George Webber was a struggling author when he wrote about the family and friends of his hometown in Libya Hill. When the book became a national best seller, George returned home to find the people of Libya Hill outraged at the way he portrayed them and their anger drove George out of the town and on a journey of self discovery. That’s the story line of Thomas Wolfe’s classic book – You Can’t Go Home Again – but that title has taken on a life of its own and it now means many things to many people. For some people it means that we can’t go back to our small town roots once we have traveled and seen the complexities and wonders of the larger world. For others it means they can’t return to the glory days of their youth when they were the captain of the football team or class president. But for many people this phrase has come to mean that they can’t return to a God they once loved and believed in because their failures, mistakes and sin has taken them too far away.
How can we return to God when we have lived away from Him for so long? How can we return home to a God that is defined by holiness and righteousness – when our lives are anything but holy and righteous? Can we return into a relationship with God when our attitudes and actions have seemed to deny God’s very presence? Well the good news today is that we aren’t living in a Thomas Wolfe novel – we are living in the world our God created which means we CAN go home again because God wants us to come home. Over the next three weeks we are going to explore some coming home stories that show us that it is possible to return to God and enter into a deep and lasting relationship with the One who created us, knows us and loves us unconditionally.
Today we are going to look at the story of Jacob who was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. Jacob had a twin brother, Esau, and they fought with each other from the very beginning. In fact, while they were still in the womb it says the babies jostled with each other and when they were born while Esau came out first, Jacob was right there with his hand grasping his brother’s heel. In fact, the name Jacob means to follow and comes from a root Hebrew word which means heel. And that is how Jacob entered this world, following his brother by grabbing hold of his heel. Jacob followed after his brother the rest of his life, grabbing hold of what belonged to him.
When their father Isaac was on his death bed, Jacob devised a plan where he pretended to be his brother Esau, the first born, and stole the blessing that rightfully belonged to the first born son. This blessing wasn’t just a prayer or some kind words spoken by a dying father, the blessing was believed to have special power that once given would help shape the future and could not be revoked or changed in way. So Isaac blessed Jacob by saying “May God give you of the heaven’s dew and of the earth’s richness an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and people bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. (Genesis 27:28-29) Jacob was not only receiving the blessing and wealth of his father but he was receiving the blessing of God that had been given first to Abraham and then to Isaac. This was a big deal because what is taking place is that Jacob is now being declared the first born son. This established Jacob as the head of the family who now owned and controlled everything. As you might imagine, Esau was furious about this and decided to just wait it out until his father died and then take matters into his own hands and kill Jacob.
When Jacob heard about his brother’s anger – he left his home and traveled to Haran where he lived with his uncle. Through the years Jacob prospered and fathered many children and his flocks increased in size and strength until he became a very wealthy man whose power and position threatened his cousins. In time it was now this ide of his family that wanted Jacob to leave. First it was his brother and now it was his cousins. No one seemed to want Jacob around. He couldn’t stay where he was in Haran, but he couldn’t go home again – at least that’s what he thought, but God had another message for him. Look at Genesis 31:3. And there it is, you CAN go home again! Not only is there a place for you Jacob, but I will be with you.
This is still God’s message today. It’s not just given to Jacob but it is given to all of us. You see, it doesn’t matter how long we have been away or what lies in our past – we CAN go home again – in fact this isn’t just an invitation God makes today this is a promise God made long ago. It was also a promise he had made to Jacob years before he faced this situation. When Jacob first left home and ran away from his brother, he didn’t make it far when he stopped for the night and had a dream. In that dream, heaven opened up and a stairway dropped down to the earth and angels of God where going up and down and in that dream God said to Jacob, I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. 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. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (Genesis 28:13-15)
That night God promised Jacob that he would have a home in this world and it was a home where God would bless him and watch over him and be with him. God promises a home. Someday Jacob would be able to come back to this place, to come home again. The reason we can come home to God is because God has always promised us a home coming. Jesus promised us a home coming in John 14:1-3. Now we often only think about the home Jesus promises us as a home in heaven after we die and while there is that home waiting for us, there is also a home waiting for us right here and now. Jesus came back after his death and his resurrection means we are forgiven and can have a relationship with God. There is a home for us today. It’s not a home made with brick and mortar, it’s not our hometown or favorite city or promised homeland like it was for Jacob, the home God has promised us is a relationship with God that fills us with the hope and joy and peace. This home is a life where we experience the richness and fullness of God’s blessing.
Now many people don’t believe that this kind of home is possible for them. At times we all struggle to believe that there is a God who loves us and honestly desires to be in a life-giving relationship with us, and even if this kind of a relationship with the living God is possible, we often don’t believe it can be for us after all the things we have done and the kind of life we have and are living.
How can the God we read about in Bible still be real and relevant in a world as complex and advanced as ours? How can we go home again to a loving God we learned about in Sunday School and sang about as children? How can the Jesus we read about here (Bible) accept someone who lives here – in this world – in this age – in this place – in our sin? For many people coming home to God and home to the church just doesn’t seem possible and I’m sure Jacob thought the same thing. How can I return home when my brother wants to kill me? How can I return home when my past is filled with brokenness and pain? But God says – you CAN return home. In fact God says, I’ve always promised you a home.
There is nothing that God wants more than to welcome us home – not just into heaven but into the healing and hope and power of a relationship with him. The Apostle Paul makes this clear to us, look at Acts 17:24-28a. God wants us to reach out for him, he wants us to come home to him – in fact he is not far away. Like Jacob who didn’t realize how close God was to him when he was sleeping – neither do we understand how close God is to us. today He is right here. Coming home doesn’t involve a long journey like Jacob, or even a day trip to our hometown – it’s travelling from here (head) to here (heart) and accepting the love God has for us.
In 1 John 4:10 it says that God loves us and sent his son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. So it is through Jesus that we are able to return home, all we have to do is open the door. Jesus stands at the door and knocks; all we have to do is invite him in and when he arrives – we are at home – we are in that relationship with God that’s what it says in Revelation 3:20.
It has been, it is today and it always will be God’s desire and plan to bring us into a deep and lasting relationship with him which is why he promises that no matter what, we can come home again and that when we come home we will find him there. Look at Jeremiah 29:11-13.
So we CAN go home again and we CAN find God because God has made us that promise. When you search for me, God says, you will be find me. So we can make that search – we can turn toward home and if you are ready to take the first step today it is simply this, a step of humility where we acknowledge our mistakes. If we go back to the story of Jacob, as he prepared to meet his brother Esau he humbled himself. He sent a note to his brother saying he wanted to return home and then he sent gifts to his brother in hopes of making peace. Jacob returned home humbly, acknowledging that he didn’t always live the right way when he was there.
Returning home to God means acknowledging that we haven’t always lived the right way and that we have tried to do too many things on our own. It means taking responsibility for our failures and saying that that we need God’s grace to forgiveness us. Again, from 1 John 1:8-9 it says… and Acts 3:19 …
When we repent and turn to God, God forgives and then those times of refreshing come. The blessings of God come. Times of healing and hope come. Times of new life come. In Paul’s letter to Titus he says, God saved us, not because of righteous things we have done, but because of his mercy. It is God’s mercy that has promised us a home and it is God’s mercy that allows us to come home again today
If we want to go home again, if we want to reestablish a relationship with God that brings healing, hope and life – it’s not too late – it’s never too late because God promises a home for us, not in heaven, but right here and now. God has made a way for us through Jesus to experience His blessing of love and life, we just need to turn and start the journey home.
You CAN go home again!
Remember that home is not a building or location and home is not our eternal dwelling place in heaven.
Home is a relationship with God where we experience the blessing of God’s love and life.
1. Take time this week to read the full story of Jacob found in Genesis 25:19 – 34 and then Genesis chapters 27 – 33.
Take note of all the times God promised Jacob he would be able to come home again.
2. Read the promises God makes with us that we can ALWAYS come home again.
• Jeremiah 29:11-14
• Acts 17:24-28
• 1 John 4:10
• Revelation 3:20
3. The first step in coming home involves humility and confession.
• Come clean before God about the ways you have let Him and others down.
• Be specific in naming sins so that you know exactly where you need God’s help in overcoming them.
• Remember God forgives! Titus 3:3-7, 1 John 1:9
4. There is more to understand about coming home to God, so commit to being in worship the next two weeks to see how God sustains us for the trip and celebrates our arrival.