Friday, October 26, 2018

Genesis 28:10-22

TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

The name Jacob in Hebrew means "heel-grabber," "supplanter," or "trickster." So he was. He had tricked his father Isaac into blessing him instead of his older brother Esau. As a result of his actions, he fled his homeland and family so that his angry older brother would not harm him.

On the way to stay with his Uncle Laban, Jacob stops for the night in a place called Bethel. The word "place" appears six times in Genesis 28:10-22. The Lord has a way of coming to the most unexpected of people in the most unexpected of places through the most unexpected of ways in the most unexpected of times to open our eyes to His love and mercy. 

That is the case with Jacob; that is the case with you and me as well.

Jacob felt alone, but God does not leave him alone. Jacob surely doubted how God's hand of blessing could be upon him, but God touches this wandering supplanter nonetheless. As Christians, you and I can identify with Jacob. None of us deserve God's favor, but He lavishes it upon us anyway. 

Jacob was asleep on the ground in Bethel with a stone beneath his head when the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Jacob saw a ladder leading to heaven with angels ascending and descending: Christ was that ladder (cf. John 1:51).

Matthew Henry points out that the bottom of the ladder is Christ in His human nature, whereas the top of the ladder is Christ in His divine nature. Jesus' two natures are necessary so that He can be "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). We have no way to heaven but by the Ladder; we have no way to the Father but through the person of Christ!

Our testimony may not be as extraordinary as Jacob's, but all Christians recognize that God chose to reveal Himself to us in a certain place and in a certain way. Maybe that revelation even happened in the womb like it did for John the Baptist! (cf. Luke 1:41) The crux of the matter is that salvation is found in no one else but Jesus, for there is no other name by which we must be saved (cf. Acts 4:12).

The central lesson from Jacob's encounter with the Lord at Bethel is that God has a propensity to show up in the lives of heel-grabbers and wanderers like you and me, which warrants a response from us. In Genesis 28:18-22, the young convert Jacob responds by promising to worship God and honor Him with a tithe.

Worship was at one time pronounced as worth-ship, meaning to acknowledge the worth that is in God alone (cf. Rev. 7:12). We should live our whole existence in the worship of God. As the old hymn proclaims, "I give Thee back the life I owe."

We find that Jacob's worship begins through a spirit of giving, just as Abram's did at his encounter with Melchizedek (cf. Gen. 14:18-20). Nevertheless, Jacob's maturity was not yet at the level of Abram's. Jacob, a new convert, says, "If God will ..." (Gen. 28:20).

Unfortunately, I think many Christians can identify with Jacob here, too. We believe, but we still put our feeble conditions upon God. 

Tony Evans once highlighted the story of Danny Simpson who robbed a bank in Canada at the age of 24. His take home from the robbery was $6,000, but Simpson was later captured and imprisoned. The tragedy of the event comes from the fact that he robbed the bank with a 1918 45-caliber semi-automatic Colt valued at $100,000. 

If Christians believed in the incalculable worth of God's faithfulness, they would not hesitate to trust Him with a tithe (10%). They would not rob a $6,000 safe with a $100,000 gun.

Instead of starting our sentence with "if God will," we would be far better off by starting a question with, "Has God been?" Has God been faithful to me, and what response do I thus owe Him?


TAKE TIME TO RESPOND:

I am sometimes prone to set conditions on my giving to God based on:

_____________________________________________________.


TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from Best Devotional Commentary - "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. Even the church may have turned its back on you. You may have lost a job. You may be discouraged. You may have so little self-worth that you feel that no one will ever care for you again. ... I want you to hear God speaking. Where you are now can be a gate of heaven" (Boice).  

from runner-up to Best Academic Commentary - "The ladder stood there upon the earth, just where Jacob was lying in solitude, poor, helpless, and forsaken by men. Above in heaven stood Jehovah, and explained in words the symbol which he saw. Proclaiming Himself to Jacob as the God of his fathers, He not only confirmed to him all the promises of the fathers in their fullest extent, but promised him protection on his journey and a safe return to his home (vv. 13-15). But as the fulfillment of this promise to Jacob was still far off, God added the firm assurance, I will not leave thee till I have done what I have told thee.
     Jacob gave utterance to the impression made by this vision as soon as he awoke from sleep, in the words, Surely Jehovah was in this place, and I knew it not. Not that the omnipresence of God was unknown to him; but that Jehovah in His condescending mercy should be near to him even here, far away from his father's house and from the places consecrated to His worship, - it was this which he did not know or imagine" (Keil & Delitzsch).


from Best Preaching/Teaching Commentary - "The clear revelation of God's gracious dealings can transform a worldly individual into a worshiper. Such a drama has been repeated again and again throughout the history of the faith. Perhaps no story in Scripture illustrates this transformation so vividly as does Jacob's dream at Bethel. Before this experience Jacob was a fugitive from the results of his sin, a troubled son in search of his place in life, a shrewd shepherd setting out to find a wife. After this encounter, however, he was a partner with God as a recipient of His covenant promises and a true worshiper. The transformation was due to God's intrusion into the course of his life" (Ross).