10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
(Genesis 28:10-22 NIV)
As we pick up the story from our last time together in Chapter 28, Isaac has called in Jacob, blessed him, ordered him not to marry and Canaanite woman, then sent him off to his wife’s brother in Harran to find a wife.
As we pick up the story in today’s passage, we see Jacob obeying his father and heading toward Harran where his uncle lived. Jacob stopped for the night, likely sleeping in the town square. Using a rock as a pillow, he laid down and went to sleep.
We don’t know much about the spiritual climate in the home as Jacob grew up, or what Jacob’s spiritual values were now that he is an adult – but we’re about to find out.
When Jacob fell asleep, the Lord visited him in a dream and repeated the promise He had made to both Abraham and Isaac – to multiply his descendants and give them a permanent place to live, a place to call home. The Lord also promised to watch over Jacob and his family until all these things came true.
Notice Jacob’s reaction when he awoke – afraid (v. 17). Before the dream, did Jacob think that maybe God only resided where his father lived, or some other place? Did Jacob feel that he was on his own, and must do everything on his own power and wit?
Have you ever had a dream where the Lord has visited you to reassure you that He is with you and is continually watching over you? If so, what was your response when you realized what had happened? Fear? Peace? Guilt?
Jacob’s response was worship. He anointed the rock he used as a pillow and named the place “Bethel” (“house of God”, where God lives). Jacob’s faith walk also took a huge leap forward that day as well, from little or none of his own faith, to baby steps of both recognizing the Lord and beginning his relationship with Him.
Notice that the Lord made an unconditional promise to Jacob, to watch over him and bless him and his descendants, and to bless all the rest of the people on the earth through Jacob’s family.
At this point, Jacob’s faith was not reciprocal – he was still trying to control his life and situation, and for the most part, his relationship with the Lord. Jacob made his commitment to the Lord conditional = “if…” (v. 20) God will do all these things that He promised, then I will make him my God (paraphrasing Jacob’s words).
Where do we have baby faith and try to make deals with God? Do we have conditional faith, based on some circumstance or desired outcome?
Thankfully, God’s grace and mercy are far bigger than our doubt or fears or desire to control our lives.
May we learn to trust the Lord and lean on His promises as we spiritually mature in Him.