Summary: Continuing on with our sermon series in Genesis. In this sermon we look at Jacob's encounter with the Lord, and how God directs him, and provides for him, because of God's purpose in election
Text: Genesis 28:10 – 22
By: Ken McKinley
You know… our salvation is first & foremost about what God has done; and only secondarily about our response to what He has done, and I personally can’t think of many passages in the Bible which make that more clear than what we’re looking at today. It’s only when our hope rests in God’s grace that our faith becomes unshakable and we have true assurance. And that’s the lesson that Jacob had to learn. And that’s the lesson that the story of Jacob teaches us. That it has nothing to do with us… how good of people we are, or how well we serve, or anything at all like that. But it has everything to do with God, and His grace, His election, and His mercy. In Romans; when Paul says, “God has mercy upon whom He wills…” instead of Pharaoh, he could’ve just as easily turned to the story of Jacob. Instead of looking at the hardening aspect, he could’ve looked at the mercy aspect. And Jacob is a perfect example of that truth.
Now the first thing I want to look at today is Jacob’s encounter with God; and we see that in verses 10, 11 and 12. If you remember; Jacob had just let his home. His father Isaac had sent him away, thanks to Rebekah’s plan. Because Rebekah knew that Esau was intending to kill him. But before Isaac sent Jacob away, he confirmed the blessing on him, and then sent him off to Haran, so that he could find a wife from Rebekah’s family. But now, Jacob is on his own. And I don’t know about ya’ll, but I see Jacob as one of those guys who doesn’t like to be alone. He’s one of those guys who needs attention from others. But here he is; he’s all by himself now. He’s isolated. And its dark. So Jacob decides to set up a makeshift camp, and rest through the night. And all of a sudden, he has a dream.
Now it’s important for us to see how God comes to Jacob in this instance. At this time; Jacob’s not a spiritual guy. He’s never really sought after God, or even really shown a whole lot of interest in God. He’s on his way to Haran, to find a wife, but more importantly; to escape his brother, and so it’s not like he’s taking a sabbatical, or a spiritual pilgrimage or anything like that. He’s on this trip for himself. And he’s most likely not looking for God to teach him anything through this, or even expecting God to move in his life. He’s just doing what he has to do to get away from his brother Esau. And so the thing is… Jacob hasn’t seen the depths of his sin yet. He doesn’t understand the totality of his depravity. In-other-words; Jacob doesn’t realize his lostness yet. So he’s not looking for God in all of this… but God comes looking for him. And the text tells us that God comes to Jacob while he’s asleep, and that’s God’s way of stressing the passivity of Jacob in all of this. Jacob is asleep, but God is chasing him. God is pursuing him.
And verse 12 tells us about the dream that Jacob has, and we see what we commonly call “Jacob’s Ladder.” And let me just tell ya’, there’s a lot of weird stuff written about this. There are extra-biblical sources that say this was the place where Mary actually conceived Jesus… that Bethel was the place where God the Son, was placed in the womb of Mary. But the Bible itself never actually says anything like that. Luke’s Gospel actually tells us that Mary was in Nazareth when Gabriel spoke to her and told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive a child.
New Agers say that the area is a conduit or passage between the spiritual world and the physical world… or that Bethel was a place where aliens and UFO’s would frequently arrive on earth.
I don’t buy any of that stuff… Here’s what I’m seeing in this passage. First of all; it’s a dream that Jacob has, but it’s from the Lord, and it’s showing him something. Angels of God are ascending and descending the ladder. They are going up and down. And the LORD Himself is standing at the top of the ladder. And what that’s showing us is two things. First of all; the ladder stands in direct contrast to the Tower of Babel. Let me explain how. The Tower of Babel was man’s attempt to reach God. It represents all of man’s efforts, and man’s attempts to ascend to the heavens. But here we see a ladder. The Hebrew word is “Sullam,” which is more commonly translated as a stairway, or staircase. So you’ve got the Tower of Babel, which is man’s way, and you’ve got this stairway, which is God’s way, and no Led Zeppelin was wrong, you can’t buy your way up the stairway. The stairway, or the ladder, is a type of Christ. He’s the only way to God. And so this vision, is showing Jacob that there is a way to God, but it’s God’s way, not man’s way. And then we see the angels going up and down. And what that’s showing us is the providential care of God. These angels… these ministering spirits are going back and forth, doing God’s will. God is at the top of the stairs, or ladder, and that’s symbolizing that He’s the one sending these angels on their tasks. And so this is kind of a comforting thing to Jacob.