"Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!'” (Genesis 28:16)Jacob, the son of Isaac, was heading to Haran, the family home, to find a wife. In truth, Haran was just another place his family had lived and he himself had grown up as a wanderer. He was the son of "aliens and strangers."
One night at Bethel, as he headed for Haran, Jacob used a rock for a pillow. (The pillow would later become a pillar, we're told.) While sleeping, Jacob dreamed that on that spot, there was a ladder going to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on it. In the dream, God stood beside Jacob and reiterated His promise to make a great nation of Abraham's descendants. God also promised to be with Jacob wherever he went.*
Jacob wakes up surprised. "Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!'” (Genesis 28:16)
Jacob apparently had lived with blinders on his eyes. He hadn't seen the ways in which God had been present in all the places he had been with his family through the years.
I feel that I live much of my life in the same way. I remember and often quote Jesus' words for all His followers of all time in the Great Commission: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20)
But I have often been guilty of thinking as though God were absent from my life, other people's lives, or the lives of whole communities and nations.
Imagine though how faithless those thoughts were. They disbelieved Jesus' promise. They judged the believers in Christ who were in those places.
The God made plain Jesus Christ is present wherever someone knows Him and desires a connection...in remote places where the only pillow is a stone...in prison cells and refugee camps...in hospital rooms and funeral homes...in offices and bed rooms...in environments where it seems you're the only person who trusts in the Lord. We can be sure that if we want the God around, He will be there.**
God, help me to remember that wherever I call on You through Jesus Christ, You are in that place. Forgive me for disdaining some places. Forgive me for doubting Your promises. Wherever we wander, as long as You are with us, we are "at home" in You. In Jesus' Name. Amen
*In John 1:51, Jesus alludes to this incident, portraying Himself as the ladder between heaven and earth. This affirms a truth Jesus declares in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
**By the way, Bethel, the name meaning house of God, later became a center of idol worship. We can use the places and circumstances of our lives in ways that honor God or in ways that dishonor God. God will go everywhere that people call on Him. But it's up to us to decide whether we will invite God to be present with us in any given place.