Summary: When God in His grace reveals Himself to you, respond with gratitude.
For many people, their experience of worship is like that of Mr. Bean. Take a look (Show Video: Mr. Bean Falling Asleep at Church, www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B1V1PFsyho).
Mr. Bean settles into his pew with a smile on his face, anticipating the sermon—but the rest of the congregation blankly stares straight ahead. Then the preaching begins in a nonsensical blah blah blah monotone. Everyone in the congregation have their eyes locked in position, and the only sign that they are even conscious is the occasional eyebrow that they raise at Mr. Bean.
As the sermon proceeds on endlessly, Mr. Bean fidgets, dawdles, and distracts himself to the annoyance of those seated nearby, until he finally succumbs to the boredom. His eyes roll into his head, and he nearly collapses into slumber, only to jerk himself awake at the last moment. The sermon plods on, the people stare on, and Mr. Bean tries to fight off sleep again. But this time he fails completely. He slumps further and further downwards, eventually sprawling onto his neighbor's lap and finally onto the floor. (DVD Chapter 9, “Can't Stay Awake in Church,” The Best Bits of Mr. Bean, Universal Studios, 1996, 00:44:27 to 00:45:52; www.PreachingToday.com)
If that’s your experience at worship, I want to show you a better way. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 28, Genesis 28, where Jacob encounters God for the first time, and he certainly does not find it boring.
Genesis 28:10-15 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that 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 to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it 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. 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 in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, 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.” (ESV)
Jacob is running scared from a brother who threatened to kill him. Even so, God in his grace reveals himself to Jacob. Jacob did not DESERVE to see God. He was a cheat and a liar. That’s what got him in trouble with his brother in the first place, and Jacob did not DESIRE to see God. He wasn’t necessarily looking for God at this time. He was just running away from home, and yet, God in his grace makes himself known to Jacob. God doesn’t show up because Jacob was a good boy. No! God presents Himself to Jacob purely out of grace, and God gives him a wonderful promise – a promise of land, seed and blessing.
Jacob’s father had already blessed him, passing on the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. Now, God Himself blesses Jacob directly with those same blessings! And on top of it all, God promises Jacob His protecting presence: “I am with you,” God says in verse 15. “I will watch over you.” “I will bring you back.” And “I will not leave you.”
Oh how those words must have brought comfort to one who had never been away from home before. Jacob’s brother was the hunter in the family, used to the outdoors. Jacob was a mama’s boy, used to helping mama at home. Now, Jacob is all by himself, out in the middle of nowhere, 70 miles away from home, without even a tent over his head.
That’s when God meets with Jacob, and that’s when God wants to meet with you. When you’re running scared, God in his grace reveals himself to you. When you least expect it, sometimes in far out-of-the way places, and often in times of fear, God shows up. Even when you’ve made a mess of things, even when you don’t deserve it, like Jacob, or don’t even desire it, God comes to offer His blessing and the promise of His presence forever.
That’s how Jesus came into this world. In a time of Roman oppression and fear, in a far out-of-the way place called Bethlehem, located in a small Roman province of little consequence, God revealed himself in the flesh as a little baby, whose name was Jesus.