GOD MEETS JACOB AT BETHEL
Key Verse: 28:20-21 "Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will e with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food toe at and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's hose, then the Lord will be my God."
In Genesis, God is called the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. God called one man Abraham gave him great promises and made a covenant with him. He raised Abraham to be the father of many nations and the source of blessing for all people. Isaac looked quiet and passive, but God renewed with him the covenant of Abraham and blessed him. He won the spiritual victory over his enemies. Jacob is the third patriarch. He did not wait passively for God's blessing. He used all his human guile and skill and ability to take blessings by any means. So he made many enemies, and suffered needlessly.
In this lesson, we meet Jacob the deceiver. We also meet many imperfect personalities. But God uses them all to fulfill his purpose. God is a sovereign God. In the time of confusion and trouble, God led Jacob into wilderness and met him and made a personal relationship with him. I pray that we may meet the God of Jacob and renew our commitment to him.
1. Jacob gets Isaac's blessing (27:1-46)
Look at vs 1. Isaac was old and became blind. He felt sorry for himself, and felt that he would surely die soon. Actually, he did not die until he was 180 years old--around 60 years later. He was the longest-living Patriarch. Perhaps his blindness made him feel that death was near. So he asked Esau, his favorite and eldest son to go hunting, and bring and prepare some tasty game for him. He would eat it and then give Esau his blessing before he dies.
Look at vs 5. Rebekah overheard Isaac speaking to Esau. She respected her husband as God's servant, and knew that the one Isaac blessed would indeed be blessed. She believed that the blessing of the firstborn belongs to Jacob, not Esau, for this was God's word to her when the two boys were in her womb. God said: “The older will serve the younger.” So she called Jacob immediately and coached Jacob to pretend to be Esau and get his father's blessing. In order to do this, Jacob risked being discovered and receiving a rebuke and even a curse from his father, so he was hesitant. Look at vs 11-12. "What if my father touches me?" He had smooth skin while Esau’s body was wrapped up with hair. He was fearful that his father might curse him. But Rebekah was determined: She said, "Let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say..."
So Jacob dressed in Esau's clothes, put goatskin on his arm and neck, took the delicious meat dish and bread that Rebekah had cooked and went to his father Isaac. He lied to Isaac. Look at vs. 20. Isaac asked, “How did you find so quickly?” Jacob said: The Lord your God gave me success.” Isaac was a little suspicious, because his voice was not Esau's, but he believed Jacob's lie and blessed him. Look at vs. 28-29. This was not the covenant blessing--that would come later--but it was a promise of abundance; it was a promise that nations and peoples would serve him; and it was a promise that he would be lord over his brother.
As soon as Jacob left, Esau came in with tasty venison steaks for his father. When he learned what Jacob had done, he was furiously angry. He decided to kill Jacob. Rebekah had no choice; she must send Jacob away.
In this event, Rebekah taught Jacob the supreme value of God's blessing, which is worthy of risk taking. Jacob risked curse to get blessing. However, she also taught Jacob to lie and deceive. Lying and deception are never good, and the means are not justified by the end. Sin is sin. She paid dearly for what she did. Because of Esau's wrath Jacob had to leave home and live as an exile in a foreign land. Rebekah lost the son she loved; she did not see him again, for she died before his return. But God is sovereign. God used imperfect people to accomplish his purpose. In the end, God's will stands always. He used these difficult times to lead Jacob into wilderness and train him and ultimately, to bless him.
Sometimes we look at the faults of others, we wonder how God will accomplish his will. Look around you to see if there is anyone perfect. But God is sovereign. He accomplishes his purpose despite human weaknesses and faults. We should not worry about it. Rather we should actively participate in the work of God.
We can also learn a lesson from Isaac. When he found that he had been deceived by Jacob, he trembled violently. Look at vs. 33. But he did not change his mind. He stuck with his blessing, saying Jacob would be blessed indeed. When he knew that the blessing went to Jacob rightly, he was not angry with Jacob or Rebekah. Some people resist accepting their follies even after their mistakes were discovered. But Isaac was humble enough to acknowledge his sins and stuck with God's purpose, doing the right thing since then.
Look at vs 3-4. Before Isaac sent Jacob away, he gave him the covenant blessing of Abraham. "May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham." Isaac planted the promises of God in Jacob's heart while he was leaving the promised land. He wanted Jacob to hold on to the promise of God and return to the promised land again.
2. The God of Bethel (28:1-22)
Look at vs10-11. Jacob left Beersheba and started for Haran. The sun set and it began to grow dark. Jacob was tired, and his heart was full of sorrow, for he was leaving home for the first time. He found a rock for a pillow and lay down under the stars to sleep. He was fearful. He was leaving because his brother wanted to kill him; he was fearful about his future and now, out in the wild open country all alone at night, he was afraid about the present reality. From a human point of view, he became worthless; he became a wanderer because of his sins; he didn't even have a roof over his head. In the low point of his life, God came to meet him.
Look at vs 12-15. That lonely wilderness became the gate of heaven. Jacob saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Above it stood the Lord. He spoke to Jacob. He introduced himself as the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac. He promised him the land, and descendants like the dust of the earth. He promised, "All peoples on earth would be blessed through you and your offspring." God went on to solve Jacob's immediate problem. He promised the lonely wanderer that he would be with him. Verse 15 says, "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." God came to Jacob and planted a great hope and vision in his heart. He promised to go with Jacob to Paddan-Aram and bring him back home safely. By showing a dramatic vision of the stairway and the hard-working angels, God wanted Jacob to know that he was with him and taking care of him.
Some of you might feel you are in the low points of your lives: you may be going through financial difficulties or troubles. You may feel that you are struggling all by yourself. You may fear the uncertainty of your future. But it is sovereign God who led you right where you are now because he wants to meet you personally and let you know that he is with you, and help you grow as a source of blessing.
Jacob woke up. He couldn't sleep the rest of the night, for a awesome fear of God filled his heart. The next morning he took the stone he had used for a pillar, poured oil on it and called that place "Bethel." He did not build an altar like Abraham and Isaac. But he worshiped God in his way. Bethel means a house of God. How can the wilderness become the house of God and the gate of heaven? Any place we meet the awesome God is the house of God for us. Some people met God at the conference that is your Bethel. Remember how awesome it was to meet our personal God!
Then Jacob made a vow. Look at vs. 20-22. He said, "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 so that I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."
Jacob was not interested in God's grand plans such as numerous descendants and the vast land. He did not think about God's calling to be a source of blessing in God's redemptive work. He was only concerned about his own urgent food, clothes and security problems. He promised God that if God would indeed solve his immediate problems as he said, then God would be his God and he would give him a tithe. We also pray for our urgent needs: many of you just finished the final exams. How many of you prayed, saying, "If God help me pass this exam, I will do the work of God for all my life." If you don’t have a job, you might pray, saying, "If God give me a job, I will feed 12 sheep." Jacob’s faith is self-centered and worldly, but it is real. He knew that God is a living God. This vow became the handle by which God could take hold of Jacob's life. It meant that Jacob had begun his life of faith with God. Take a closer look at his vow. Jacob began his vow. Talking about God in the third person, but he concluded by talking to God--"And of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." Jacob began to talk to God himself, between God and himself. Have you experienced such awesome transition in your life?
He no longer called God as God of Abraham, and God of my father. God became his own personal God. His own faith was weak and small like a mustard seed, but it was his own, and his faith would grow through God's training. Someday he would become a man who could bless others. He found the God of his own. He no longer lived on the borrowed faith of his parents.
There has to be a point in everyone's life when he meets God for himself and makes his own personal promise and commitment to God. For some people, there must be more than one such time. Abraham had made a decision to leave his homeland according to God's word of command; Isaac had decided to obey God and stay in the land of the Philistines. Jacob made a conditional vow. God accepted them all. God used Jacob's vow as a handle to lead his life and make him a source of blessing. Jacob forgot about his vow, but God remembers his vow and works for him.
When I was called to be a missionary, I worried about how to survive in America because I did not have skill or good health. I felt like I would live among the giants like a small man. That time God gave me Mt 6:33 “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” This became a promise of God to me. I got a first job when I came and prayed with this promise. However, I was fired after a week because of my language problem. I was fearful. But with Mt 6:33 every time I prayed for job, God provided me with the suitable jobs. God has been faithful to his promise. God trained me with this verse to grow as a source of blessing. I made a small vow to God with Mt 6:33, God has been with me and blessed me.
Many people build their lives based on their dreams and calculations. They will collapse when storms of life strike. But when we make a vow based on the promises of God, God will be with us and leads us and make us a source of blessing. May God bless you with his promises.
Read key vs. 28:20-21