Genesis 28: Jacobs Journey
Isaac seems to have been shocked out of his carnal lethargy and now realizes what was almost a huge mistake in blessing Esau rather than Jacob. So now in the clear light of Gods will, he will bless Jacob again with the convenant blessing. Notice the name of God Isaac uses- God Almighty, El Shaddai.
He is sending Jacob away with some very good instructions for Jacobs future marry a believer and walk with God. A wife who is a believer is a suitable helper. And Isaac and Rebekah wanted for their sons what every believing parent wants for their children- a walk with Lord and a suitable help mate. Also- as we will see God has to separate us in order to set us apart.
That is why even though we are to honor our parents, there comes a time to leave your parents. Jacobs life was dominated by his mothers constant instruction as long as he lived at home. It would be necessary for God to remove some things from Jacobs life so that He could work some things into Jacobs life. For it is God who works in us both the desire and will to do His Good purpose. ( Phil 2: 13)
So Isaac sends Jacob on his way, alone to travel hundreds of miles to the land of his mothers family. Isaac blesses him and instructs him- the role a father is to play in preparing his son(s) to go out on their own walking in the light as God is in the light.
In verse 6, we notice a disappointed Esau taking all this in. He notices how important it is to his father and mother, that Jacob not marry a Canannite woman and remembers how grieved they were he married two of them. Putting one and one together- Esau comes to believe the reason for their displeasure and thus the reason for not blessing him was his choice of wives.
So we see Esau, desperate to be reconciled with his parents and maybe with the possibility of having the blessing restored to him, goes to the family of his Uncle Ishmael and takes a wife. But Esau continues to show what his problem is- it is his attitude of spiritual indifference. His actions show he will put on whatever outward appearance to gain favor with his parents- but in his heart he cares nothing for the things of God. Esau would be the type of person who joins a church today- in order to appear religious while using his membership to further his personal and business agenda.
Jacobs journey begins and I cannot help but wondering what was going through his mind. The next 8 chapters will be devoted to the process that Jacob will go through as God prepares him and changes him in the process of salvation. I believe Jacob did not yet have a personal relationship with God. He knew about God, he had heard the stories of his grandfather Abraham and his own father, Isaac. He knew about the God of Abraham and Isaac but God was not yet the God of Jacob.
Jacob had been under his mothers rule. She had him tied to her apron strings. She went before him and covered his back and made the all important decisions for her son, Jacob.
God would have to separate Jacob from his mother and separate him unto Himself. He would have to cut those apron strings- so that Jacob would learn to depend on Him, God, rather than his mother. God is the Potter- we are the clay. God shapes us to become the vessel He would have us to be. He does this in order to shape us to serve in the unique position He would have us serve. This process initiated by God requires time, pressure and complete yielding to the potters hand. That is why in Jeremiah 18, God tells Jeremiah to go down to the potters house so He, God, might teach Jeremiah a lesson. Paul writes in Romans 9- But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it- why did you make me like this? Does not the potter have the right to make out of the clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
Jacob is about to shaped on the potters wheel.
Jacob is to be shaped and strengthened in order to establish the tribes of Israel.
He must first learn to depend on God alone.
It will take time. It will take trials. It will require pressure for that is how a clay vessel is shaped.
This is a process that begins with a personal relationship with God. Jacob knew a lot about God- but he did not personally know God.
The beginning point is about to happen- Jacob had to be separated from his mother and his dependence upon her.That dependence on her must be replaced by a dependence on God.
Each person is different. Some have a dependence on others- while others are dependent on their own abilities and strengths- like a Samson or Peter. But God knows what must be worked out- in order for Him to work in both the desire and the will to do His purpose.
Jacobs process is about to begin- and we will observe this process for the next 8 chapters which will represent the next 20 years of his life. When we come to Josephs story, we will see the process in his life required 14 years- but they were 14 very difficult years. But they were necessary in both cases to prepare the vessels for their purpose..
Here is an overview of the process:
1. Knowing God personally. This is what Paul considered to be the primary goal of his life.
2. Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and body. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him. Knowing God personally is a pre-requisite for the process.
3. Obeying God. If you love me, you will keep my commandments, Jesus said . (John 15) Obedience comes out of love- which come from knowing Him.
4. Abiding. If we love Him and obey him, we will maintain a living communion with Jesus- surrendered to His will. Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can you, except you abide in me. (John15:5)
5. Finally the fruit bearing then comes as a natural process of abiding. This not only pleases God- it brings the sense of fulfilling ones purpose in their life.
Do you see what had to happen in Jacobs life? He had to be separated, cut off from his domineering mother ( good as her intentions might have been) and grafted into the vine- if he were to be able to bear fruit. We can observe the fruit that Jacob was bearing as long as he was abiding in his mothers will- look at his deeds: selfish ambition, lies, deception, and envy. Here is what James says will be the results of such actions: For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice. ( James 3: 16) This came from the worldly wisdom that his mother, Rebekah dispatched and the result was a dysfunctional family.
But James goes on to explain what happens when we obey and are instructed with wisdom from heaven: but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. ( James 3:17)
Jacob was in the process of being cut off from his mother and engrafted into the True Vine. He was beginning a personal relationship with the God he knew a lot about- but did not know personally.
I would imagine, having abruptly left his family, his domineering mother, and all that was familiar to him was an uncomfortable if not terrifying situation. We do love our comfort zones- our cozy, familiar nest. There was also the threat of his brother Esau to kill him. Maybe Jacob kept looking over his shoulder as he left home. Then there was the unfamiliar that lay ahead. He and his mother were a team who worked diligently to control all the situations they confronted. Now he was alone- on his own- separated from the familiarity of a place that had always been home. Jacob was right where God wanted him to be.
Jacob stops at Bethel and at sunset and lies down to sleep. Jacob then has a life changing dream. Now you might wonder why God chose a dream to speak to Jacob, but the Bible tells us in Hebrews 1:1: God spoke at sundry times in divers(various) manners in times past unto the fathers by the prophets.
The dominant feature of Jacobs dream was a ladder resting on earth with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord and He said, 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, and to the north and to the south. All peoples of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.
Simple question: what is the purpose of a ladder? To reach somewhere one cannot reach on their own. Notice where the ladder is resting-on earth. And notice where its top reaches- heaven.
What did Jacob see ascending and descending on the ladder? Angels of God.
Some Biblical facts regarding angels:
*They cannot be numbered- thousands upon thousands ( Hebrews 12:22)
*They are invisible- but can take on human form. ( Sodom and Gomorrah; also Hebrews 13:2)
* Angels are ministering spirits sent forth to serve those who will inherit salvation. ( Hebrews 1:14)
*They are mighty beings excelling in strength that do Gods commandments hearkening unto the voice of His Word. ( Psalms 103:20)
* They rejoice at the salvation of sinners. ( Luke 15)
* They protect us- guard us. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. ( Psalms 91:11)
Then in the dream, Jacob hears for the first time the voice of God. Do you remember the first time you experienced God personally speaking to you? When His word seemed to come alive in a way you had not experienced before?
That night the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac became the God of Jacob.
That night Jacob learned there was a place called heaven.
It not only was a real place.
It was an attainable place. It was possible for man to go up to heaven. But man could not get there by his own ways, he could not reach it. That is the purpose of a ladder to reach somewhere one cannot reach on his own.
Two thousand years after Jacobs dream there came down from heaven the only one who could make a way for us to go to heaven. He was God the Son, the pre-existent Son of God who had always been and would always be. The Lord Jesus came down from heaven to earth via the miraculous virgin birth to establish a link, a bridge – a ladder in order to make a way for sinful man to reach heaven and be in the presence of a Holy God.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 1- Phillip tells a dear friend of his, Nathaniel about this Jesus of Nazareth. Upon meeting Jesus, Nathaniel was skeptical at first, but Jesus convinced him telling him things about himself which Jesus could only have known supernaturally. Then Jesus told Nathaniel- here after you shall see heaven open and angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. ( John 1: 51)
In other words, Jesus said I am the Ladder in Jacobs dream. I am the only way, The Way, by which one can go from earth to heaven.
Jacob not only had begun a personal relationship with God, but also had received a truth centered in Christ. It was a saving truth.
When Jacob awoke his first thoughts were : Surely God is in this place and I was not aware of it.
Do you have a conscious awareness of God at all times? It is a prayer my mother taught me to pray- a prayer that I believe is centered in the will of God and therefore a prayer that God will answer. Did God not tell Jacob I am with you, and will watch you wherever you go and will bring you back home. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised.
These promises are ours as Gods children. We are all Gods children through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. If you belong to Christ then you are Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise. ( Galatians 3: 26, 29) Any physical promises to the seed of Abraham, such as land to be occupied are for the physical descendants of Abraham. But the spiritual promises are for Abrahams spiritual seed- which as believers in Christ we are.
These are our promises personally from God.
God is promising us- He will never leave us- always be with us.
God is promising us- Always keep us.
God is promising us- He will bring us home.
We can be confident, that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ( Phil 1: 6)
God was telling Jacob- you can depend on me now- not your mother or your abilities. Thus the journey with God begins for Jacob. He had to be separated from his mother and the comfort of his home.
He would have to learn to trust God not his own abilities and lessons he had learned from his mother.
Trust is a learned response. Jacob was entering the school of faith, where he would learn how to trust the Lord with all his heart and not lean to his own understanding. It is the most difficult lesson we must learn.
Jacob had in theological terms been justified. Now the process of sanctification would begin.
The next morning upon awakening we see Jacobs spiritual nature begin to change. It was here, he first realized that God was in more than one place. He remarked- surely God is in this place. A new awareness of the presence of God was beginning in Jacobs life because Jacob in New Testament terminology was a new creature.
He poured oil on the stone he had used for a pillow and set it up as a pillar. Jacob called this place Bethel- which means House of God, even though the city used to be called Luz. Luz means separation.
So the names here with their meaning tell us the story of salvation. Jacob was separated from God by his sin but now was brought near to the very house of God. Jacob has not only made an altar- he is responding to an altar call and making a public profession of faith.
It appears as we read his profession of faith, Jacob is making a conditional vow to God. Jacob is a new creature, but old things have not yet passed away. Jacobs vow is the vow of a new believer, not yet mature, who treats this relationship with God as a business deal. He vows he will do his part if God does his part.
But the real change is evident, as Jacob, always one interested in getting- now vows to give to God 1/10th of all that God shall give him. Jacob was a changed man, just like Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Zacchaeus said to the Lord, today I will give half of my possessions to the poor and to anyone I have cheated, I will return four times the amount. ( Luke 19) To which the Lord replied, Today salvation has come to this house.
Zacchaeus was not saved because he gave, he gave because he was saved. The same is true of Jacob.
Remember: the just shall live by faith. Faith is Gods way of living. Jacobs mother, Rebekah, did not understand that living by faith was living without scheming.
Reason is mans way of living- for there is a way that seems right to man, but the way ends in death.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God, and those whom come to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. ( Hebrew 11: 6)
Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. ( Romans 10:7)
Jacobs sins were forgiven- he was justified by faith, just as his grandfather Abraham was.
However, over the next 20 years, Jacob would have a difficult life at times. For although God in His Grace forgives us of our sins- the spiritual principle of reaping what we sow will be administered in Jacobs life with God using Laban to do the administering.
These familiar Bible characters are real people with real problems- many of their problems are of their own making.
But through it all we see Gods hand at work- the hands of the Potter shaping His vessels for use.
We see family problems making life miserable.
We see how to make new beginnings when you fail.
We will see a dreamers dream turn into a nightmare- only to reveal it was all part of Gods plan.
We see how to bloom where you are planted.