Jacob had traveled about 70 miles on his 400-mile journey to Haran. He needed to rest for the evening, so he set up camp in a “certain place.” This place was not especially noteworthy; it does not even have a name. There was nothing particularly holy about this place; it was just a place of dirt and stones. Jacob had no reason to expect anything unusual. Soon after falling asleep with his head on a rock (common practice in ancient times), God came to Jacob in a dream.
In the dream, Jacob saw a stairway going from earth to heaven, with angels going between the two realms and the Lord (Yahweh) at the top. Jacob understood that the stairway symbolized a place where there was access to God.
The main point of the dream was to affirm to Jacob that the Lord and His angels were present and active even though, as verse 16 attests, he had been unaware of them. Most of us will not have special dreams as Jacob did, but it has been revealed to us through the Bible that God is present and active even when we are unaware of His presence.
God sometimes shows up at unexpected times and in unexpected places. In Genesis 28:13-15, the Lord speaks to Jacob, and it is from that speech that we learn the four points to remember in uncertain times.
I. IN UNCERTAIN TIMES, REMEMBER GOD’S PROMISES.
The first thing God did was to remind Jacob of the promises He had made (verse 13). In uncertain times, we are to remember God’s promises. The principle is true not just for Jacob but for all of us. When facing difficult or uncertain times, we need to open our Bibles and let the Holy Spirit remind us of what God has promised.
Ellen G. White says: “Every promise in God’s Word is ours. . . . When assailed by temptation, look not to circumstances or to the weakness of self, but to the power of the Word. All its strength is yours” (The Faith I Live By, 23).
II. IN UNCERTAIN TIMES, REMEMBER GOD’S PRESENCE.
If we are to face the future with confidence, we must remember that God is with us. Jacob needed to know this also. In verse 15 God said very clearly, “I am with you!” Jacob may have felt alone, but he was never alone and neither are we! God is always with us. Remembering His presence in uncertain times has been a source of encouragement for all the saints (Ps. 23; Matt. 28).
III. IN UNCERTAIN TIMES, REMEMBER GOD’S PROTECTION.
God next reminded Jacob of His protection. In verse 15 He said, “I am with you and will watch over [keep] you.” In other words, I’m going to protect you on this perilous journey. This did not mean that nothing hurtful or bad would ever happen to Jacob, but it did mean—just as it means to us—that God will protect us so that His plan, which is good, comes to fruition. Jacob did not have to worry about his brother’s anger, about bandits, or about wild animals. He trusted that God would protect him.
In the same way, we do not need to fear the dangers we face in today’s world. Terrorists, disease, crime, financial loss, natural disasters—God has promised to watch over us, and certainly that is enough.
IV. IN UNCERTAIN TIMES, REMEMBER GOD’S PROVISION.
The promise in verse 15 to “watch over you” had a dual meaning. The Hebrew word for “watch” meant “to protect” and “to provide for or to take care of.” The Hebrew word is first used in Genesis 2:15, when God instructed Adam to “take care” of the garden, i.e., provide for its needs. In the story of Jacob, God was promising to provide for his needs as well as to protect him from harm. Jacob clearly understood this because he expected God to watch over him on his journey and provide food and clothing for him, as we see in verse 20.
God has promised to provide for all the needs of His people. Jesus reminds us that the Father knows what we need, and just as He provides for the birds of the air, He will certainly provide for us.
Ellen G. White reminds us: “All who keep the commandments in truth and integrity reveal to the world that they are under the rule of God and are dependent upon Him for their temporal and spiritual victories. With God’s presence and favor, His people are safe, although they may suffer persecution for the truth’s sake. His goodness and the riches of His grace are their protection and salvation” (Sermons and Talks, 2:329).
These are the bases of our certainty in uncertain times: God’s promises, God’s presence, God’s protection, and God’s provision. Each of us will face uncertain times, but we can be encouraged because God is with us and for us.
General Conference Ministerial Association