Theevents in Genesis 28:10-17took place just after Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright as Isaac’s firstborn son and after Jacob received the blessing that Esau was supposed to receive from their father Isaac. Consequently Esau threatened Jacob’s life. Jacob left home and headed out from Beersheba with the birthright, the blessing, and little else besides his own wits….or so it seemed!

At some stage of his journey, Jacob settled down for the night, picked a rock for a pillow, and tried to get some sleep. That is when God came to Jacob in a dream. In the dream Jacob was reminded that God was able and willing to maintain communications with His children even in the most desolate places and lonely times. During the dream God reiterated the covenant He had with Abraham. It described the blessing which would come through Jacob’s family to the whole world. But then God moved from generalities to specifics which were of great interest to Jacob. God promised that He would always be with Jacob. The promise of the divine presence would be both a source of encouragement and, at times, a source of embarrassment to Jacob as his life unfolded. Jacob realized for the first time in his life that he is not the centre of the universe.

Different people have different ways of waking up to God but few people ever needed to wake up to Him more than Jacob! His habits which were so clearly demonstrated in his home situation and which led to exile from his family got him into all kinds of trouble. He had no hope without God but God in His wisdom called Jacob to play a significant role in the blessing of the nations. This should remind us that God’s ways are not our ways and that no one is outside of the possibilities of a changed life through divine intervention.

God had to remove Jacob from everything that was a comfort to him in order to reveal Himself to Jacob. What began as a crisis that forced Jacob to be removed form his family and friends led to an encounter with the living God and a fresh vision of God’s purposes for his life. How often we go about our daily routing=e and fail to recognize that God is in the place where we are. God must often do radical things in the life of the servant in whom He has special plans: separation from family, removal of physical and emotional resources, an encounter with God.

God did not judge Jacob’s prior actions with regard to his brother and his father. Instead, God gave Jacob one promise after another. God transformed an ordinary stone and an ordinary place into something special-a place where God’s presence has made a home in the world. Similarly, God transformed Jacob from a trickster into a richly blessed man who served as a source of God’s blessing to others. Unfortunately, as we will see, this change did not take place immediately.

Something profound had happened in Jacob’s heart. By creating the pillar and anointing it, Jacob memorialized the place and retained it in his memory as the scene of a deep and lasting commitment to the God who had touched his life at that place. Bethel- “the house of God”-was instantly a sacred place for Jacob. It was there God met him, dealt with him, and took a special interest in his needs. The words “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” must have reassured Jacob when he was alone and on the run. Similarly, God will always stay with us and keep all His promises to us, even when we go through the storms of life. When we wonder if He is really there—He is!       

Can we see ourselves in Jacob? God gives us the free gift of salvation, and we grudgingly give God a crumb or two and then imagine we are God’s followers. That way of thinking leads to exile from God’s kingdom-just like Jacob was exiled from his father’s house. What did Jacob finally give back to God? What will we give back to God? What can we give back? What should we give back? One tenth of our lives? Everything? Who knows. The only thing that is certain is what the God who meets us at our Bethels always seems to do, which is to grant us blessed dreams, precisely when we need them, and to give us everything we have never and could never deserve.

Jacob’s story promises us to consider God’s presence in those places where we do not immediately recognize His presence. Our own experiences of the hidden God remind us that God often reveals Himself indirectly, in a seemingly concealed manner. It can be through a dream such as in Jacob’s case, or through weakness and suffering as in Jesus’ death on a cross, or in places we least expect.

God has a promise for our lives. What promise has God given you, or do you know? For starters, He promises to never leave us and that He will be with us and keep us wherever you go. God promises to always be with us. This is an awesome promise!

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 41-42)
  2. Briscoe, D.S., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 1: Genesis (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 226-232
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. John Holbert, “Forgetting Leads to Exile: Reflections on Genesis 28:10-19.” Retrieved from www.patheos.com/progressinve-christian
  5. Juliana Claassens, “Commentary on Genesis 10-19a.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  6. “God’s Promise.” Retrieved from www.dailydisciples.org
  7. Shauna Hannan, “Genesis 28:10-19.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu

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