Consecration & Commitment (Genesis 28)
Distinction of Disobedience (Ch. 27:46-28:9)
Rebekah finally speaks to her husband about Jacob, but rather than mentioning that one son wants to kill the other, she simply offers a secondary reason, one that Isaac can identify with. Isaac then takes the lead in this plan to secure a wife for Jacob, and he confirms to him the previous blessings that had been given previously (c.f. 27:28-29). A significant step in the establishment of Israel as the people God is found in the promise that Jacob will become “a company of peoples.” The word for “company” is literally an assembly or a congregation. As some have argued, this is the beginnings of the church, the assembly of God’s people.
Esau realizes that Jacob pleased their parents by obeying them, and he deduces that blessing must be linked to obedience. He seems to think that if he adds yet another wife, a daughter of Ishmael, he can rectify the situation. But he fails to understand that grace is not earned by obedience. Grace is free and unmerited. Obedience is the fruit of grace because love is the response of the recipient of grace. Esau’s heart without God, apart from grace, is incapable of pleasing God.
Drawing Near in the Dream (Ch. 28:10-17)
Jacob is off on the 500-mile journey to Haran and after a couple of days, he decides to stop for rest in a town called Luz. He would later refer to this moment in his life as “the day of my distress” (35:3). While he sleeps, the Lord draws near and appears to him in a dream. Jacob sees a ladder from heaven. What the builders at Babel sought in vain by attempting to build a tower to heaven (i.e. security and significance), Jacob was graciously granted by God building a ladder down to him. Jacob also saw angels on the ladder, which are described in Hebrews as “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14).
As the focal point of the dream, the climactic assurance for Jacob, he sees the Lord who “stood above it” and he heard the Lord speaking. The promises spoken to Jacob are not new, but they had been second-hand previously. Now, Jacob hears from God Himself. God promises his presence and protection and He reaffirms his promises. For Jacob, these words must have been a great comfort and support in a time of distress. There is no rebuke here, only encouragement. God does not kick you when you are down—only the devil does that. The Lord is gracious in all His ways!
Jacob is greatly impacted by the meeting with God. God was there all along, although Jacob was unaware of His presence. This passage reminds us that God is everywhere, always. As some theologians have phrased it, “His circumference is nowhere and His center is everywhere. There is no place beyond Him for anything to be.” God is not somewhere; He is everywhere. We can think of God’s presence in three degrees: (1) His omnipresence, which is His essential presence filling the heavens and the earth; (2) His kindred presence, which is His relationship-based presence or a special nearness through His people’s union with Christ; (3) His cultivated presence, which is the felt sense of His presence. Jacob fails to acknowledge the first, forgets the reality of the second, and finds himself fearful in light of the third.
Devotion & Adoration (Ch. 28:18-22)
Jacob’s response to God drawing near was worship, and he sets up a pillar of commemoration. The name of the place is also changed from Luz (which can either mean “Almond Tree” or “Crafty/Devious”) to Bethel (which means “the House of God”). Jacob is turning away from deception to God, and this dream marks a turning point in his life. Jacob’s vow seems out of order, as though he were putting conditions on his obedience to God. But we must keep in mind that God has already promised the things that Jacob seems to be presenting as conditions. Rather than reading Jacob’s vow as an “if” statement, we should read it as a “because” statement. Because God has promised to do these things and is faithful, Jacob will commit His life to serve Him. This is the same response of all believers everywhere who realize God’s promised blessings, His protective presence, and His gracious provision. In response to grace, when it is truly received, there will always be both consecration and commitment of our lives to God.
- What is the difference between God’s omnipresence, kindred presence, and cultivated presence? How should each of these degrees of presence affect the way you live?
- If you were Jacob, at this particular point in his journey to Haran, in what ways would you have been encouraged by the dream and by the words spoken by the Lord? What abiding truths from this passage serve as an ongoing encouragement for believers today?
- All believers are to respond to God’s grace by both consecration and commitment. How is the free grace of God in Christ impacting your devotion to the Lord? In what ways has it led you to consecration and a life of commitment to God?