A Midweek Devotional - Unconditional
This week we skip ahead in Genesis to see God’s continued faithfulness in the lives of Abraham’s offspring. Unfolding Grace sets the scene for chapters 25-28:
“Genesis…traces the Abrahamic promise from one generation to the next — from Abraham and Sarah, to Isaac and Rebekah, and to Jacob. In each generation, God affirms His plan to multiply offspring and bless the nations through His people. He also overcomes great obstacles in order to demonstrate His unswerving commitment to unfold His gracious plan. The overarching message is clear: nothing will ultimately stand in God’s way. His plan to bless the nations through this promised lineage is unstoppable. He will bring His grace into our sinning and suffering world. A savior will come.”
Wednesday, February 3rd
Larger Portion of Scripture - Genesis 25 - 28
Focused Passage for Reflection - Genesis 28:10-22
Reflecting on the Text:
What kind of person are you? A good person or a bad person? How about a beloved person? Maybe your first instinct in answering the question about yourself will color the way you answer the question about Jacob. He is a hard one to deal with in the story of Abraham’s offspring. His name means “he deceives” or “he cheats”, and he certainly seems to live up to his name in the chapters preceding (and following) Genesis 28. Quite frankly, Jacob isn't a real likable fellow, but for some reason, the Lord keeps showing up in his story.
In this passage, the Lord shows up somewhere along the way to Haran. The text goes out of the way to refer to a certain “place.” The word is used twice in verse 11, and then again in verses 16 and 17. It’s hard to know if Jacob is more taken by the Lord or the place in which he had a vision of the Lord.
In that “place,” Jacob dreamed of a ladder, upon which the angels were ascending and descending. At the top of the ladder stood the Lord, who spoke words of promise to Jacob. Again, we wonder why. After all, shouldn’t the Lord be more focused on making promises to “good people?”
But for some reason, the Lord is speaking to Jacob. He reiterates a version of the promise made to Abraham and Issac and even identifies Himself as their God. Notice, He is not yet identifying as Jacob’s God, but He is promising to be with him nonetheless. It is a promise that is hard for us to understand because Jacob just doesn’t seem to merit it. Yet without condition, the Lord promises to bless him and to be with him.
Jacob is taken aback by the whole scene, and again by the place where he saw the scene. So, he arose and set up a pillar to commemorate the event. Then, he made a promise…sort of. Unlike the Lord’s promise, Jacob’s was conditional. If the Lord would provide for him and protect him, then the Lord would be his God. Both the condition and the contrast are striking. Jacob is making the statement that the Lord is not yet his God, but that he’ll allow Him to be his God if He meets the condition. Contrast this statement to the Lord’s promise and we see the very definition of grace.
For this passage, that seems to be the point. The Lord’s ways are not our ways…praise the Lord! In this long story of unfolding grace, the gracious character of our God continues to shine through. He is the hero. He was for Jacob, even though Jacob couldn’t recognize it. And He is for us. That is the point we find and the encouragement we must take.
But why did we make such a big deal about “place”? Because, at that time, the Lord was not personal for Jacob. The connection between heaven and earth was tied to geography. Yet the promise of the Lord is meant to point our attention forward…to Jesus. In John 1:51, Jesus is talking to one of His new disciples. Nathanael was astounded at one of Jesus’ lesser signs of power. So in response, and I imagine with almost a glimmer in His eye, Jesus said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jesus was saying the connection between heaven and earth is not tied to a place, but a person. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. We engage with the Lord relationally through a relationship with Jesus. Jacob wasn’t there yet. But give him time. Later, in Genesis 32, Jacob had a very personal encounter with the Lord. As a result, the Lord changed his name to Israel, signifying the transformation that had taken place as the God of Abraham and Issac, was now also the God of Jacob.
Jacob wasn’t a good person. But the Lord is a gracious God. He promised (unconditionally) and pursued (unfailingly), and finally, through a personal encounter with the Lord, Jacob was transformed. Praise the Lord!
Questions for personal reflection:
In what ways are you tempted to reduce the Lord to a place rather than a person?
How does this temptation impact the way you view your relationship with Him?
How do you see yourself in Jacob? How then does the picture of God’s grace encourage you?