Last week, we covered the sacrifice of Isaac: God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and at just the right moment, an angel of the Lord stopped him. The point of that story is that no matter what our reason tells us, obedience to God’s Word and Command is an important part of a believer’s life. A lot has happened in the chapters since then, the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah, and the birth of the twins, Esau and Jacob (ch. 25). This is where we pick up our text for today. Esau was born first, and the 2nd one came out holding on to his heel so he was named Jacob which, in Hebrew, means heel grabber.
In this text, the twins are all grown up. Jacob is on the run because Esau is threatening to kill him. At first glance, it would seem that Jacob had lost everything: The comforts of home, connections to family and friends, his inheritance, pretty much everything. His future was one big question mark. He’s on his own and the only thing that is certain is that his future is in for some big changes. With a little life experience, you know what it’s like to wonder, How did I get into this or that situation? And how am I going to get out of it?
Notice at the beginning of this passage, in the middle of what most people would think is a perfect storm for high anxiety, we don’t know if Jacob is worried, we’re not even told if he turns to the Lord in prayer, for help. All we know from the previous chapter is that his brother, Esau, blames him for tricking him out of their father’s Blessing (after already taking his Birthright) and is planning to kill him. We also know that his mother, Rebekah, told Jacob to flee for his life to his uncle in Haran about 500 miles away. Which at that time that was a journey of about 2 months, no small task.
So Jacob sets out and we find him at the end of the day, out in the middle of nowhere. We are told that he settles in for the night and some translations read that he uses a rock for a pillow, while some say that he sets a rock by his head. The significance here regarding the mention of a rock is not necessarily whether he uses the rock as a pillow or not but significantly that he uses this rock to mark that spot where God appears to him to renew the promise He made to his father and grandfather.
The message of this passage, that Moses, the author of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) is reiterating to the people of Israel as they get ready to enter the promised land, is that God promises to be with Jacob and, in turn, God promises to be with you.
God appears to Jacob in a vision of the ladder reaching up to heaven. On it were angels who were going back and forth and on top of that ladder (stairway) was the Lord. What a vision, to get a glimpse of how God sends his angels to minster to those on the earth. Unlike the Tower of Babel which was all about humanity’s effort to reach and surpass God, this is the true representation of how the gap between earth and heaven is bridged. God is the one who reaches out to humanity.
Then God speaks to Jacob reiterating the promise that He made to Jacob’s forefathers. He reminds Jacob that just as He has promised Abraham and Isaac, He will make his family into a great nation, as numerous as the grains of sand. This promise also confirms that Jacob is the chosen one that God will use to fulfill His covenant. God will bring him back to the land of his fathers that he was fleeing from and that He promises to be with Jacob.
This is a promise God will later repeat many times to the nation’s leaders: Moses (Ex 3:12), Joshua (Josh 1:5), and Gideon, (Judges 6:16). The promise of God being with His people continues into the New Testament through the birth, life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. As people of God, we are not alone and isolated in a world filled with evil. Like Jacob, we have the promise of God’s protection which is echoed in the benediction, “The Lord bless you and keep (guard) you,” (Num 6:24). We have God’s promise that He will never leave us as Jesus Christ says, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matt 28:20).