WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 23
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 28
As we get into this chapter, the Bible is making a rather significant transition. The narrative is moving away from Isaac. He will still be important in the next chapters but the narrative is moving more toward the story of Jacob. In much the same way that the story moved from Abraham to Isaac, it now is moving toward Jacob.
But regardless of who the human actors are in the Biblical narrative, God’s sovereign plan is still in place. Everything is happening according to God’s will and all of it is moving us toward the arrival of Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Isaac sent Jacob way to find a wife from Laban’s family. Actually this was actually Uncle Laban. So, Jacob was actually sent away to marry a cousin. Esau gets wind of all of this. His solution to the situation was to go to Uncle Ishmael and marry one of his daughters. In other words, Esau married a cousin as well. Don’t forget that this is happening in the Middle East and not Arkansas.
About three days into his journey, Jacob is preparing to spend the night in a particular place. He found a stone for a pillow and went to sleep. At that point he began to dream of a ladder reaching from where he was into heaven. He saw angels descending and ascending that ladder. And He saw God. God spoke in very covenantal language to Jacob. In fact, it was basically a repeating of the covenant that God had made with Abraham.
There are at least a couple of important things happening here. One, it was not uncommon in that time for people who worshipped idols to believe that when they left their home they were leaving their god behind. God’s appearance in this story not only sets Him apart from all idols but it also points to His omnipresence. Two, God’s great promises to Jacob were not based upon a behavioral contract. In other words, God didn’t say to Jacob, “If you do these things, this is what I will do for you.” Think about it this way. God didn’t make these incredible promises based upon Jacob’s character. God made them based upon His character.
Jacob was obviously shaken by this encounter. (I would be too. You would be as well.) He spoke of the place as the “house of God” in verse 17. In verse 19, the place was named Bethel. Bethel literally means “House of God”. (Beth is Hebrew for house. El refers to God.)
Part of Jacob’s response was to take the rock that he used as a pillow and turn it into a pillar. Then he poured oil over the rock. Oil in the Bible is often symbolic of the spirit. Often it symbolized the Holy Spirit. But there are times that it represents the human spirit or the human life. So, when Jacob poured this oil over this rock, he was symbolically pouring out his life in this House of God.
In verse 20, Jacob made a vow that starts with the word “If”. When we read that it looks as though Jacob is making a bargain with God. That is not the case. The word “If” here can also be translated “Since”. So, this is a supposition. There was no question about what God would do. The issue was what would Jacob do in response.
By the way, the issue is still the same today. We know what God will do because He has already told us. The issue is what will we do in response.