Track 1: Surely the Lord Is in This Place
Jacob has stolen both his brother’s birthright and the blessing from his father Isaac. His brother Esau was planning to kill him. When Rebecca found this out she told Jacob to flee to Haran to her brother Laban’s house. Today, we pick up on the story. Jacob is in rout to Haran. He must have felt alone and that his future was uncertain. Reading from Genesis:
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the 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. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him 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; and 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 all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that 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.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:10-17)
Jacob’s dream must have quickly changed his perspective. He said: “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” For Jacob, the place where he experienced God was sacred. He wanted to mark the event.
So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel. (Genesis 28:18-19)
Perhaps many of us can recall moments when God has spoken to us. We want to remember it always. God may not have spoken to us in an audible voice, but God revealed himself to us in a special way. We may have felt all alone and discouraged. I have certainly been there more than once. But God broke through my discouragement. He broke through my unbelief.
The psalmist wrote:
Where can I go then from your Spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there your hand will lead me
and your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,
and the light around me turn to night,”
Darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day;
darkness and light to you are both alike. (Psalm 139:6-11)
The psalmist was writing that God is always near. Even when we do not want him around, he still remains faithful. We not be aware of God at times, but God is still aware of us. Why would we not want God’s presence at times? That is a good question. There must have been a time when the psalmist felt that way. His breakthrough came when he admitted to himself and to God that he felt that way.
Mountain top experiences may be wonderful. But we live in the valley of life. Is God with us in the valley? Are we with God in the valley? The psalmist David wrote:
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff —
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)
Today, do we feel estranged from God in any way? Perhaps we have committed sin that we do not believe God can or should forgive? Or perhaps we have a rift with God because we do not feel that he has always been faithful to us? It is time to put things in order. It is time to see things through God’s perspective. The Apostle Paul wrote:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
Our feeling of separation from God is only a feeling. Our feelings do not tell the full story. Often, they mislead us. Satan plays on our emotions. We need to pay more attention to the sound thinking which God has given us:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Satan wants us to feel separated from God. He will do all that he can to convince us. But Satan is a liar. The Apostle Paul writes:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
The name of Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Let us open ourselves up more and more each day to the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Track 2: The Final Harvest
Jesus often taught in parables. In today’s Gospel we have the one concerning the close of the age. This is the time in which we live. Jesus said:
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30)
Notice that good seed was planted. But someone has contaminated the seed. We live on an evil world. God’s plan and provisions are always under attack. That is why it is up to the Church to fight for what is right, just, and true. The truest thing is the Word of God. His Word is truth. If we receive his Word then we become the good seed. However, false teachings and false reports have contaminated some of the seed. Measures need to be taken.
Jesus explains the parable and shows us what God is going to do about this corruption:
“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! ()
Notice that Jesus says that his whole world is his kingdom. Everyone, good or bad, is included. But not everyone will remain in the kingdom. Even the Church contains both good and bad. The Apostle Peter writes:
For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17)
God is examining his crop. The final harvest is near. Where do we stand? Are waiting eagerly for the return of Christ? The Apostle Paul wrote:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hopeerly. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ()
Now is not the time to be discouraged. Now is not the time to lose hope. The psalmist wrote:
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and I will walk in your truth;
knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
and glorify your Name for evermore.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit. (Psalm 139:11-13)
By the blood of Jesus Christ we have been delivered from sin and death. Let us hold on what has been promised to us. In Hebrews ew read:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)