Do you know how you would feel if you came face to face with God?
In Genesis 28, after Isaac blesses Jacob and sends him away to his uncle Laban, Jacob experiences a vision that gives him such a profound sense of the presence of God, that he calls the place Bethel, the house of God.
vv. 1–5 - To what degree Rebekah was really wanting Jacob to find a wife at this stage of his life, is unclear. But knowing Esau’s desire to kill Jacob, she needed an excuse to put distance between the two brothers. Isaac, seeing wisdom in his wife’s suggestion, sends Jacob to the home of Laban, his brother-in-law. God has worked in Isaac’s heart. Despite his best effort to confer the blessing on Esau, God had marvelously overruled, and now Isaac, indicating his resignation to the will of God, repeats the blessing upon Jacob. In this way, any doubt in Jacob’s head that the blessing is not legitimate because he deceived his father, is removed. Isaac invokes the name by which God revealed Himself to Abraham in Genesis 17. It is as if Isaac is reassuring Jacob that the God of his grandfather Abraham is his God, both by the use of El Shaddai, and by calling it “the blessing of Abraham.” Note also that the language of this blessing in contrast to Genesis 27, seems to be more spiritual as well. The singular seed in v. 4 is pointing to Christ.
vv. 6–9 - Esau, either watching or learning of the reason for Jacob’s departure, proves his shallow and carnal way of thinking. His policy was to try to please his father, with little thought for pleasing God. Furthermore, the way Esau responds to Jacob shows his recognition of a certain superiority Jacob has over Esau, just as prophesied, “be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee.” But Esau is too spiritually blind to recognize the problem with marrying into the line of Ishmael.
vv. 10–15 - Like Christ who was blessed with the Father’s testimony at His baptism and then sent into the wilderness, Jacob is specially blessed by his father before he is sent away. The journey is around 500 miles, and in contrast to Abraham’s servant who travelled the same way with camels and goods, Jacob appears to be on his own. And when he finally rested, he encounters God in a dream. As we learn from John 1:51, the vision of the ladder points to Christ, the Mediator of the elect. The one that reaches earth from heaven, and gives access to heaven to those on earth, with the promise of perpetual communion with God. The Son of God then appears, reaffirms the Abrahamic covenant. However, what is unique is the personal nature of the covenant, which promises the presence and protection of God. Was Jacob converted at this point? It is difficult to be dogmatic, but it would appear so. But this twister is on a journey, and he is going to need frequent visits from God to keep him on the straight and narrow.
vv. 16–22 - Salvation produces three things we see in Jacob: an awareness of God’s presence (v. 16), an expression of godly fear, and a knowledge of God’s salvation (vv. 16-17). He then consecrates the place with oil, consecrates his life with a vow. Jacob is not bargaining with God here, he is simply taking God at His Word and vowing to that if God provides and protects him, he will return to worship, and will commit to give a tithe of his wealth to God. He won’t return here until God reminds him in Genesis 35.
Historic truths need to be revisited. Isaac, by his use of the divine name, El Shaddai, resurrects not only what the name communicates, but the occasion when it was revealed in Genesis 17. No one on earth should have more interest in history and old theological works than the Christian. Church history, and classic Christian publications strengthen and benefit the Christian. Acquaint yourself and your family with them.
Satan always works to hinder the gospel. The only way Esau felt he could get the better of Jacob was by killing him. Such a thought makes him like Cain, who killed his brother Abel. But more than that, since God is going to bring the Messiah from Jacob’s line, Esau’s threat must be seen as an attack upon the gospel. Christian, expect that your life will be filled with regular attacks against any effort you make to preach the gospel.
Grace appears offensive to the self-righteous. At this juncture, with God’s plan resting on the shoulders of Jacob, there is not only an external threat from Esau, but an internal threat from a corrupt Jacob. Abimelech appeared to have more integrity than Jacob. Sometimes we claim we want fair, but what we need is grace. Only the self-righteous can desire what is fair. It is the Christian that realizes men need grace. Thankfully, God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. He did it for Jacob for the benefit of His kingdom, and He will do it for you.
The blessing of God does not promise an easy life. Jacob is blessed in quick succession, but immediately enters a path of loneliness and uncertainty. Does the blessing of God mean you’re homeless, alone, and estranged from your brother? Possibly. Valley experiences often follow the mountain top, but it is in the shadows where we see the light of God’s countenance.
Honoring parents without a love for God is vanity. Children, learn from Esau once again. He wants to please his father Isaac, but his rebellion against God makes him blind to know what to do. What a powerful reminder to you that without a new heart, we cannot rightly honor God. Parents, you can have children that want to please you, but because they don’t know Christ they lack the perception and power to do so. Pray God will give your children new hearts.
God’s gracious visitations are unpredictable. Jacob went to sleep alone and awoke knowing that God is with him. If you are feeling spiritually dull, nothing will awaken your soul like an unusual visitation of God’s Spirit. Pray for it, Christian. We all need regular reviving.
No man comes to the Father but by Christ, and no blessings come to us but by Christ. The depiction of Christ as a ladder ought to fill our hearts with praise, because by Him alone we go to God, and by Him alone the riches of all that is in God come to us. Praise His name.
“If there be one spot more than another where the consciousness of God’s presence will strike the heart of the awakened man, it will be where other men are not, but where he himself is alone the only worshipper of God.” — Charles Spurgeon