Summary: When we are most in need of a "Close Encounter with the Divine," is when we should look for God to build a ladder to us, that we might experience His grace and guidance.
Texts: Genesis 28:10-22
Date: Sunday, July 21, 2002
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
Last week, we watched Esau trade in his birthright for a simple bowl of red stew. Overcome by hunger, he gave into his selfish, deceitful younger brother Jacob and traded the double portion of his father’s estate for a simple bowl of red stew. Jacob didn’t stop there, and we could read in Genesis 27 how he put on a disguise in order to trick his father Isaac into giving his blessing to Jacob instead of to Esau.
Perhaps you remember how Isaac, lying on his deathbed, sent Esau out into the fields to hunt for wild game for him. Isaac sent him out with bow and arrow to fetch him some tasty meat and to prepare it for him so that he would be able to bless his son before he died. You may remember how Rebekah heard of Isaac’s request of this and decided to make a costume for Jacob, so that he would appear hairy to his blind father. Jacob did as his mother suggested, and they made some stew for Isaac. Isaac was deceived by Jacob and gave him the blessing. When Esau arrived with the wild game, Isaac was greatly distressed, but unable to give an additional blessing.
As you can probably imagine, Esau was not overly impressed with Jacob’s actions. Jacob’s deceit and trickery certainly didn’t earn him any favor in the eyes of his brother Esau, who became so disgusted with Jacob’s actions that he began to plot to kill him. Fortunately, for Jacob, his mother Rebekah caught wind of Esau’s plan and devised a way to get Jacob out of the house. She arranged to have her husband Isaac send Jacob away to find a wife in the household of his uncle Laban. This way, Jacob would be safe from his brother, and would be able to find a wife with which the blessings and promises of God might be fulfilled. And so, Jacob began his journey as an outcast. It was five-hundred miles from Beersheba to Haran, and we are given every indication that Jacob is making this journey alone. Forced to wander in the wilderness, scavenging for food, Jacob would have lived in fear of wild animals and even in fear of his brother, Esau. At night, he would have had nothing to sleep on, except a large rock to prop his head up on. He would have slept lightly, ready to respond to any danger which might have come his way.
And so, the deceiver becomes an outcast. The heir to the promise of God is lying on the desert floor with nothing but a stone for his pillow. I wonder if Jacob replayed his life as he lay there at night. I wonder if he thought about the way in which he alienated his brother. I wonder if regretted deceiving his father. I imagine he wondered if God would ever be with him again. Perhaps he wondered if he would even make it out of the desert alive. I’m sure he wondered where his next meal would come from, or what he would clothe himself with after these clothes wore out. Lonely. Outcast. Deceiver. Hungry. Isolated. Miles from home, and miles from his destination. That’s where we find Jacob in Genesis chapter 28:
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. 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 descendents the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendents 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.