Read Genesis 28
1 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. 2 Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. 4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” 5 Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah,who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.
6 Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
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.”
We would miss so much if we dehumanize our patriarchs. Jacob is more similar to us than we realize, with the same kinds of fears, feelings, and failures we experience. We know him as a spiritual giant, but don’t miss his humanity as we read and study his life.
He’s a schemer, that one. Running from his brother who wants to kill him to a foreign, dangerous territory—a pagan city to try and find a wife among his mother’s relatives. He doesn’t know if he’ll survive the almost 500-mile journey alone. He’s hardly been past his own backyard or spent much time away from his mama’s tent and watchful eye.
As sunlight gives way to moonlight, Jacob rests his head on a rock and lies down under a canopy of stars. In the moments before sleep overtakes him, while listening to the strange sounds of nightlife in the wilderness, did he—like so many of us do—think about how he got there? Did he think about his past? How he deceived his brother to get what he wanted? Did he feel guilty for lying to his old, blind father? Did he think that once he got what he wanted, he’d have it made instead of being on the run?
Then, an unexpected encounter. A dream. God breaks in and God breaks through. Everything changes for Jacob. That’s what happens when we encounter Almighty God, El Shaddai. The God Jacob had only heard about from his grandfather and father was now reality. Jacob could deny Him no longer.
Can you imagine how God’s words hit Jacob? To be promised blessing upon blessing and promised God’s provision, protection, and presence…not one rebuke or mention of Jacob’s deceitfulness and failures. Rather, Jacob is given access and connection to God.
This is our story, too. This is grace. This is the gospel—a promise of blessing instead of what we deserve. We understand something Jacob may not have been able to grasp: Jesus is the mediator between God and man. Christ is the bridge, the ladder between us and a holy God. In our desperate need because of sin, we cannot have access or connection to God without Jesus. He is the way; no one comes to the Father but through Him.
No matter what we’ve done or where we’ve wandered, never underestimate God’s ability to break through and break in. He’s inviting us to have access and connection to Him now and for all eternity. He makes a way through Jesus. God came down to us; we cannot earn or work our way to Him.
“Surely the Lord is in this place…”
Are you aware of it? And what’s your response to Him?
Jacob didn’t get the blessing because he was worthy of it. Why did he get the blessing?
What does this chapter teach you about God?
What does this chapter teach you about yourself?
Did You Know?
In John 1:51, Jesus uses the same visual found in Genesis 28, except instead of a ladder, Jesus refers to Himself. It reads, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”