Steven Furtick — The Pillow and The Promise
This week I'm working from Genesis 28:10-22. I wanna visit Jacob and I wanna visit him from this perspective. I wanna talk about the gate of purpose. We'll look at it together. Genesis 28:10. "Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place..". God can bless you anywhere. A certain place. Where is it? Doesn't matter. God can bless you anywhere, anytime, anyone, anywhere. When he Jacob the deceiver reached a certain place, "...he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven..". There's a lady that's sure all that glitters is gold. And she's... No that's another thing. That's not the Bible. "...and the angels of God were ascending and descending on..". this stairway. "There above it stood the Lord..".
There above it stood the Lord. He's always above it. He's always above the affairs of human men. He's always above the plots and schemes and dreams and dictates of humanity. "There above it stood the Lord and he said: 'I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.'" In other words, this did not start with you. This is a continuation, a progressive revelation of who God is and, "I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south". What God is about to do is so big that you cannot contain it. Not with your mind, not geographically, not demographically. It will not be contained. "All peoples on earth will be blessed through you..". See what God can do through you.
Jacob is seeing a vision while he's sleeping on the ground in the midst of a very difficult season and an uncertain time. So he said I'm gonna bless the Earth through you "...and your offspring. I am with you..". Here comes the promise. "...and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.'" So if it's not done it's not over. If it's not good God's not finished yet. Give it some time. It will play out. "I will not leave you until I have accomplished that which I have spoken concerning you". Now, "When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.' He was afraid and said, 'How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.'" This is the gate of Heaven.
"Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz". Bethel means house of God. OK, like Bethlehem house of bread. Bethel house of God. El, El Elyon, El Shaddai, Elohim, El, God, Bethel house of God. OK. We got that? "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.'"
Now listen closely, Rockhill. Because my focus is on the following verses. Verse 17, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven". Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it". So it's an unusual title but I wanna speak to you about the pillow and the promise. The pillow and the promise and I think this is one you'll never forget. You know, when you're about to get married you start having certain conversations. You start trying to figure out are we on the same page. Like, how many kids do you wanna have? I just wanna suggest have the first one and kinda see how it goes before you go setting a number. You know, sample the product a little bit. You know like to walk around Costco. Eat a little bit of the sausage before you buy the whole.
How many kids? Here's another one. How many years do we wanna be married as just human beings before we become indentured servants and Uber drivers? How many years do we wanna be married just before we start having kids? But here's one you never think of and you need to if you're a man. You need to put this in the conversation. When you're getting ready to bring that to me, Johnathan. You need to ask how many of these are we gonna put on the bed that we are not allowed to sleep on because God forbid we sleep on a pillow? We are an eight throw pillow family just in case you were wondering. Eight. I counted them. It's eight, bro. Eight. Eight of these. Eight ten minute routines for me to go through every night before I get in my bed. I'm serious. How long we been married? Fifteen years? It took me fourteen and a half years to come to terms with the idea that there are pillows on the bed for the sole purpose of taking them off, before I get in it.
I can't lie to you now. I'm kinda into it now. Now, sometimes when Holly's gone, don't tell her, I don't put 'em on or take 'em off. Wild and crazy when she leaves town. But now I got it down. I know where every pillow goes. I got it. I know the configuration. I have been taught. I have been taught. I know which pillows to karate chop. You ever chopped a pillow? You will. It was just hard for me to realize that the purpose of the pillow was not for my head. I just couldn't, It's decorative. It's a throw pillow. I got an idea. Let's throw it away. No, I bring it up. Obviously, I'm gonna get in a little trouble in my marriage because of this but I think it'll help me illustrate my point. Because I was intrigued that Jacob was sleeping on something that he wasn't supposed to sleep on. Now in his case, Jacob, 77 years old, has to sleep and spend the night on a rock. But it's the closest thing he has to a pillow.
I thought about calling this message "Between a Rock And a Hard Place" but I thought you would think that was corny. You'd give me that polite little preacher laughter that you give when your preacher's trying to be humorous. I thought about saying that Jacob has made his bed and now he has to lie in it. And certainly, the cliche applies here because he has manipulated his way into a blessing from his father that has caused him to have to hide from his brother. About 60 miles into his journey, which probably would have taken a few days from Beersheba to the place formally known as Luz and now known as Bethel, after this stunning revelation which is the source of much theologically speculation. And we cannot cover appropriately in the time we have allotted here today. But what he sees is spectacular and yet I think the context is significant because it is not at his destination that God appears but it is along the way. It's 60 miles outside of Beersheba.
He is not yet to Laban's house where arrangements have been made for his safety and provision, where he will ultimately meet Rachel and Leah. And he loves Rachel but he has to go through Leah to get to Rachel. All of that is yet to happen. But God shows up. One time I preached this sermon called: "When God Shows Up in The Middle of Now Here". But I was playing with it 'cause I took the word nowhere and then I moved the W over and spaced it and it was then Now Here. When nowhere become now here. You remember? And we talked about when God shows up in the middle of nowhere and He's laying on the cold ground and the Sun has set the Bible points out. It's no longer safe for him to travel. Sometimes God will arrange the conditions of your life so that you have stop. Some revelation cannot be given while you are on the run, only when you have stopped running for long enough.
It is significant that Jacob sees the activity of God not in his manipulation but in his sleep. In his sleep, he sees something that would've been very familiar in Mesopotamian culture because their gods were said to have come down the staircases to the Earth and back up and back down and back up. Jacob's dream is a little different because if you'll notice, this is just a little thing it's not really gonna be on the final exam. But they were ascending and descending. The order is important because it didn't start in Heaven. It started on Earth. They went up and then they went down. They went up and then they went down. So when we pray let your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, often God is awaiting initiative on Earth to release what Heaven has in store. These messengers that ascended and descended the stairs were going back and forth. They were working in the course of human history. God is always on the move. The messengers, the angels, were going up and down. Jacob saw it in his sleep, not when he was stealing his brother Esau's blessing. He didn't see it then because he was trying to make it happen. Not when he was taking his birthright. He didn't see it then because he was in a mental space of trying to figure out how am I gonna get the blessing.
Now notice this. Issac gave Jacob a blessing but God made Jacob a promise. People can give blessings but only God can make promises. And the promise is this. God is illustrating through Jacob what Proverbs 19 will later record. Many are the plans in a person's heart but it is the purpose of the Lord that will prevail. This is a living demonstration of how no matter how Jacob schemed and dreamed God met him in an unusual place and showed him how determined God is to fulfill His purpose on the Earth. Purpose is determined. Purpose is determined. God has made up His mind what He wants to do and who He wants to do it through. And purpose is determined.
If you have a strong-willed child just wave your hand at me I'll know we're in the same club. Purpose is more determined than your most strong-willed child. And when the purpose of God makes up its mind to accomplish something in the Earth, you almost can't mess it up. You almost can't send it back. There is no return to sender. For as the rains fall from the Heaven and water the Earth so shall be His word that proceeds from His mouth. I'm getting a little excited little early. It's determined. The gifts of God are without repentance. So something that you did when you were 17 cannot reverse what God planned while you were still in your mother's womb. Purpose is determined. Nobody can break up with you and cause the purpose of God for your life to be interrupted. Nobody can fire you and interrupt the purpose of God. There is no stopping what God has started until it is complete. He will see it through. He doesn't change his mind when Jacob blows it. He tracks him down and meets with him in his sleep.
Determined. Determined. The purpose of God is determined. The theological term would be predestined. Yeah. All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew he also predestined that we might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Those He called He also justified. Those He justified He also glorified. Those He glorified He glorified to the end that his purpose might prevail in the Earth. To break it down into real simple language all I'm trying to say is God is still working. God was working in the things you did wrong, the things you did right, the activity of God cannot be stopped by human decision or mistakes. In fact, some of your greatest mistakes will be the seed of your greatest miracles. It's called purpose and it always prevails.
God is so determined that He meets with Jacob in a certain place when the sun is set 'cause He made up His mind I am the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. But when we say that purpose is determined I think it's important to make a distinction. The purpose is not only determined by God but it is also determined by us. The way I would put it is this. This is point number two. Purpose is determined before it is discovered. I'll explain that from the text. When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'"
Now God did not show up when Jacob woke up. Jacob woke up the fact that God was there all along. Can I get you to hit your neighbor and tell 'em wake up? Wake up. Woke it not a new term. Jacob was woke. But God did not show up when Jacob saw Him. He was waiting to be seen in something very common. I believe that it's good to pray for God to be with us. But I think it's better to pray that we could see where He has already been because He's been there all along. When you pray God be with us it's kind of redundant. I'll tell you why. He said I will not leave you nor forsake you. Surely I will be with you even to the end of the age. Now if it's not over God is still here. So I don't have to ask Him to do what He already promised to do. All I have to do is wake up to the reality that He's been working all along. Calm down.
By the time you see it it's already been happening. By the time you see it. By the time you got to church today, we had already done so much. What? You think we started when you got here? At some of our locations that meet in high schools and theaters and we don't own the building, they're portable locations. They're portable because as soon as we're done we have to take everything out. They're portable because during the week they're something else. But when we show up in there guess what it becomes? A church. It's not a church because we put a steeple on it. It's not a church because it says church on the sign. In fact, when you say I'm going to church you're not exactly correct. You are bringing the church to a building 'cause that's what you are. You are a carrier of the presence of Almighty God.
Jacob is so funny to me. God is here and I didn't know it. How can you miss God? How can God be in the actual place and you didn't see it? But he could only see it when he was asleep and then he woke up to see what God was doing all along. That purpose is determined before it is discovered. He wakes up. 'Cause remember we got a rock and Jacob makes it a pillow. So he is repurposing the rock to make it a pillow. It's not exactly a Tempurpedic but it will work. Sometimes you can't be picky. Sometimes you gotta take whatever you got. You know what I'm saying? It's not my favorite song but I'm gonna worship to it anyway because I don't need my favorite song to worship God. It'll work. It'll work. It's not a lot of money but I'm gonna make it work. OK. My husband isn't exact... OK. Anyway, we're gonna skip that part. And he says this'll work.
When he lays down... I'm gonna do this for you. I'm gonna demonstrate this for you. Not many preachers would go to this extent to bring the point across. But if I gotta lay down on this monitor to show you what Jacob did and the situation he was in I will lay down on this monitor. That's not even comfortable. Not even kinda comfortable. But it'll work. It'll work. It'll work. He sees something while he sleeps. And he wakes up and he goes well that was awesome. That was amazing. This is the house of God. Well, first the Bible says he was afraid. Because fear is the flipside of faith. Fear is what you feel that enables you to open yourself to faith. Fear is the sensation that leads you to something greater than yourself that causes you to have faith that God is greater. So first he was afraid and then he was excited. Then he said this is awesome. This is awesome. Wow. This is lit. He would've said it. That's what Moses said at the burning bush. This is the house of God.
Remember now, he took some oil, rubbed it on the rock, and said this is the house of God. Pointing at the rock. God doesn't live in a rock. Except that one verse that says that if we don't pray then the rocks will cry out. See, God can show up anywhere. That's the point. The point is, he took some oil. Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. It's symbolic of the joy of the Lord. But it's also when something special was being consecrated like a king or a priest. They would pour oil on it. It was a part of the consecration. The rock is something common. So Jacob consecrates something that is common and says this is the house of God pointing at a rock. This is where God lives. No, He doesn't! God doesn't live in a rock. But He can. He can.
Notice this. When Jacob says this is the gate of Heaven he didn't say that because God said it. God didn't say this is the gate of Heaven. Jacob said this is the gate of Heaven. So apparently I have the ability to be in a common situation... You hear me? An uncertain situation and put some oil on it, put some Holy Ghost on it, and put some purpose on it. If I say it's a gate it'll be a gate. If I say it's a blessing it'll be a blessing. If I say God is in it, God is in it. If I say it's a church, it'll be a church. If I say it's a setup, it is a setup. If I say it's an opportunity, it is an opportunity. Try it out. Somebody shout this is the gate.