Genesis – First, God
The Lord promised to be present with Jacob in whatever circumstances lay before him. In those days, people had the idea that when you left home, you left your god behind you. (That happens today, it seems, more often than not!) But the Lord of all the earth promised to go with Jacob, protect him, and one day bring him back home. No matter what happened, He would accomplish His will in and through Jacob.
The promise of God’s presence with His people is repeated often in Scripture (Deut. 31:6-8; Josh. 1:5; 1 Sam. 12:22; 1 Chron. 28:20; Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5).
Indeed, “the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Ps. 46:7, 11 niv).
God would appear to Jacob at least five more times in the years ahead, but this first meeting was a significant one. He learned that God was interested in him and was at work in his life. From that night on, as long as he trusted the Lord and obeyed His will, he had nothing to fear.
Genesis 28, The Message
1-2 So Isaac called in Jacob and blessed him. Then he ordered him, “Don’t take a Caananite wife. Leave at once. Go to Paddan Aram to the family of your mother’s father, Bethuel. Get a wife for yourself from the daughters of your uncle Laban.
3-4 “And may The Strong God bless you and give you many, many children, a congregation of peoples; and pass on the blessing of Abraham to you and your descendants so that you will get this land in which you live, this land God gave Abraham.”
5 So Isaac sent Jacob off. He went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.
6-9 Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him to Paddan Aram to get a wife there, and while blessing him commanded, “Don’t marry a Canaanite woman,” and that Jacob had obeyed his parents and gone to Paddan Aram. When Esau realized how deeply his father Isaac disliked the Canaanite women, he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son. This was in addition to the wives he already had.
10-12 Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran. He came to a certain place and camped for the night since the sun had set. He took one of the stones there, set it under his head and lay down to sleep. And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground and it reached all the way to the sky; angels of God were going up and going down on it.
13-15 Then God was right before him, saying, “I am God, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. I’m giving the ground on which you are sleeping to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be as the dust of the Earth; they’ll stretch from west to east and from north to south. All the families of the Earth will bless themselves in you and your descendants. Yes. I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this very ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.”
16-17 Jacob woke up from his sleep. He said, “God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it!” He was terrified. He whispered in awe, “Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God’s House. This is the Gate of Heaven.”
18-19 Jacob was up first thing in the morning. He took the stone he had used for his pillow and stood it up as a memorial pillar and poured oil over it. He christened the place Bethel (God’s House). The name of the town had been Luz until then.
20-22 Jacob vowed a vow: “If God stands by me and protects me on this journey on which I’m setting out, keeps me in food and clothing, and brings me back in one piece to my father’s house, this God will be my God. This stone that I have set up as a memorial pillar will mark this as a place where God lives. And everything you give me, I’ll return a tenth to you.”
FEAR REPLACED WITH THE PRESENCE OF GOD
On awakening, Jacob’s first response was one of fear and surprise. God was in that place, and he didn’t know it! But “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7), so Jacob’s response was the right one. He discovered that he could find God in unlikely places and that any place is “the house of God” (Bethel) because God is there.
Jacob would be away from his father’s house for at least twenty years, but the Lord would be his “dwelling place” no matter where he went (Ps. 90:1).
WORSHIP AND DEDICATION
His next act was to worship the God who had appeared to him. He turned the headpiece into a pillar to memorialize the great experience that had been his that night. By pouring oil on the stone, he consecrated it to the Lord. He didn’t use the stone as an altar or make a sacrifice; he simply set it apart as a memorial. In later Hebrew liturgy, the pouring out of liquid was symbolic of pouring one’s life out in devotion to the Lord (Ex. 29:38-41; see also Phil. 2:17 nkjv; 2 Cor. 12:15).
Jacob dedicated himself to the Lord that morning and claimed the promises that God had made to him (Gen. 28:13-15). The “if” found in many translations of verse 20 can also be read “since.” Jacob wasn’t making a bargain with God; he was affirming his faith in God. Since God had promised to care for him, be with him, and bring him back home safely, then Jacob would affirm his faith in God and would seek to worship and honor Him alone.
As we will read…Jacob didn’t have an easy life in the years that followed, for though God forgave his sins and was with him in his journeys, Jacob suffered the consequences of his sins. God in His grace forgives us, but God in His righteous government sees to it that we reap what we sow.
And the Lord didn’t fail him, nor will He fail us. “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Ps. 46:7).
What venture have you ever undertaken that started off well, only to end miserably?
Is all lost? Not if God is in it, He WILL accomplish HIS will and plan. You cannot mess things up so miserably that HIS will cannot be accomplished, so relax.
Can you remember episodes in your life where you did what you thought was right but in the wrong way? How did it turn out?
How is scheming the antithesis of living by faith?
What are some of your goals–in relationships, at work, and so on–that you need to approach by faith rather than by scheming?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Like the song says (and you say), FAITH is the victory, the glorious, overcoming victory because it all goes back to You. You are God and we are not. We can only see situations and people with our human eyes. You see our hearts. You see the good and bad. That can be good, when you see our good intentions when no one else seems to see that in us. It can also be bad when you see before we do that there is something we need to get rid of that is blocking our way to fully experiencing You.
So, Lord do what you must to fully cleansing us. Restore the joy of our salvation. Help us to always stand on your promises and cling to the Rock of our salvation. Thank for always being with us, no matter what. Thank you for replacing fear with trust.
In Jesus Name, Amen