Summary: Many a times we have wondered what would it be like if God showed up? In fact God is looking for that time alone with you so that you would voluntarily shut yourself out from the busyness of life and respond to His attention. Will we?
Opening illustration: Children sometimes seem like they have holes in their ears. You tell them what you want them to do, and it goes in and out without ever being registered. But if you promise something special to a child, they will not ever forget.
Try to tell your child that you can’t go to Disney World anymore because you don’t have the money. “But you promised!” Try to tell your child that you don’t have time to make it to McDonald’s still. “But you promised!” Try to tell your child why they can’t stay up late today. “But you promised!”
Perhaps we parents get ourselves in trouble at times when we make empty promises we might not be able to keep. But the reality is that we are imperfect people in an imperfect world. Broken promises are something we are used to by now.
Yet this is something God has never done, and will never do. When God makes a promise, he will keep it. God is not a man who will tell a lie but is recognized for the promises He keeps to the T. God has not ever broken a promise, and he never will. Trust in his grace and love and power! He will not fail you!
Let us turn to Genesis 28 and catch up with our story where Jacob immediately recognizes God even though he was unaware of His presence …
Introduction: The most wonderful thing that can happen to anybody is for God to turn up. The problem is that we don't always recognize Him at the time, and we only see later that it was God. The trouble is, we think God can only come in one particular way, and that's the way we've met Him. The question is this: If He turned up in an unexpected way, would we affirm Him?
The sooner we learn to recognize the Lord, the better. For some, it may take years to see that God has been in a situation with them; for others, it may take only a few seconds. But the narrower the time gap, the better, for it shows our hearts are in tune with what God is doing. I can think of nothing worse in the world than for something that God is in to be happening and I not recognize it.
If you're not a Christian, then it's also true for you that the sooner you realize when God is there, the better, because the Bible says, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever" (Genesis 6:3). Let me put it like this. It may be that whenever you hear preaching, you sense that the Holy Spirit is dealing with you, that God is on your case. You know that the preacher wouldn't know much about you, if anything at all, and the only way he could speak in this manner was if God had led him to do so.
If you are a Christian and the Lord turns up and you don't recognize Him, you are impoverished since you miss seeing God for who He is, then. I guarantee you will wish later you had seen it was the Lord sooner. Be open to the unexpected time. Be open to the unexpected manner in which God might turn up. He came to Jacob in a dream. God can do that.
Jacob affirmed God. Fortunately for him, it didn't take him long. The question is, how long will it take us?
How to Recognize God?
1. Connection between heaven and earth (vs. 10-12)
He dreams in verse 12 of a ladder that reaches to heaven with angels (messengers) of God going up and down on it. One probably should not think of a ladder in the contemporary sense of the word, but rather something like the Mesopotamian ziggurat; a ramp-like structure that served as a divine sanctuary through which heaven and earth were connected. This stairway to heaven does not give Jacob access to heaven; rather, God speaks to Jacob where he is, denoting God's immanent presence rather than a faraway removed God calling from a distance. It is significant that this surprise encounter completely comes from God -- breaking into Jacob's state of sleep which signifies a brief cessation of anxious fleeing.
These statements of God and Jacob fit together nicely, especially in the light of the context of the vision. Jacob was about to leave the land of promise for a twenty year sojourn in Paddan-aram. He might be tempted never to return to this land again. By means of this dramatic vision God impressed Jacob with the significance of this land. It was the place where heaven and earth met. It was the place where God would come down to man and where men would find access to God. It was, as Jacob asserted, “the gate of heaven.” Throughout those twenty years Jacob would never forget this dream. He would realize that ultimately, to be in the will of God, he must be in the place of God’s choosing, the land of promise. It was in the land that God’s blessings would be poured out upon God’s people. While Jacob must leave, he must surely return.