Sermon: God Sightings

God Sightings
Genesis 28:10-22
RUMC 23 July 2016
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil

A God sighting is a term that seems to be in vogue in some churches circles. I would define it as a spiritual event where people can see the hand of God in their lives.  Because of these unplanned encounters, men, women and children have found the Lord or had their faith renewed.

My scripture text is about one particular God sighting: when Jacob was literally between a rock and hard place. He experienced the Living God in a dream.  We may have our own God sighting; if that were to happen, it would show our Lord is real and that He is involved in our lives, seeking to bring to pass His will in our lives.

My text is Genesis 28:10-22.
Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 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. 12 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. 13 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; 14 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. 15 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.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 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.”
18 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. 19 He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21 so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22 and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.”
This is the Word of God.

By way of background, the Old Testament Patriarch Jacob was forced to leave home because he had caused a lot of trouble. It first started when he outwitted his brother Esau and took his birthright or inheritance over a bowl of soup.  Then through deception, he tricked his father and stole his brother’s blessing which recognized him to be the head of the family at the future death of the father.  So with the uproar and the family drama and a brother about to kill him, Jacob’s parents decided it was best that he go live with a distant relative some 500 miles away.  Three days or 70 miles into his journey, Jacob stopped for the night after a long day of travel.  With a stone for a pillow and a cloak for padding, Jacob slept.  It was here that young Jacob had a God sighting or a visitation from the Almighty.

Even though Jacob had deceived his brother and father, God still loved and cared for him. In a sense, God gave Jacob a do-over.

In a God sighting, the Lord will show up when we least expect. It could be a surprise visit, a phone call.  It could come in the form of some helpful assistance or a timely word.  But the message is always that God cares, which is usually enough to turn a life around or deepen our faith.

Let me read to you an account of a God sighting that was posted on the Internet. “John and I were in a horrible wreck when we rolled our Chevy Tahoe SUV. We both prayed as events unfolded.  As we walked away with bruised and sore bodies, we encountered angels in the form of men who stopped to save us.  They pulled us from the wreckage and called for help.  Blessings on these wonderful men who cared enough to help.”

Maybe you have had something similar happen. Large or small, when you have a God sighting, it is a special moment of faith.  It changes the way we look at things.

Let me summarize another God sighting. Recently there was a pastor who lost control of his motorcycle and was badly injured. The accident took place on a very isolated road outside of San Antonio, TX.  Moments later a man in a car drove up and stopped to help.  For some unknown reason he had phone numbers for a life flight helicopter and a local ambulance service.  In 20 minutes, a rescue helicopter arrived and transported the pastor to a hospital.  Though he was injured with broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, a lacerated liver and other bruises, he survived.  The people in his congregation definitely believed this was a God sighting.

I am sure many of you have had your own experiences and it too turned your life around and deepened your faith.

Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear him.”  This tells us there is help and protection available for the people of God.

Usually most people before they come to the Lord have had some experience that brings them closer to the Lord.

It seemed that Jacob had no prior experience or relationship with God, but it was here that he had his first taste of the supernatural. And because of it, he vowed to serve the Lord the rest of his life and give a tenth of his income to the Lord.  That is another instance where believers give 10% of their income to the work of the Lord.

Other God sightings in scripture include the following:

  • Exodus 3:1-5: when Moses saw the burning bush in the desert. Because of that God sighting, Moses went on to rescue the Hebrew people.
  • The next God sighting involved a man named Isaiah who saw a vision of God seated on his throne, surrounded by angels. After that incident, Isaiah became a prophet of the Lord.
  • The next God sighting involved Saul of Tarsus who was blinded by a bright light. When Saul fell to the ground, he saw Jesus in a vision. Because he was converted, Saul became Paul the Apostle.

Have you ever heard the term “Pay it Forward?” A popular example is when a person is in their car goes through the fast food drive through in McDonald’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, etc and what they do is pay the order of the person behind them.  They do this in the goodness of their heart.  This happened to me when I went through the toll booth in Hooksett, NH.  When I gave $1 to the attendant, she told me that the car in front had paid the toll.  I was so surprised, that I tried to chase that person down to see who it was, but I could not catch the car.  But it did have a wondrous effect on me.  I could almost feel God’s love in a special way.

As believers in our church, when we make those special phone calls, give rides, send cards, make visits, etc., they could be God sightings for the individuals we are helping.

The lyrics to a song remind me of the effect that God sightings have: “God will make a way. Where there seems to be no way.  He works in ways we cannot see.  He will make a way for me.  He will be my guide, hold me closely to his side.  With love and strength for each new day.  He will make a way.  He will make a way.”

Let me close. Jacob’s God sighting was a life changing experience; he was forever defined by it.  I am sure all of us have had some life changing experience or God sightings or spiritual experience; it may have been dramatic or quiet.  However regardless of who or what or when, it was real and it changed our faith.  So may we continue to be a blessing in the Kingdom of God and, in effect, be a God sighting for a person in need.