Summary: When Jacob finds himself alone with his pillow a stone he has an encounter with the Lord. We talk about being "between a rock and a hard place" and how we can triumph even when things are tough.

Charles W. Holt



Genesis 28

Just this week I have had two separate individuals on two separate occasions tell me, when speaking of their trying circumstances and having to make tough decisions, "I feel so alone, I feel I have no one to talk to, to get advice or counsel." In this message today we are going to meet a man named Jacob who found himself all alone because of very difficult and very trying circumstances. We will see that what happened to him offers a great deal of comfort and hope for anyone who may feel they are in a hard place—a place I’ll refer to as being "between a rock and a hard place." I think many of us can identify with that expression.

Most of you who have graduated from College or the University are familiar with the part of your studies that included work in the class laboratory. I enjoyed my biology class because the professor made the various theories informative and interesting. But the day when he explained how we would work in the lab and eventually dissect the fetal pig brought a chill. I was to learn that theory is necessary but nothing teaches like "hands on." Later, after several college hours of counseling theory, it came time to enroll in a "practicum" class which essentially meant getting out of the classroom setting and into the so-called "real world" of counseling. My professor was fond of saying, "There’s no better way to learn how to counsel than by doing it," he said. "You will make mistakes, but you will learn from your mistakes." Such is life generally speaking.

How many of you have spent some quality time in the "University of Hard Knocks?" None of us have graduated from the classes it offers. One can ditch a subject that is unpopular or skip a few classes at school but this is not done in the University of Hard Knocks. As a student pilot I distinctly remember the day when my flying instructor said, "Chuck, today we are going to practice stalls and spins." I knew what he meant and I didn’t like the idea at all. Despite my protests and even a plea to postpone or, better yet, just forget this part of the training, we did stalls and spins. It was another of the, learn by doing, "hands on" training experience. Someone has wisely said, "When things get rough, remember: it’s the rubbing that brings out the shine." The patriarch Jacob will illustrate this thought.

Our story is found in Genesis 28. Jacob was a person with many rough spots in his character. Does this apply to anyone you know personally? God was about to begin a rubbing process that ultimately will result in bringing out the shine of His purpose which was to bring great blessing to him, his family, and ultimately the whole world—even to our day. From Jacob’s experience we will gain some insights about encounters with life’s abrasives that God uses to put the shine in our lives too.

Chapter 28 opens with Jacob standing in the presence of his father Isaac who is preparing to send his son to choose a bride from among kinfolk in Padan-aram. Jacob is told, "Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan" (vs. 6). With his father’s blessing he "went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep" (vss 10-11 KJV). It was at this time and place that Jacob had his ladder to heaven dream that ended with the Lord pronouncing His blessing upon him (see vss. 12-15).

As evening of the first day falls, Jacob finds himself near the city of Luz. He knows the city gates will close at sundown therefore he is content to spend the night in the open field, "and he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep" (vs. 10 NKJV). Was this the original HardRock Motel? This could easily be the origination of the well-known phrase, "against a rock and a hard place." We have all experienced that. Jacob’s "rock and a hard place" turns out, however, to be the source of a great revelation. It is not unusual for us to find, on our Divine Itinerary (a.k.a., "walking by faith" journey), several "rock and a hard place" stops. They are for the same purpose as Jacob’s—to receive a heavenly revelation—to shape us, to affect our future.

I have mentioned that Jacob is leaving home because of his father’s wish and with his father’s blessing. But you should also know that Jacob is leaving because if he doesn’t his twin brother Esau will kill him for cheating him out of the family inheritance. It may not have been his choice to leave home. He may have preferred to stay home with his mother. If he doesn’t go he is a dead man. This leaves me with the feeling that Jacob’s mind and emotions are swirling like a newly disturbed beehive. He feels uprooted. His comfort zone has definitely been invaded. His future is uncertain. He may have scores of questions with no answers. This could make for a very restless night. It could be a night of tossing and turning even if he could lay his weary body and raw emotions on the softest pillow. It was not to be. Instead, he lays his head on a rock.

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