So, Genesis 28:16 and 17 read: “Jacob woke up from his sleep. He said, “God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it!” He was terrified. He whispered in awe, “Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God’s House. This is the Gate of Heaven.””
Jacob wakes up from his dream about the ladder going to and from heaven and what is his reaction?
Terror. He is greatly afraid because God was there and he didn’t realize it. He was scared to be in God’s presence without knowing he was.
Was he terrified because he was scared of what God might do to him? I don’t think so.
Was he scared because he wasn’t a believer and realized he could be going to hell soon? I don’t think so.
I think the kind of terrified that he was is illustrated by the next sentence. He was terrified……
And he whispered in awe.
Awe is not a negative term. Awe is an “inspired by greatness” term. Awe is amazed by the wonder and the power term. Awe is realizing that you are that close to greatness.
So I believe that Jacob was terrified in the way that any of us would be terrified if we woke from a deep sleep and found ourselves confronted with greatness.
Sort of like what a medical missionary in Haiti might feel if they woke up and found themselves face to face with Paul Farmer.
Or an Englishman sits down in a pub and Prince Charles wanders in and sits down next to him. “Yikes!!…….”
Jacob woke up, realized that his dream was proof that God was in that place.
It scared the pants off of him.
But then very quickly the terror moved to awe. He realized that God had came there for him and the enormity of the wonder and the utter confidence that comes from knowing that God came there (or here) for you set in.
And Jacob had no other option but to praise God and to celebrate God’s presence.
It’s a balancing act – and a balancing act that I believer the first world church doesn’t balance very well.
The balance between “God is our friend and will always be there for us” and “God will always be our King, our Redeemer, the saver of all that believe in him.”
The one says God is kind of like your beer drinking, football game watching buddy. The other says, “Wow, God is awesome, incredible, amazing and therefore kind of scary.”
May we all find the appropriate mix of awe, terror and support as we seek to follow God and His plan for our lives.