Responding to God with Faith

Explore the Bible Series

March 2, 2008

 

Background Passage: Genesis 28:1-22

Lesson Passage: Genesis 28:1-2, 10-22†††††††

 

Introduction: Our last lesson dealt with the unseemly conspiracy and deception of Jacob and Rebekah.Mother and son connived to steal Esauís birthright, a birthright God had already promised to Jacob.This unworthy action disgraced Isaac and, ultimately, demonstrated Jacobís distrust of Godís sovereign design.Esau grew so angry over the deceit that he wanted to kill his brother, and Isaac, fearful for Jacobís life, counseled his son to flee from Esauís wrath.Instead of dealing with his despicable action, Jacob fled to the relative safety of Rebekahís family.

 

As we consider this story, we must meditate on the consequences of Jacobís deception and Godís gracious response to Jacobís failure.The narrative, it seems, allows us to exercise our holy imagination about the patriarchís situation.This incident marks a significant turning point in Jacobís life. Perhaps he felt these common emotions as he made his way to Paddan-aram.

 

Loneliness:Apparently Jacob made this arduous journey alone.The trip covered nearly four hundred miles, and the text gives no indication of anyone accompanying Jacob on his travels. For all practical purposes he had burned his relational bridges behind him.Esau wanted to kill him.Isaac certainly felt disappointed and betrayed by his sonís conspiracy.Jacobís only supporter, his mother Rebekah, agreed to send her beloved son to a foreign land.He traveled to a strange country to take his comfort from a people he did not know.No one can counsel or comfort him, and he found himself alone with God.

 

Rejection: Jacob had seriously injured his relationships with his father and brother.This injury proved so severe that Esau planned to murder his twin.The family companionship that Jacob had enjoyed all of his life now lay in shambles.

 

Guilt: Perhaps Jacob regretted his unfortunate, sinful actions.Surely this poor man knew he had done something terribly wrong, but he did not make any effort to set things right.Instead, he fled from the scene of his sin and hoped that distance and time might cover his misdeeds.

 

In the midst of this unfortunate situation, God stepped on the scene.What a wonderful example of the sovereign mercy of the Lord.As Jacob rested near the ancient city of Luz, the Lord came to him in a dramatic dream.This unworthy, sinful man encountered the gracious, forgiving Lord.Isnít that true of every person who comes to know God?When things seem at their worst; when our sins have brought us to despair, disillusionment, and disgrace; when all others have failed or abandoned us, God approaches us with grace, promise, and forgiveness.

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   Isaacís Plan to Save Jacobís Life (vv. 1-9)

A.    Isaacís concern for Jacob (vv. 1-2): The text does not mention Isaacís fear of Esauís wrath, but his awareness of Esauís threat must have informed Isaacís counsel to Jacob.Isaac had contributed to this terrible family turmoil by favoring one son over the other; nevertheless, he demonstrated genuine love for Jacob by urging his son to flee from Beersheba. The stated reason for Isaacís counsel centered on Jacobís future wife.Esau, we know, had already taken two ungodly, pagan wives, and Isaac may have feared that the son of promise would follow a similar course.Isaac wanted Jacob to seek a wife from his kinsmen in Haran.

B.     Isaacís blessing for Jacob (vv. 3-4): Isaac must have known about the Lordís promise to Rebekah when she was carrying the twin boys (See 25:19-23); nonetheless, when time came for Isaac to bless his sons, the old man planned to give the birthright to Esau (See27:1-4).Finally, after the relational damage of Jacobís conspiracy, Isaac blessed his younger sonótoo little, too late.

C.     Isaacís hope (v. 5): The old patriarch hoped that Jacob might find safety, comfort, companionship, and a future among his extended family (and Rebekahís family), in Paddan-aram.

D.    Esauís third marriage (vv. 6-9): Perhaps Esau hoped to recoup his loses by taking a wife that would please his parents.Earlier, we discovered that Esauís Hittite wives irritated Isaac and Rebekah. Now, however, he sought a wife among Abrahamís kinsmen, and he chose an Ishmaelite woman named Mahalath.

 

II.                Jacobís Dream at Luz (vv. 10-22)

A.    The vision of God (vv. 10-17): As Jacob journeyed toward Haran, he stopped to rest near the ancient city of Luz.As he slept on a pillow of stone the Lord appeared to Jacob in a remarkable dream. A great ladder descended from heaven, and angels moved up and down on it.The Hebrew probably indicates a ramp or stairway rather than a ladder, and this device acted as a connection between heaven and earth. In the gospel of John 1:51, Jesus seemed to have this image in mind as he described himself as the connection between God and mankind.The Lord appeared at the head of the ladder.Note that Godís address to Jacob contained no scolding; instead, he spoke with kindness, forgiveness, and promise.When Jacob awoke, he realized that this dream had great significance.

B.     Jacob built an altar and named the place Bethel (vv. 18-22): Early in the morning Jacob sanctified the place by building an altar.He took the stone he had used for a pillow and anointed it with oil. He called the place Bethel (House of God).Jacob, of course, realized that God had not written him off.The Lord pledged to give him the land of promise, and, of course, the patriarch realized that God would sustain and guild him.In time, he would return to Canaan and take his place as honored father of a great people.Furthermore, Jacob promised to give a tithe of all the Lord gave him. This practice of stewardship, you will note, predated the Mosaic Law.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.  How has God met your failure with grace and promise?Perhaps some class members may want to give a testimony of the Lordís kindness after a time when they have failed.

2.  Discuss the character of God as revealed in this story.What qualities do you discern in Godís dealings with Jacob?

3.  How, according to this story, how did Jacob respond to Godís grace?In light of Jacobís example, how should you respond to the Lordís undeserved kindness?

 

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