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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

April 6, 2016

Genesis 28:10-15

  1. Verse 10. Rebekah sends Jacob to her brother's house. The trek from Beersheba to Haran was far enough away that Esau wouldn't follow Jacob there. Yet, there was family at Haran, so Jacob wouldn’t be alone. All in all, Haran was a sensible suggestion. Rebekah's plan was simple. By sending Jacob to Haran, she was putting him in a safe place for a few months until Esau’s anger subsided. Then she would send word for Jacob to come home. In the meantime, she hoped that her son would marry one of his relatives in Haran and eventually return home, bride in hand. It was a good plan, and in fact it came to pass, but not exactly as Rebekah envisioned.

  2. Verse 11. The journey from Beersheba to Haran was a long one (approx. 550 miles). When he was about 70 miles from home, he reached the town of Luz (verse 19 gives us this information). Jacob is now all by himself. Often times God has to let us be alone so he can really speak to us and so we can hear him. Jacob is now away from the security of his family and the influences of his mother. God has him alone. Most likely Jacob is feeling bad about how things went down with his brother. The scheme seemed good at the time, but now he is running for his life with nothing. The setting of God’s encounter with Jacob matches Jacob's psychological condition. The security of the son has been replaced by the dangers of the night. The comfort of his parents’ tent has been replaced by a rock. Behind him lays Beersheba, where Esau waits to kill him; ahead of him is Haran, where Laban waits to exploit him. He is situated between a death camp and a hard-labor camp. Back in Beersheba, Esau lies in wait like an angry lion. Ahead in Haran, Laban waits with his spider web to trap and suck the life from his victims. God will use his past and his soon future to grow Jacob's faith.

  3. Verse 12. God speaks to Jacob while he sleeps. It's worth noting that Jacob, whose entire life could be summed up as a life of striving and grabbing, finally had an encounter with God, in his sleep. When did Jacob receive this revelation? When he was working? When he was scheming? No, when he was sleeping (see Isa 30:15-16). The two most significant events in the life of Jacob were visitations from God, both while he was sleeping. The first was this dream at Bethel when he was fleeing from the land of Canaan, which ironically was his by virtue of the blessing. The other was his fight at Peniel when he was attempting to return to the land (32:24-32). Each divine encounter was a life-changing event. Where was Jacob when he received this vision? Physically: He was in a barren, rocky wasteland, in the middle of nowhere. Socially: He was separated from his family and fleeing for his life. Materially: He had nothing but the shirt on his back. Spiritually: He was distant from God and alone and without hope. God loves to intervene and meet us when we are empty, lonely, and running away from Him. Not many people in the Bible ever saw angels. Most people lived their entire lives without ever seeing one. But here and there, at certain critical moments in history, God allowed a few people this privilege. It's as if God would draw back the curtains at a crucial moment to let someone see the angels of God at work behind the scene. Jacob is one of the few. What are the angels doing? They are going up and down the stairs. They are taking messages from earth up to heaven and messages from heaven down to earth. They are heavenly couriers who report to God concerning the situation on the earth (Heb 1:14). They also carry out God's will-answering prayers, giving guidance, providing protection, fighting for the people of God, and fending off the attacks of Satan.

  4. Verse 13. The “ladder” evidently resembled a stairway with steps that reached to heaven. Jacob at the bottom, God at the top, a stairway filled with angels in between. What does it mean? This ladder, with its “top” reaching to heaven, was literally “placed toward the earth.” The ladder in Jacob's dream, by contrast, brings heaven to earth. The point being: Humanity’s efforts to reach heaven are never effective. Men and women can access heaven only when it comes to earth or when God takes them to heaven. The Bible tells us that the ladder is Jesus. Jesus said in John 1:51, “Truly, truly, l say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jesus is our stairway to heaven. He makes this clear, in John 1:51, that He is the access to heaven. He is the means by which heaven comes down to us and by which we can go to heaven. He is the “ladder.” He does not show us a way; He is the way. In John 14:6, Jesus Himself said, “l am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Ultimately, it was Jesus Christ who bridged the gap between heaven and earth. It is through Him that God has come down to man. It is through Him that man will have access to God. The religions of man teach that we must rise up to God. Yet, the message of the Bible is that God comes down to man. For all the years of Jacob’s life, God had never before spoken directly to him. To his grandfather Abraham-yes. To his father Isaac-yes. But to Jacob-no. For his whole life he had lived on the borrowed faith of his father and grandfather. He was raised in their faith, was taught their faith, knew their faith, and even believed their faith, but he had never had a personal experience with the God of his father and grandfather. To Jacob it was all second-hand reality. Interestingly, God does not rebuke Jacob for the shameful way he has treated his brother or father. What a gracious God.

  5. In 28:13-15, God gives Jacob several precious promises. While the promises of Jacob do not apply directly, across the board to us, it is amazing what we can learn about God's character through these promises. Think of all the needs that these words address:

    1. Betrayal: “I am the God of Isaac.” Jacob, I know you’re feeling like you betrayed your dad (and you did). Nevertheless, I am your dad's God and I will not fail him, even when you do. I'm a big God and I can be trusted.

    2. Loss of his homeland: “I will give you this land.” Jacob, I know you're a runaway, but one day I’m going to give you and your descendants the Promised Land.

    3. Loss of his family: “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth.” Jacob, I know your family relationships are strained but I will give you many other descendants.

    4. Insignificance: “All peoples on the earth will be blessed through you.” Jacob, right now you may feel very small and insignificant, but your life is going to count for me. It may not seem that way right now, but I will use you.

    5. Fear of the future: “I am with you...wherever you go.” Jacob was the first person in the Bible to hear the assurance “I am with you” (28:15). It was a promise that God later repeated to Moses (Exod 3:12; Joshua (Josh 1:5), Gideon (Judg 6:16), regarding Immanuel (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23), and to all disciples (Matt 28:20; Heb 13:5). As we look at Jacob's experience, I want you to see that God is also with you. You may be on the verge of a mental collapse; but although you cannot sense it, God is with you right now. You may be quite ill. You may be misunderstood by your friends. You may be abandoned by a husband, a wife, or your children. You may have lost a job. You may be discouraged. You may feel that you have so little self-worth that no one will ever care for you again. I want you to hear God speaking. He speaks when you need Him most.

    6. Fear of Failure: “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Jacob, I know it seems life is unpredictable (and it is) but I’m in control. And I am faithful even when you are unfaithful. My life for you is everlasting and I will make good on my promises.

  6. God speaks all of these promises to Jacob, of all people. Why Jacob? He steals well; he rips off his old, blind father; he has never really worshipped God. He is the last guy that you or I would choose. Why does God choose Jacob? God loves to use the weak and foolish people of this world (1 Cor 1:27-29). He does this to shame the wise and strong.

  7. The amazing point is that God now speaks to Jacob at the moment of his desperation. All that has happened is prologue. Even his deception and trickery was used by God to bring him to this precise moment in life. Now that he is running for his life, now that he is leaving the Promised Land, now that he has disgraced himself, now that he has finally reached the bottom, at that exact moment, God speaks to Jacob.

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