Last week in our look at the life of Jacob (through the book "Escaping with Jacob" by David Ramos), we saw how Jacob's selfish actions caused tension, and even violent anger, within his family. Esau wants revenge, Isaac is hurt by Jacob's betrayal, and Rebekah now has to send her favorite child away and remain with a husband and her other son who both know of her role in all of this mess. Restoring this family is going to take God....
Week 6: Read Genesis 28:10-22 (A Dream and a Portrait)
"The young man who loved being home and by the tents is now forced into the wilderness. We can guess from this passage what Jacob must have been feeling: anger, depression, frustration, and hopelessness. Here he is in the middle of nowhere, fleeing for his life. But like so many times in the Old Testament when a person is at their lowest point, God steps in.
Jacob dreams of the great staircase to heaven. There he sees angels ascending and descending to the earth. Above it all stands the Lord. Before Jacob can truly take it all in, the Lord begins to announce a blessing over him. What follows is almost identical to what God told Abraham during his journey. Jacob will have land and descendants and through him the entire world shall be blessed.
However, God also adds some profound additions. "I am with you. . .I will not leave you." This is a very different sort of promise. Whereas in the lives of Abraham and Isaac we saw God promise what he would do, here we see God promising who he will be. He will be Jacob's protector, a close watchman, and a trustworthy guide. Jacob awakes and constructs an altar of stone to remember what has happened. Afterward, he makes a vow confirming that if God holds up God's end of the bargain, so will he.
One thing we can easily overlook in this passage is how terrified Jacob must be. He has likely never spent a night alone in the wilderness. If he had, he would have at least had the comfort of knowing he could go home in the morning. But that hope is gone. He is on his own in an overwhelming way. Jacob is presumably at his lowest; during his time of greatest need and weakest hope - that is when God shows up! Every word of God's promise reassures Jacob as he sees countless angels coming down to the earth.
I believe one of the reasons these stories are preserved for us is to give us encouragement through knowing what God is truly like. We may never see a staircase in heaven, or angels walking around on earth, but we don't have to because we serve the same God Jacob served. Just as God went out of his way to protect and encourage and guide Jacob, God is willing to do for us. These stories are not just stories. They are portraits. God wants us to see what God is really like, what he has done, and will do for those he loves. We aren't supposed to read this story and think, "well that was great for Jacob but I'm still stuck." Instead, we are supposed to see God's divine intervention and think, "Wow, that is my God who cares for me, and that is what my God can do."
Takeaway from today's lesson: God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Prayer: God, help me remember what you are like, what you can do, and how much you love me. Amen.