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Finding God In The Wasteland

Moody Church Hour / Pastor Phillip Miller
The Truth Network Radio
October 8, 2023 1:00 am

Finding God In The Wasteland

Moody Church Hour / Pastor Phillip Miller

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October 8, 2023 1:00 am

Sometimes, when we least expect it, the visible and the invisible worlds intersect. Jacob wasn’t seeking God when God appeared to him in a dream of a ladder ascending to heaven. In this message, Pastor Lutzer highlights three attributes of God from Jacob’s encounter with God. God often shows up in our lives unexpectedly.

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We live in a visible world, but all around us is an equally real, invisible world. Sometimes, when we least expect it, the two intersect. That happened many times in the Old and New Testaments. Today, God speaks to a man in a dream and reveals that man's future destiny.

This divine intersection is often called Jacob's Ladder. From Chicago, this is The Moody Church Hour, a weekly service of worship and teaching with Pastor Erwin Lutzer. On this program, Erwin Lutzer continues a series on the invisible world, where battles are lost and won.

Later, we'll turn to Genesis chapter 28 and learn about Jacob's experience of finding God in the wasteland. Today, we have special guests, the Logos Symphony Orchestra from Romania. Pastor Lutzer comes now to open today's service. Today, of course, as you already know, we have the wonderful privilege of having this orchestra. We welcome them to our morning service, and let me just give you a little bit of who they are. They began in February 2009 while preparing for the Laudia Domini Romanian Youth Choir Festival.

It is comprised mostly of faculty members from the Logos School of Music and their advanced level students. We also have with us a number of singers from the Logos Christian Academy High School Choir and a few from the Chicago Combined Choir of Romanian Churches. And today, we have the opportunity of having this orchestra here.

Thank you so much. Let's give them another hand, shall we? Would you join me, please, as we pray? Father, set aside these minutes in our lives, we pray, to speak to us that we may respond in worship and in adoration, with great joy, because we are in your presence.

Thank you for the many guests that you have brought with us today, and we ask your blessing upon them as well. And together, may we glorify you. In Jesus' name, amen. We will glorify the King of Kings. We will glorify the Lamb. We will glorify the Lord of Lords.

Who is the great I AM? Lord, your hope awaits in majesty. We will bow before his throne. We will worship him in righteousness.

We will worship him above. He is Lord of Heaven, Lord of Earth. He is Lord of all who live. He is Lord of all universe, Lord of grace to live, we give. Let all who are Christ's only name become of grace and glory.

Let all who know his love proclaim all of the wondrous story. Bless every idol from his throne. The Lord is God and he alone. To God all praise and glory. Hallelujah to the King of Kings. Hallelujah to the Lamb.

Hallelujah to the Lord of Lords. Who is the great I AM? The great I AM. He is Lord of praise.

The great I AM. I invite you to take your service insert and follow along with us as you sing with us this next hymn. Rejoice and be glad. Let's stand as we sing. Rejoice and be glad. Let's stand as we sing. Rejoice and be glad.

Let's stand as we sing. Rejoice and be glad. Let all in heaven rejoice. Now we go with the prophets and shout, Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice and praise the Lord! Take heart! Take heart!

His hope and peace are true. But us, for He is our brethren's hope, rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Rejoice! Rejoice and praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Praise, praise the Lord! Let all in heaven rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice and praise the Lord! Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice! O Christ, O Christ! His heaven He has shall obey.

For He who sleeps can live their soul. Amen! Amen! Amen! Rejoice!

Rejoice! Rejoice and praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! For He has done marvelous things. His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him. The Lord has made known His salvation. He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel.

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Break forth into joyous song and sing praises. Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody, with trumpets and the sound of the horn. Make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord. Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the world and those who dwell in it.

Let the rivers clap their hands. Let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity. Worthy of worship, worthy of praise, worthy of honor and glory, worthy of love and light, softly we can see. Worthy of love, we are great to be free. You are worthy, Father and Creator. You are worthy, Savior, Savior. You are worthy, worthy and available, worthy of worship and praise.

Worthy of reverence, worthy of fear, worthy of love and devotion, worthy of loving and friendly of peace, worthy of honest and led to peace. You are worthy, Father and Creator. You are worthy, Savior, Savior. You are worthy, worthy and honorable, worthy of worship and praise.

You are worthy, Father, Master and Lord, King of all things and people. You are worthy, Father and Creator. You are worthy, Savior, Savior. You are worthy, Father and Creator. You are worthy, Savior, Savior. You are worthy, worthy and available, worthy of worship and praise. You are worthy, Father and Creator. You are worthy, Savior, Savior. You are worthy, worthy and honorable, worthy of worship and praise. Praise for Jesus, Lord of all nations, Lord of all men and the Son. He will not perish, he will die, of my soul's glory strong and proud.

There are no meadows, there's still a home that's home with the blooming of the stream. Jesus is heaven, Jesus is Lord, who leads the whole world to sleep. There is no sunshine, there is still a blue light, let all that bring peace of the old. Jesus, that frightened, Jesus, that full moon, let all the angels, let them rule. You, Savior, Lord of all nations, Son of God and Son of God. Glory and honor, praise and glory, Son, now and forevermore, Jesus. Glory, Jesus of our God and King, lift up your voice and with us sing, Alleluia, alleluia!

The burning sun with golden peak, the silver moon with softer gleam, Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia! Oh, praise him, Alleluia!

All the sheep with them are so strong, we can't have sale in them no more, Alleluia, alleluia! Oh, praise him for him, praise him, joys! We light up deep behind the walls, Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia! Oh, praise him, Alleluia! Love's loving heart with pure and clear, make me sing for thy Lord to hear, Alleluia, alleluia! Of our soul masterful and bright, that feeds to men both warmth and light, Alleluia, alleluia!

Alleluia! Oh, praise him, Alleluia! Let all things and create your pleasure, worship him in humble letters, Oh, praise him, Alleluia! Let all things and create your pleasure, worship him in humble letters, Alleluia, alleluia! Oh, praise him, Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia! Today we continue our series of messages titled The Invisible World. It's the world where God exists, angels, demons.

It's the world where heaven and hell exist. And we're exploring it through the lives of people who experienced it in one way or another. For example, the next message in the series is going to have to do with witches and fortune tellers and magical arts.

It's going to deal with knowledge from the dark side as people try to connect with the invisible world. But today's message is about a man who encountered God unexpectedly. It was a very normal evening and he was on a journey, he was alone, he was lonely, and God showed up without further warning. And I hope that that's going to happen to you. You've perhaps come and you've thought to yourself, this is going to be an ordinary service, an ordinary message, and I'm just going to enjoy it and then go home and everything's going to be the same. But open your life to the fact that God may show up in your life today.

This might be something very extraordinary. You might be surprised by God, as this man was. The man's name is Jacob. His story is found in the 28th chapter of the book of Genesis, Genesis chapter 28. I encourage you, if you have your Bible, to follow along with us. Genesis chapter 28. Let me give you the context of this man's meeting with God. You remember, Isaac was married to Rebekah. They had twins.

And before the twins were born, God says that the elder shall serve the younger. That in itself was enough to create some conflict within the family. But two things happened that made this a very dysfunctional family.

First of all, there was favoritism. The old man Isaac really favored Esau, who was the hunter, and he identified with that. Jacob was the one who was the favorite of Rebekah.

So that in itself created more problems. But what really exacerbated the situation and made it so far worse was that Jacob tricked Esau into giving him his birthright. And so because of that, Esau was so angry that there was fear that Esau might kill his twin brother, and so Jacob had to leave home. And that's what leads us now to the 28th chapter and Jacob's experience when he left home. What I'd like us to do is to see how this passage of Scripture introduces us to at least three attributes of God, the last of which is most important. So you have to hang on because at the end, you might encounter God like Jacob did.

We need to read the text, actually, to refresh our minds, and then we shall be introduced to those attributes. We read verse 10, chapter 28. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, I am the Lord God, the God of Abraham, your father, the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. And in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, 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've promised to you. And Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, surely the Lord is in this place.

And I didn't know it. And 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. Wow.

What a story. What are those attributes that we want to be introduced to briefly today? First of all, the faithfulness of God. Jacob wasn't seeking God. The Bible says that we should seek him with our whole heart. But Jacob wasn't out looking for God.

God broke into his life unexpectedly and made this marvelous promise, the same promise that had been given to Abraham and to Isaac. I'm going to be with you. Your seed is going to multiply.

I'll be with you wherever you go. There are two conclusions that Jacob should have immediately taken from this. Number one, there's no way that Esau could kill him, at least not at this point, because God said that Jacob was going to have seed and that would multiply. And through him, as we know, the Redeemer is going to come.

So there was no possibility of that. But there was something else that God was trying to connect with Jacob about, and that is that he would inherit the promises. Indeed, he would be the one to receive God's special blessing and anointing. Isn't that wonderful of God? God didn't even bring up Jacob's past and the sin that he committed and the deceit that was in his heart that he enacted in his family.

Not that this wasn't important, but that isn't the first agenda on God's mind. You and I can sit back and we can think of what we might have said if we had been God at that point. We could have said, Jacob, why did you deceive your father into giving you the birthright when it was my intention to give it to you right from the beginning? And if you had trusted me, you would have received the birthright without creating all of this dysfunction within the family.

Think of what you did. Now you have a brother who's so angry with you, he'd love to kill you. Why did you do that kind of deceit, Jacob? Now it was important that that happened, and that's something for which Jacob had to be forgiven.

But God was on another trajectory. God was saying, Jacob, what I want you to realize is that you inherit the promises. Now it's interesting, if you know anything about Esau and Jacob, you know that both of them were crooks. There's no doubt about it.

They were both crooks. But God says, I'm going to use you, Jacob, with all of your faults. God says, in effect, I am going to use a crooked stick to make a straight line. You are going to be the one through whom all of the promises I made to Abraham and Isaac are going to be fulfilled. We see here the faithfulness of God. What God is saying is that no human failure will stop me from accomplishing my goal.

I made the promise. I can fulfill it even in the midst of a family that has lost its way, a family where there is so much dysfunction and hatred. God is bigger than all that, and the faithfulness of God is seen through these promises. Now let's look briefly at the accessibility of God, if I can put it that way. The accessibility of God.

What do I mean by that? Let's look at Jacob's ladder. I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, we used to sing a song. I am climbing Jacob's ladder. Do any of you go back that far that we used to sing that chorus in Sunday school?

It looks like I'm in good company here. And we used to sing that. What's Jacob's ladder all about? He dreams a dream, and this ladder goes all the way up to heaven. First of all, we learn that it is a very high ladder, obviously, and it must be very wide because angels are ascending and descending simultaneously on this ladder.

It connects the invisible world with the visible world. The angels are ascending and they are descending, and above it is the Lord. We don't know what kind of a manifestation of God was there, but Jacob knew that above it was the Lord. And what God was trying to say is, this ladder shows that even though I am in heaven, I'm connecting with you on earth, and I am giving you a ladder that begins with heaven and goes all the way down to earth. Now, Jacob couldn't have known this, but the ladder actually represents Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of John, there's a very interesting story about Jesus being introduced to Nathanael.

And I'm sure that you've picked up on this, but this is what the text says. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, he said, Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit. Did you know that that word deceit, even though, of course, the New Testament was written in Greek and the Old Testament in Hebrew, but that word deceit was always connected with Jacob.

It's clear that Nathanael was meditating on Jacob and his ladder. And because the father, for example, Isaac, said, You have been deceitful. You came to me in deceit.

So that was what Jacob was known for, is his deceitfulness. And so immediately, Nathanael knows he must be knowing what I'm thinking, because notice what Nathanael says. He says to him, How do you know me? Jesus said, Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. Nathanael answered and said, Rabbi, you're the son of God. You're the king of Israel.

By the way, do you see that? While you're under the fig tree, while you're on the expressway, while you're riding the L, while you are in school, while you are at home, God already sees you, as will become clear. Nathanael answered him, Rabbi, you are the son of God.

You're the king of Israel. Jesus answered, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree. Do you believe you will see greater things than these? Truly, I say to you, catch this now, I say to you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man, which was exactly what Nathanael was thinking about. This ladder.

The first thing we should notice about it is that God is the one that initiates it. It is a ladder from heaven to earth. Let me tell you up front that there is no way that you and I can build a ladder that goes from earth to heaven.

That was tried at one time. When you look at the 11th chapter, the 10th chapter and 11th of the book of Genesis, you discover that some men gathered together in Babel and they said, let us let us make a ladder. Let us make this tower that goes to heaven.

And it doesn't work. And that's why in the Bible, it is God who takes the initiative. God gives us the ladder. Jesus said, There is no man who has gone up into heaven, but who has first come down from heaven, even the son of man who is in heaven. Jesus is the ladder.

And for reasons that we cannot go into in detail today, he's the only ladder between earth and heaven. And Jacob is seeing this dream, the fact that heaven is open to him and the invisible world is becoming visible. But there's something else in the passage, and that perhaps leads us to the heart of what we have to say today. We've learned about the fact that God is faithful in the midst of human deception and sin.

He still goes on keeping his promises. We've learned that heaven is accessible if we are willing to come on God's ladder, namely Jesus Christ. But we also learn something about the presence of God, the presence of God. Jacob awakes from his sleep and says these words in verse 16. Surely the Lord is in this place, but I didn't know it.

Wow. That's the state of the church today. God is here. God is omniscient and God is omnipresent. That means he is indeed everywhere.

He is where you live in your condo. He is everywhere. You can go to the farthest ends of the earth, the most remote place, and there you will find it is full of God. Now this on one level can be very terrifying.

You know, it's one thing for a child to be disobedient to his parents, but if he's disobedient while the parents are looking on, it really shows hardness of heart. And you and I have to remember, we think of all the times we have grieved the Holy Spirit, we have sinned in the presence of God, and the Bible says that all things are naked and open onto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. We cannot escape the fact that God is everywhere. And you today need to know that you cannot hide from him in Chicago. You cannot hide from him in all the cities of the world or the most remote regions. Wherever you go, God is there. In Psalm 139, the psalmist is contemplating the fact that God is everywhere. And he says, Whither shall I go from thy spirit or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there.

If I make my bed in shield, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there will thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall uphold me. If I say, Well, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about me. For the darkness hideth not from thee, the night shineth as the day, the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." Wow, thieves do all of their work at night.

They want to be hid. But God says, The darkness is the same as light to me. You cannot escape from God. The Lord is in his universe. And multiplied millions do not know that he is there. Someone wrote, Nor let your weakened passions dare consent to sin, for God is there. Will you remember that the television programs we watch, God is on the couch beside us. He's watching it. There is no place to hide. So it's fearful.

It's fearful. You know, the Bible says that someday the wicked are going to say, Well, how does God know? How does God know? And God says, I've been watching the whole time. I've got all the goods that you could possibly imagine on you. I've got the tapes.

Do you want to see them? And at that point we say, No, thanks. I'll take your word for it. So God is everywhere. God is everywhere. But there's another sense in which we learn that God, oh, by the way, I was going to point out, the positive side is that have you ever had injustice done to you? Have you ever gone through a trial?

Have you ever been really deeply hurt by others? Aren't you glad that God knows? We've all had to take great encouragement from the fact that in the midst of misunderstanding and false accusations, that God is there and we trust the omniscience of God and the omnipotence of God and his omnipresence. God is there. And even, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Aren't you glad that God is going to be there too?

Aren't you glad he's there? So that's the omnipresence of God. But there's something else in this passage. And that is the manifest presence of God, the encounter with God that changes everything. Notice what Jacob does. He says, surely the Lord is in this place and I didn't know it. How awesome is this place?

This is a parenthesis. Today we use the word awesome frequently. I have sometimes used it and I say, well, you know, that's awesome.

I don't know. I think we should save that word for God and think of something else instead of awesome. Only God is really awesome. He says, how awesome is this place?

And he was even afraid. He says, this is the house of God. This is the gate of heaven. So early in the morning, Jacob took the stone he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on it, on the top of it, and he called that place Bethel. And he says, if God brings me back here, I'll give him thanks and I'll always remember this place where I encountered God.

What's going on there in the text? Here's an ordinary stone, nothing unique about it at all. And Jacob pours oil on it and says, I want to remember this place.

I want to sanctify this place. This is a sacred place to me. Ordinary stone, of course. Could have been any stone. Why this particular piece of real estate?

Why is it set apart? And the answer is that's where Jacob encountered God or the manifest presence of God. It's one thing, you know, to believe that God is everywhere. Yes, we all agree with that, but imagine encountering him and saying, I had an experience with God.

Then it becomes very special, even an ordinary piece of real estate. R.C. Sproul in one of his sermons said that once a young man came to him and said, you know, I want to evangelize people and what I want to do is to have a church with a lot of excitement because most people, he says, who go to church are bored. And he said, I don't want anybody to ever be bored in my church.

And R.C. Sproul said to him, he said, you know, he said, when you look through the Bible, you discover that people acted in different ways when they met God. Moses, of course, took the shoes from his feet.

We don't know that he fell down. He continued to stand and he had a discussion with the Lord God that God eventually won. So that's the way Moses responded. When you get to Isaiah, Isaiah said, woe is me, for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of the people of unclean lips. For mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts. When you get to Job, you know that Job said, I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye sees thee.

Therefore, I repent in dust and ashes. And when you get to the New Testament, you discover that when John the Apostle saw the risen glorified Christ, he said, I fell at his feet as though I were dead. So Sproul said that when people encounter God, they respond differently. But nowhere do I ever find that when people encounter God, I don't ever find that they were bored. When you encounter God, you'll never be bored.

And let me say that here at The Moody Church, built with ordinary bricks and built with ordinary steel and whatever else went into this marvelous structure today. When you leave LaSalle Street or Clark Street, and you are leaving what was used to be called the profane, that is to say the world, and you are coming here into this place, and this place is set apart by God for you to meet him here. That's why this place is sacred. Because you have encountered the living God. And as you've heard me say a number of different times, when people walk into this sanctuary, they should say, surely God is in this place.

May that be our prayer. So that the Bible says that they should say that because the truth of their heart is revealed. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ has shown their sinfulness. And the first thing you see when you encounter God almost always is that I'm a sinner who needs redemption. And you encounter the Almighty because God is in this place in a special way among his people. Everywhere, yeah, but especially here, where the encounter took place.

And so I set up a stone, and I put oil on it, says Jacob. God is with us. That's why it's so important in this sanctuary that when people come in that they open their lives to God. That's why we have a call to worship. That's why we sing and have such beautiful music is because we want the soul drawn to God so that when people leave, they say, I encountered God today.

And if you can say that, you'll never be bored. You say, well, yeah, but how do I encounter him? You know, it's one thing to hear this message, and you may be sitting there, or maybe you're hearing it through a different means, and you may be listening in an office or driving a car, and you say, well, you know, it's one thing. Sure, but how do I get to him?

Thank you so much for asking that question. The Bible says this in the book of John. No man has seen God at any time. Even the Lord that Jacob saw at the top of the ladder was simply a manifestation of God. You and I could never see the invisible God with human eyes.

If we did, we would be incinerated. We could not take the holiness and the beauty and the greatness of the invisible God. So there are various manifestations, even as in this passage. No man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. Jesus declares God. And Jesus went so far as to say, he who has seen me has seen the Father.

Wow. That statement takes your breath away. Imagine Jesus saying that to the disciples. So how do we encounter God? By the way, Luther even said that when you are confronted with a hidden God, what he meant was the mystery of God, where there are all kinds of questions about God that I don't understand. There are things that I will not share with you today, but I struggle with in terms of what God does and the way in which he runs his world.

But on the other hand, he never asks me, so I just kind of let him do it. When you encounter the hidden God, Luther says, you flee to the visible God, not because there are two gods, of course, but Luther says you flee to Jesus because there, the Logos, God manifest in the flesh. And there we encounter God. Some of you have never encountered him in that way. Some of you today, the truth is Jesus to you is a teacher. He's a prophet. He's a good man. But he isn't your personal savior.

You have no intimate relationship with him. And if you seek for intimacy, if you seek for that encounter, I encourage you to come to Jesus because he makes the invisible God visible. And not only that, because he is the ladder from earth to heaven, or I should say from heaven to earth. Because he is that ladder, he's the only one who is able to take you and connect you with the Almighty. That's why I like stories of conversion that we frequently have here at church.

I enjoy them. I'm blessed by everyone because everyone is a miracle of Jesus Christ reaching down and saying, here I am, and then giving us the ability to receive him. Because it is through him that we can connect. And then after we've done that, we spend the rest of our life learning to enjoy God in his manifest presence, encountering him, loving him, trusting him, and yes, as I've mentioned, even enjoying him.

Because the invisible God has been made visible to us and tangible to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. If you're seeking God, this is the end of your search. You come to Christ, who reveals the Father. Receive him as Savior. Accept him as Lord, as God. And that's why he said, no man can come to the Father, but by me. But through him, we encounter the Almighty.

And as I've already emphasized, then we are never bored. May we pray together. Our Father, we pray that this church might be Bethel, the house of God. May this place ever be sacred, because it is here that we have set it apart to say, this is where we worship. This is where we connect with God.

Here's where we encounter him. And we say to all of our visitors and all those who come through as members and friends and associates, we say to all of them, in this place, God is honored. May we come back to it repeatedly, we pray, to give you thanks and praise. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Amen. On today's Moody Church Hour, Pastor Lutzer spoke on finding God in the wasteland, the second in an eight-part series on the invisible world. Next week, join us for part three in this series as we turn to Deuteronomy chapter 18 and learn about knowledge from the dark side.

The future for a child of God involves an appointment before Jesus. Pastor Lutzer has written a book on your eternal reward, triumph, and tears at the judgment seat of Christ. We'd like to send it to you as our way of saying thanks for your gift of any amount to The Moody Church Hour. Call 1-800-215-5001. That's 1-800-215-5001. Or write to us at Moody Church Media, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614.

Mention your eternal reward when you write or call. Online, go to That's Join us next week at this same time for another Moody Church Hour with Pastor Erwin Lutzer and the Congregation of Historic Moody Church in Chicago. This broadcast is a ministry of The Moody Church. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-25 11:24:19 / 2023-10-25 11:39:20 / 15

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