Today we are going to see that everything changes when you encounter God. Jacob left his family because his brother was going to kill him as soon as their father died because he manipulated him out of his blessing from their father. His mother says that she wants him to go to her brother to find a wife but I believe it was more of an excuse to get him away from his brother.
We pick up our story with Jacob traveling
Read Genesis 28:10-22
Jacob traveled till he ran out of daylight which to me shows that he was still worried about his brother killing him. He was traveling as far as he could to get away from him or he midjudged how far he could travel in a day.
So since he did not have time to set up camp he quickly grabbed a rock to lay his head on and fell asleep. In the midst of his sleep God reveals himself to him in a dream. This is the first of two times we know about that God would deal with Jacob directly. In Genesis 32 we see Jacob wrestles with God which would be another encounter with God directly.
He dreamed of a ladder which could mean stairway or mountain. The shape or exactly what it was is not as important as to the meaning behind it.
1) God is actively involved in His creation
- In his dream he saw angels or messengers of God ascending and descending on the stairway. This is similar path that Satan would have had to take in order to go before God in the book of Job.
Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
God uses angels to do His work on the earth and God even uses Satan to shape and form His people. The book of Job is about how God uses Satan for one purpose and that is to make Job more like Jesus. We think of us being conformed into the image of Christ in the New Testament but it was always Gods plan to make us Holy and Righteous. (Romans 8:29)
So the image that is stuck in Jacobs mind is this image that God is at work amongst His creation even in a foreign land. This would have been a new concept for Him because Jacob would have thought when he left home he was leaving the place God blesses. God blesses us to be a blessing to others because God loves the whole world. (John 3:16)
This dream is also connected with Jesus Christ who is the one speaking to Jacob and is the way in and out of Heaven. John 14:6 clearly says there is only one way into Heaven.
John 1:51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you,[a] you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jesus uses the dream of Jacob to show that He was the gate of Heaven that everyone must come through to receive salvation (1 Timothy 2:5). God is actively pursuing people and He has a host of angels that are constantly at work along with His Spirit that are seeking, and helping His children as well as going after those who are not His children. Because God is actively pursuing the whole world does not mean we do nothing because we are His ambassadors who are to go to others and tell them about Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
2) God reassures Jacob
I am with you and will keep you wherever you go
God has no words of rebuke for Jacob even though he just deceived his father and robbed his brother of the blessing. Romans 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ because Gods grace pours out even in the midst of our sinfulness. He reminds Jacob that the Savior of the world will come through his family lineage. There is no reason given why the grace of God was poured out and so it is left for many to debate and try to figure out but God does not need to explain His actions to us because we would not understand them even if He did explain it to us.
God always takes us where we are and makes us to what we need to be because no one can get to God on their own works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) This would be a 20 year process for Jacob as God molds and shapes him to be the man He wants him to be. This shows the grace and patience with God and how He will continue to love us and mold us.
We first see that God reassured Jacob by saying the promise to him that Abraham received. Jacob probably heard from his father Isaac the promise of the nation that would come but now Jacob is hearing it directly from God.
Then God says something that everyone who is going through a dark time needs to hear and that is God is with him. Remember Jacob is in a foreign land and unfamiliar surroundings and so God promises him that He will not leave him. There will be times that you feel as though God has abandoned you but you must always remember the words of Jesus.
Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
God knew what Jacob would be facing in the days ahead and so He wanted to reassure him now that no matter how he felt God was with him.
Gordon Lightfoot wrote a song about a ship wreck called the Edmund Fitzgerald and he says “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes into hours.”There will be times when it seems that God has abandoned you but you can be sure that He hasn’t because He always keeps His promises. As a Christian the Holy Spirit lives in you so you cannot be separated from Christ (Romans 8:38-39) One of the reasons we need to memorize scripture is to remind ourselves of the promises of God
Hebrews 10:35-36 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised
We need to look to scripture because sometimes those who love us the most will give us bad advice. (See Job and his friends) Having the promises of God memorized will help you when your feelings begin to control you instead of the truth of Christ.
3) God wants a personal encounter with you
The Lord shall be my God (Personal)
Jacob grew up with a Father who knew God but that does not mean that he experienced God the same way. He called the place Bethel because He encountered God there. Bethel means house of God. Jacob did not take the time to build an altar but instead resurrected a giant stone and poured oil on it marking the place he encountered God. The pouring of oil was a sign that this place was different and consecrated to God.(Leviticus 8:10)The stones in the area would be around seven feet tall so it would be a sign for all who passed by.
The Church used to be viewed as a place to encounter God but its meaning goes beyond any building and it means God can encounter you wherever you are. It does not take a special place to encounter God sometimes it just takes you getting away from all the distractions that are causing you to miss hearing Him.
You can grow up in a Christian home and never have a personal experience with God. Jacob was no longer living off his parents faith but had a faith in God that was personally his own.
“Then the Lord shall be my God”
This is a personal relationship not something you can inherit. You can grow up with your parents doing amazing things for God and know all the stories and miss out on the relationship that is right in front of you. If Christianity is a religion to you and not a relationship then you are missing out on what God wants, which is a deep personal friendship with you. This can only be achieved if you surrender to the sacrifice that Christ made for you on the cross which will put you in a right relationship with God. (Acts 16:31)
4) Giving comes naturally to those who encounter God.
And all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you
Tithe of course means a tenth but it was given by Jacob naturally before any of the requirements were given in the Old Testament. The pharisses gave begrudgingly out of duty but Jacob gave because he encountered God. If you do not give back to God I would encourage you to seek an encounter with Him before you just begin to give money.
Yes I believe that those who belong to God should give but I would rather you give with a joyful heart and that will happen when you have a personal encounter with God.
In verse 17 we see that Jacob was afraid because it was a Holy Fear of God which means reverence for His power and Glory. The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges is a great book on what it means to fear God.
Tithing is us simply being allowed to be involved with what God is already doinng through the act of gratitude for what He has already done. Jacob had a heart of gratitude that God already provided for him and was going to provide for him in the future (vs20)
1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
Malachi 3:10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
Zacchaeus is a new testament example of a person who had an encounter with God and it changed his financial priorities (See Luke 19)
If you have a problem with churches asking for money please go and spend time with God first. When you see that God is going to provide for your every need then you get a different perspective on giving back a tenth to Him.
- Have you had a personal encounter with God?
- Have you experienced His grace amidst your sinful life?
- Whatever you do for others or the church has to come from a personal encounter with God through Christ or you will do it begrudgingly and not joyfully.