TEXT: Genesis 28: 10-22
TITLE : Jacob meets His God
DATE PREACHED: The Lord's Day , 10/10 /2010
At this time I have chosen to preach a few sermons on the life of Jacob (Hebr. “deceiver”) who became known as “Israel “ ( Hebr. “He strives with God “ or “God strives” ) . Jacob eventually became the father of the 12 tribes who then became known as “the tribes of Israel”. I want to focus on him in particular in his encounter with God in Ch 28 (today) and in terms of his wrestling with God in Chapter 32 later in the series . I believe that there are many valuable spiritual lessons contained in this portion of Scripture . May the Holy Spirit be pleased to speak our hearts from His sacred text!
We need to start with the vision of God. At times like these, when many are threatened by despair , hopelessness and fatigue a vision of the greatness of God is a great ( and often unknown) cure .
1. Jacob’s History:
As we find him in Chapter 28 he is living in fear of his brother Esau. You will remember that he has twice deceived and taken away significant privileges from his bother Esau . First , he took away his birthright (Gen 25:29-34) - if you like the rights of the firstborn (by which he would inherit his father’s land and the family line would be perpetuated through him) , and secondly he took away Esau’s fatherly covenant blessing (Gen 27) , which was ordinarily reserved for the oldest son .
Yet , remember also that even though Jacob deceived his brother in these things , Esau himself was at fault, for he sat loosely on these privileges . If there is any lesson to be learned from Esau’s life it is this : Beware of sitting lightly on spiritual privileges !
Esau’s demise began because he was more a man of passion than of principle ! It all began when he came home hungry from the fields . He saw that his brother had made a good pot of stew , and in order to gain that, he sold his birthright for a pot of lentil stew. His god was his belly – and in that process he lost his spiritual inheritance .
This of course does not excuse Jacob’s actions . We note that because of this, Esau’s heart grew bitter and that he therefore intended to kill Jacob after their father Isaac had died (Gen 27:41).
Please take careful note of the exhortation in Hebrews 12 :15-17 : “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.”
Now remember that over and above all this intrigue there is the fact that God had decreed that the promised seed ( the Messianic line ) should come via Jacob the younger brother. (Malachi 1:2,3 à Rom 9:12,13) . The fact that this plan came about in such a crooked manner has given Bible expositors frequently headaches and has caused much ink to be spilled on this subject .
The matter may however be fairly easily resolved if we remember that God is the sovereign Creator and Lord , who may do as He pleases. He is , after all God and we are not ! And because of this we can never override God’s ultimate purposes , for as Isaiah says: “Remember this and stand firm , recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old ; for I am God and there is no other ; I am God and there is none like me , declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done , saying , My counsel shall stand , and I will accomplish all my purpose…” (Isa 46:8-10) .
From before the foundation of the earth Jacob was God’s chosen vessel . No matter how little you may like this quote from Malachi 1:1,2 : “… I have loved Jacob , but Esau I have hated…” , it is a prerogative that belongs to the sovereign Lord .
But what does the sovereign Lord expect from his chosen servants ? He calls us to trust Him and to obey Him . As Creator He demands from obedience to His Word. He commands us to wait patiently for the unfolding of His plan . We must wait patiently for Him to open the doors.
Unfortunately , like Jacob and Rebekah we so easily plot and plan our own course and seek to speed up God’s agenda, as it were . We tend to think that we can speed up God’s plans by lending Him a hand here and there through devising our own plans . In this process we will not even shy away from deception .
We have just mentioned Rebekah . Through motherly ambition she sought to push her son on to the “fast track“ . Now , did not the Lord tell her already at the birth of her sons that “ the older shall serve the younger “ ( Gen 25:23) ? All she needed to do was to wait for God to act . Instead she pushes her son Jacob to act deceitfully so that he might inherit the covenant blessings by force. He needed not to do this for he was already destined for this position by God .
Could he not have waited for God’s timing ?
Deceit always has horrible consequences!
I remind you that as a result of this deceit Esau hated Jacob so much , that he had begun to devise murderous plans in his heart against his brother ( a repeat of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 ) . Deceit destroys family relationships.
The result of this is that Jacob had to flee and spend 20 years (!) away from his promised land and with his deceitful uncle Laban in Paddan Aram . hence we observe that there is also the loss of the place of God’s blessing and of wasted time .
What do we learn from this ?
- We can never improve on God’s timing !
- If we try , we may actually take longer to get there . There are no shortcuts to Christian success . You must keep in step with the Spirit ( Gal 5:25 NIV) .
This then, very briefly is the background which brings us to Chapter 28.
Jacob is now on his way with his father’s blessing - the blessing of Abraham , but he is fleeing from his brother . Though he has the blessing , he is running away because of sin and the fear of man. He is running away from the place where he should be . Remember however that despite all this he still is the chosen man of God. God is not finished with him yet, and will yet bring him into the place of obedience . Thankfully God’s plan will never be frustrated by the disobedience of man .
Thankfully God loves His people still, even when their steps are momentarily away from Him. Moses , Elijah and Jonah all ran in opposite directions to God’s decreed will for a while . The God who had called them , and who had decreed their work for them brought them back to His purposes – even in a roundabout way !
The whole prophecy of Hosea is a statement of God’s faithful commitment to His people ,despite the fact that they are at times as unfaithful as prostitutes . I thank God that He holds on to me more than I hold unto Him !
In conclusion of Hosea’s prophecy God says concerning His wayward chosen people : ”I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely , for my anger has turned from them. I will be like the dew to Israel ; he shall blossom like the lily … they shall return and dwell beneath my shadow…. It is I who answer and look after you…” (Hosea 14:4-8)
And so it happens that Jacob flees from Esau and to the house of Laban his uncle . It is a journey of approximately 70 km’s from home when night comes . He is tired and sleeps . It is at this point that God appears to him in a remarkable dream .
2. Jacob’s Dream : ( 28: 12-15)
In his dream he saw “…a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold (!) the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold (!) the LORD stood above it and said…” .
Just a short word and application about dreams : At this stage there had been no written revelation such as we have in our hands today . Even the law of Moses was still in the future . Hebr 1:1 says that “ Long ago , at many times and in many ways God spoke to our fathers….” God spoke very directly to people then , but since Jesus , the last prophet has come and spoken the last word , we now have the Bible as our ladder to heaven .
In his dream there was a ladder between earth and heaven.The ladder showed Jacob that there was a way made by God from earth to heaven . The angels that were ascending and descending the ladder were God’s ministering spirits (Hebr 1:14) , but what is most amazing about this picture is the way in which the Lord Jesus uses this account in John 1:51 , in His talk with Nathanael : “And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jesus Himself has shown us that He is that ladder to heaven! He is the new and living way to God ! What a picture ! This whole OT story is an illustration of the saving work of God. Jesus leads us to God .
We note that at the top of this ladder (behold!) there stood the LORD ( Yahweh) .
This was the first time that Jacob would actually meet the God of Abraham and Isaac, his father personally . This experience becomes the pivotal life- changing event of his life . Nobody meets God and is not changed . This is the experience that changes him!
Here the Lord confirms once again to Jacob what He had already promised to his mother Rebekah – and even more significantly what He promised to Abraham ( Gen 15) : The land on which you lie I will to give to you and your offspring (v.13) .
This land was not better or more fertile or more beautiful than other parts of the world . The Lord chose this land because He needed a spot where a cross could be planted, on which His Son would bear the sins of the world … “ in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (v.14)
V15 – “I am with you … and will keep you… I will not leave you”. This is what makes it possible to be a follower of God . Those were also the words that the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples. “ I am with you always , to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)
This dream – this meeting with God came just at the right time Up to this point Jacob had been a man on his own mission . His main concern was not to run into the arms of God , but to run away from the brother who wanted to kill him. And behold(!) now God came to give him direction.
3. Jacob’s awakening ( 16-22)
Jacob woke up - and it is the awakening that tells us whether the dream had been real or not . For many of my dreams I am thankful that they were only dreams . But in this case Jacob realized that had been more than a dream , although the ladder and the angels were no longer there now . Neither was the voice of God audible to him any longer .
But the awe of God remained in his heart ! “ Surely the Lord is in this place”, he said . ( v.16) . This place was heavy with the sense of God’s glory . The Hebrew word for ‘glory’ indicates ‘ weight’ . God was ‘ weighty ‘ in this place , and so Jacob calls this place Bethel ( Hebr. “ House of God” ) . There is no temple building - but it does not matter . The presence of the Lord, the dwelling of God is here.
This place , this encounter, transformed Jacob from a worldly man into a worshipper . Before this he is on the run because of his sins and because of his fear. Before this he is a man without real peace .
It is the intrusion of God into his life that transforms him . When the voice of God speaks it is not a voice that instills fear and despair , but renewal and promise . And now he is able to go forward confidently . Until now Jacob had only known about God . From this moment he knows God in an intimate , personal way .
Before this he had only known him as the God of Abraham and Isaac. Now He is the God of Abraham , Isaac and Jacob !
He knows that he is now in God’s hand and trusts Him for future bread and clothing (v.20) . He trusts God for a return to the father’s ( Isaac’s) house – where he ought to be , and he commits himself to build God’s house ( which he does in Ch 35) , and significantly also , his pocket is liberated to give a tenth of all he has to God . ( v.22)
This episode in Jacob’s life is of great instruction and example for us . Here we see a truly liberated man , because he has encountered the Living God . He is now free to love God , to serve God , to worship God and to give a tenth of all his possessions to God . This is what Jesus has come for us – to set us free indeed !
When you are a liberated man or woman , then your God is at the top of the ladder, and you climb that ladder through your faith in Jesus ( who is your ladder ) who leads you into the true Father’s House at our heavenly Bethel . Amen .