believe there is a God!’ and when I said that, I was rescued. I was alive in that dressing room again. Evidently, they had picked me off the floor and laid me on the dressing room table.
As everybody was standing around me, I told my doctor to move his hand because the thorns on Jesus head were making him bleed. He looked at me, everybody looked at me, and I looked on my hand and I told my masseuse to move his hand because Jesus was bleeding where they crucified him. Then I jumped up off the table and started screaming that Jesus Christ was coming alive! I didn’t believe in these things, but I saw it. No one else did. They took me to the hospital of course, because that’s what you do when people start acting like that. I was in intensive care for a couple of days, and finally I got out of the hospital, but I never was the same man. My life changed’.
Sometimes God’s revelations are dramatic like that. But many of God’s revelations arrive more like a paradigm shift or an eye-opening moment. They do not have to be dramatic. There’s no competition as to who receives the greatest and most powerful of revelations. But they are all life changing that’s for sure.
Its’s also certain that each Christian has an appointed place for a revelation about Jesus. That revelation of God may come in a fun way in a Sunday school class where someone at a very young age realizes that Jesus loves them. The revelation may come at a time of bereavement where at a crematorium God reveals to someone that Jesus has the keys over the power of death. God’s revelation could arrive at a point of great failure where a totally non-religious person realizes for the first time that they can have God’s forgiveness for sin. In fact, the Christian life is a life of progressive revelation. God often and periodically sets certain times and places for his people to encounter his love, grace and power.
You may be in a bad place; you may be in a good place; you may be in a strange place; you may be in a hard place; you may be in a joyful place; you may be in a lost place; you may be in a peaceful place; well whatever place you’re at, keep your eyes open, because God might just turn up and trash that place for His glory.
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