Isaac calls Jacob to him, and tells him not to take a wife from the daughters of Canaan (which in our terms would be from the flesh, the world). He is to go to Padan Aram to find a bride. Padan Aram means field and is in Mesopotamia. Notice, Abraham sent his servant to find a bride for Isaac. Jacob is being sent out to find his own bride from the house of Laban.
Abraham blesses Jacob, verse 3-4 “May God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may be an assembly of peoples; and give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and your descendants with you. That you may inherit the land in which you are a stranger, which God gave to Abraham.”
Remember, Jacob now has to go into exile because of his duplicity in gaining the blessing of Isaac, and Esau has vowed to kill Jacob once their father is dead. When parents play favorites among their children it leads to all sorts of trouble and jealousy. We will see this even more when we get to the story of Joseph. I think it is important to have each child feel special in their own right. No child should be made to feel like they do not matter.
Esau, observes the blessing of Jacob and Abraham’s instruction to Jacob to take a wife that is not one of the daughters of Canaan. Esau observes that Jacob obeyed his parents, and realizes that his father did not like his two brides, so Esau decides to go to Ishmael and take Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael as his wife. Mahalath is the daughter of Abraham’s son through Hagar, and sister of Nebajoth.
Remember Ishmael – who will be a thorn in Israel (the nation’s) flesh. Ishamael who was the son of Hagar, who would become a nation unto itself, Hagar and Ishmael were sent away after Isaac was born. Now Esau is going to marry into that family. I kind of suspect that in his jealousy Esau is thinking, if Jacob is going to get a bride, then I AM going to get a bride too. No matter that Esau already has two brides.
Jesus will at one point talk with people about marriage when he receives a question about divorce. God’s plan did not include multiple marriages or divorce. God planned for one man and one woman to come together and become one flesh. We humans seem to take traditions around us, and what others are doing and figure that because times have changed, so has God. Not so. God’s Word stands, and God’s Truth stands. We can try to manipulate it, we can try to say that times change. Think about it honestly, could you really trust a God that flip flops due to the seasons of the time?
When I first met my husband BC (Before Children) he had a houseboat and we would go out on dates driving the boat around. When he taught me to drive the boat, at first I looked at the water or at the wake to see if I was going straight. I did not drive in too straight a line doing that. He taught me to find a fixed point on the horizon and look to that, and my muscles would automatically react to keep the boat going straight. Later, when we had a sailboat we would use the compass to keep in the correct direction if there were no landmarks to sail towards. (now we have a tiny runabout for the kids to go fishing, sigh). It is the same with God. He is the permanent landmark, the trustworthy due North that we can fix our sites on to steer through life. We need God to remain true to His Word, or else we fall in the dangerous ground of wallowing around a sea of our own desires and changing ideas, and we lose the Truth in the process.
ISHMAEL means God will hear
So now Esau has three wives/Jacob none at this time. I wish I could say that Esau had learned that his passions do not help him. When I get upset I tend to reach for some comfort food (primarily chocolate), and later, the extra calories are not my friend. Esau seems to reach to the physical for his comfort. He lost an inheritance, so he finds another wife to have earthly passions with. I wonder what would have happened had Esau dropped to his knees and repented of his wrong behavior, repented of the vow he had taken, and decided to give his obedience to God.
I am glad that God includes the good, the bad, and the ugly in the Bible so we can learn from other’s examples. Perhaps that is how God redeems these people’s actions to make beauty from ashes. From our vantage point we can see the far-reaching repercussions of a thoughtless act of disobedience and disrespect to God. A bowl of lentils, a blessing lost, a marriage out of the wrong motives impacts not only the individual doing the sin, but future generations. Even though today people try to convince us that there are sins that do not hurt anyone else, don’t believe them. All sin has repercussions.
I love it when the Bible uses the word “a certain place.” Usually something spectacular happens, when there is a special meeting with God. Abraham was to go to a place God would tell Him, Abraham was to bring Isaac to a certain place for the sacrifice, And now, Jacob is at a certain place, and he will stay there the night.
There will be one stone that he takes for a pillow (many times in the Bible stone or rock stands for Jesus) and Jacob puts the stone at his head and lies down and has the most remarkable dream.
Verse 12-15 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.
What a comforting dream this must have been for Jacob as he traveled toward Haran. This vision happened when Jacob was sleeping – he was not working at that time. Note how God personalized himself – The LORD God of Abraham, the God of Isaac – soon we will also hear Him call Himself the Lord of Jacob. Again the descendants will be throughout the earth and in Jacob’s seed (singular) all the earth shall be blessed. That is a promise of the Messiah who has blessed all the earth with salvation. How wonderful to be reminded that God is with us wherever we go. And he has promised to bring Jacob back to this land. During the 20 years with Laban, I wonder if Jacob held onto that promise, knowing that He would return to his land one day. And also how incredible to know that God would be with him until all that God has spoken is accomplished.
I love Jacob’s response Genesis 28:16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”
If you read my previous few entries you saw that in retrospect I could see where the hand of God was in my life. Sometimes we do not see God’s presence until in retrospect, after He has grown us up a bit. Jacob laid down in a barren place, on route to where he is supposed to go. Sometimes we get so caught up in the goal, we forget that God is there with us on the path toward the goal. Jacob realized that God IS (note the word IS, not Was, not Will be, but IS) in this place and Jacob realizes he did not know it. Truth be told, God IS in all of our places all of the time, but often we do not look for him.
In her study, Believing God Beth Moore had us writing down what she called “God Stops” or points in our day where we realized the presence of God. It could be simple like a sunrise or sunset, or a kind word or gesture, or a revelation of God through His word, or whatever. The idea was to become more attuned to God’s presence in our daily walk.
Well, Jacob ends up being afraid and said, Verse 17 “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God., and this is the gate of heaven!” For Jacob at that time this is true, and I guess in his day, because the Holy Spirit did not dwell in everyone, places like the tabernacle, wells, and special spots where God appeared to people became important touch points. But since Christ’s sacrifice, we can look at our own bodies and say, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.” For we are the tabernacle of God, living stones in His temple, and by worshipping God we are at the gate of Heaven.
Jacob rises early in the morning (a time when many come to God in devotions to start their day off right), and takes the stone that he had put by his head, sets it up as a pillar and pours oil on it. This is an anointing of the stone – oil is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the Stone of Jesus, and we have God the father being worshipped. He calls the place Bethel – which we know means house of God.
Now get this, before Jacob calls the place Bethel, its name had been Luz.
LUZ means separation
The area ceases being separated from God when it becomes the house of God – when we accept Christ into our lives, we are no longer separated from God. The Holy Spirit is the one who causes us to yearn to come to God.
Now notice, this began while Jacob was sleeping – God makes covenants with men often when they are asleep. Abraham’s covenant – Abraham was asleep, now Jacob. God does that because then God is the one responsible for keeping His word, it is not the words of man or man’s actions, just God’s Sovereignty. God knows us, He knows our weaknesses, and knows that we will fail often. So God takes no chances with His covenants, and makes them Himself because He knows He won’t break them.
We, as humans have an awful tendency, to want to make promises to God that we cannot keep in our own strength, instead of just worshipping and thanking God.
Here is Jacob’s promise to God, verse 20-22 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Before we look at he promise, first this is another time when the tithe is mentioned – Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek. Someone asked me about the tithe in the New Testament. Tithe is an important concept throughout the Bible. So often people say, Jesus didn’t say anything about that, or it isn’t specifically mentioned in the New Testament. The truth is the truth. Jesus came to fulfill the scriptures (which in His day was just what we call the Old Testament), he spoke with the men in Emmaus and showed them where He was in all of the Scriptures (Old Testament). We seem to be a society that likes all things New. I am not sure that Old and New are the best way to divide the Testaments, because Jesus is through them all. If we were brutally honest, everything we have is Gods, when we give God the tithe or 10% we are not giving our stuff, we are just giving back to God. God is not poor, he doesn’t need our 10 cents on the dollar. If we give or don’t give, God will not go hungry. So why the tithe? It is a reminder to us that all that we have is God’s. It helps us to avoid the sin of LOVE of MONEY. Money is not the root of all evil, LOVE OF MONEY, is. When we give our tithes, gifts and charity, we are saying that we love God and others more than the money that we possess. Just like forgiveness, these requests of God are not for God’s needs, but for our needs. God knows what is best for us. And one other thing, God really doesn’t want the tithe from a grudging giving, he wants us to give to Him from the abundance of love in our heart.
Jacob does what I often do – I receive a promise from God, I read a promise in His Word, I hear a bit of prophesy or a sermon and know that it is from God – that God doesn’t lie. But listen to how Jacob responds to God’s promise, “IF God will be with me..”
IF, one of those prepositions filled with doubt. If implies that God may or may not be with Jacob. How often our words trip us up. If implies uncertainty, when God is certain. I wish I could say that I don’t use words like “if” in connection with God, but I do. When God gives us a promise we can bank on it. Jacob, had he not had doubts, could have said, “SINCE God is with me.” or BECAUSE. Even with those words of doubt, Jacob will end up in the Hall of Faith – Hebrews 11. God is still helping Jacob to learn to walk with Him, and often our journeys, trials, and mistakes are God’s tools for helping us to grow in Him. God will provide abundantly for Jacob, so abundantly that others will notice and be jealous. And God will bring him back to his father’s house. God promised that while Jacob was sleeping, so why does Jacob have to make a vow saying that if God will do what God has promised, then the LORD shall be my God.
Don’t we always bargain with God – Jacob is an expert bargainer – he bargained a bowl of lentils for a birthright, he will bargain for the daughters of Laban, for cattle, etc. We so often feel we have to bargain with God. Dear God if I do this, will you do that? Or God if you do that, then I will know that I can trust you. How wrong we are. God was already Jacob’s God, just as God is already our God. He loves us before we even knew Him. We do not have to bargain with God, He gives abundantly of His love. As we will see in some of the Psalms, God gives abundantly not only to the saints but to the sinners. His love knows no limits.
Jacob is doing what I so often do, seeing God as separate from me, needing to earn His love and protection. Not realizing that all is God’s, including me. Our minds, our doubts, our “if’s” can sure get us in trouble.
Beth Moore in her book “The Patriarchs” has a few extra comments that are pretty profound. She spoke of this incident in the life of Jacob in one of her video sermons. Notes are on page 127 of her book. She talks about the place where Jacob reached that certain place to spend the night, that the word for “reached” could be more closely translated happen upon or strikes upon, which emphasizes the randomness of the place picked. But Beth then says, “A place we think we’ve randomly happened upon can be a divinely scheduled venue for an awesome encounter with God.”
She tells us that nothing in our lives is random if we believe in Christ. God first emphasized that he was the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and he was to be Jacob’s God as well – there is a connectedness there – these are not separate idols, but one God.
When I read this passage, I thought of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, where man was trying to reach to heaven in their own strength. This did not work, but what man cannot do in his own strength, God can do. God reaches down to man, and the angels go up and down this ladder. John 1:47-51, the heavens opened and the angels of God ascended and descended on the Son of Man.
Beth talks about the representations in Jacobs dream. page 127:
Beth says, “Jacob will set up a stone pillar, which will later become unacceptable as God’s people treated the memorials as idols rather than symbols. Due to such misuse, the prophet Hosea renamed Bethel (Meaning House of God) Beth Aven meaning house of nothingness. Hos. 4:15
Then Beth says, “Jacob poured oil on top of the standing stone. Both The New International Commentary and The Beginning of Wisdom treat Jacob’s action as an anointing and translate the word “top” as “head”. A more literal interpretation of Genesis 28:18 would be: “He poured oil upon its head.” A Jewish scholar by the name of Sacks: “Jacob’s deed anticipates the need for priests and king s who will later be ‘the gate of heaven’ for the people.” Keep in mind that both words Messiah and Christ mean “the anointed One.”
How awesome is God’s word. What a mirror for me Jacob is, I am hoping that I can learn to act differently with God. I am soon off to Friday Bible study, so may have something new to share with you tomorrow from Bible study.
Hoping you have a blessed day!
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