Summary: It doesn't matter where you've been or are going; it only matters that God is with you whrever you are, however you are and whatever you are.
Title: Nowhere Places
Text: Genesis 28:10-19a
Thesis: It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or are going… it only matters that God is with you wherever you are, however you are and whatever you are.
I followed my cousin, Dan, on Facebook last week as he made a Harley road-trip from Atlantic, Iowa to California and back recently. It was fun following his progress from stop to stop each way. He usually posted a photo of his Harley parked at a gas station which often gave us a glimpse of the local landscape in the background. It gets pretty desolate west of here.
I was particularly intrigued by a photo he took on his way home. When I saw it I knew he was in Ogallala, Nebraska. If you pull off I-80 at Ogallala and into the Conoco Station you will be at FAT DOGS and FAT DOGS is famous for its sign: YOU ARE NOWHERE. It is a catchy sign. You definitely could have a sense that you are out in the middle of nowhere in western Nebraska. But then the “FAT DOG” wants you to know that despite being in the middle of nowhere – you are now here… at FAT DOGS.
I think maybe that is exactly the experience Jacob had in our text today. Out there in the middle of nowhere, where he likely felt GOD IS NOWHERE, he had an epiphany in which he could say, “GOD IS NOW HERE!”
As we begin to explore our text today we find Jacob between a rock and a hard place.
I. Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. At sundown he arrived at a good place and set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. Genesis 28:10-11 (Back story: Genesis 27)
There is a back story to this text today. If you were to pick up on Genesis 28:10 all you would know is that Jacob had gone on a trip… it was dusk and will soon be dark so he decided to stop for the night. It was seemingly no big deal. When we travel we will likely stop for the night. Granted he did not have a nice Holiday Inn Express or a Hampton Inn or even an economy-budget, totally trashed, flea bag, former major chain motel. He simply set up camp.
It is all rather routine and mundane and hardly worth mentioning without the back story.
Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. They were born into what seems to be something of a dysfunctional family. His brother Esau was the favored son of his father, Isaac and he was the favored son of his mother, Rebekah. Esau was a manly man and Jacob was a mama’s boy.
The incident that precipitated his little “walk about” was his mother’s aiding and abetting his cheating his brother and tricking his old and blind father into giving him the blessing traditionally due the eldest son. Having received his father’s blessing, a blessing that could not be retracted by the distraught old man; he lit a flame of hatred and rage in his brother’s heart. In Genesis 28:42 we read that Esau consoled himself by plotting to kill his usurping, trickster brother. So Jacob’s ever protecting and doting mother, Rebekah, set about sending him away until his brother cooled off.
Under the guise of not wanting her favored son to be married to a local Hittite woman she convinced her husband, Isaac, to bless Jacob and send him away from Beersheba to Paddan-aram where he could marry one of her brother, Laban’s, daughters. So Jacob is journeying some 550 miles north to stay with his uncle Laban, whom we eventually learn, was every bit the conniving trickster as was Rebekah and her son Jacob.
So this middle of nowhere place on a dark night setting perfectly matches Jacob’s state of mind and heart. One writer artfully wrote, “The setting of God’s encounter with Jacob matches his state of mind and his spirit. The security of the son has been replaced by the dangers of the night. The comfort of his parents’ tent had been replaced by a rock. Behind him lays Beersheba where Esau waits to kill him; ahead of him is Haran where his uncle Laban waits to exploit him. He is situated between a death camp and a hard-labor camp. Back in Beersheba, Esau lies in wait like an angry lion. Ahead in Haran his uncle Laban waits with his spider web to trap and suck the life out of his victims.”
That’s the back story that Jacob brought along and those are the things that played on his mind as he rested his head on that stone pillow. He was caught between a rock and a hard place.