Jacob is on the run but also on a mission from his father. While on his way to Haran he had a special encounter with God. He received promises and made vows on the spot where he slept.
I was trying to get an exact number of miles between Beersheba and Bethel but Google was giving me distances from some point in the United States to a point in Israel. NOT what I was looking for. So I pulled up a bible map and found it to be about 50 miles between them. So it would have taken Jacob several days to reach this spot; I would say three at the least. That also depends on how quickly he was traveling to get away from Esau.
The first thing I noticed about this journey of Jacob’s was that he wasn’t making it in comfort. He didn’t have camels or bedding or even a pillow for his head. He probably had his robe, staff, water skin, food, and a money pouch. He was the son of a rich man but he wasn’t traveling in style. He also appears to be traveling alone. Nowhere on this journey do we see references to servants or companions helping him along the way. This was a dangerous thing to do. Did his family really send him out alone on this LONG journey? Maybe Isaac was putting it as a test for God in the form of protecting Jacob if he really was the chosen one of his boys.
Jacob stops for the night outside the protection of the city. He simply laid down along the way. But his choice for a place to sleep wasn’t as random as he was thinking it was. God knew EXACTLY where he was and he had a special message for him that night.
God gave Jacob an amazing dream! He sees angels going back and forth between Heaven and earth. He watches as they move with purpose both ministering to man and reporting to God. This dream is very vivid and it takes his breath away. I wonder if he heard the brushing of angels wings as they passed on the stairs. Did he see any of the things they were carrying or hear any of the messages being ferried? Did they appear to notice him looking on?
Maybe they didn’t but God did. He introduced Himself so Jacob would have NO doubt as to Who was addressing him. “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac” (verse 13b). Then God confirmed His promise with Jacob. Abraham and Isaac both received the promise of their descendants possessing the land they had been living in. Now that same promise is confirmed to Jacob for the first time. Jacob was also given the promise that through his family ALL the families of the earth would be blessed. This blessing, as we know now, was to be Jesus.
God also promises Jacob that he will be with him “wherever you go” and protect him. When Abraham wanted a wife for Isaac he made his servant promise not to take Isaac back to Haran but to bring the wife to this new land. Isaac does the opposite with Jacob. We understand his need to send Jacob away to let Esau cool off but now Jacob is leaving the land of the promise. And there was no guarantee he would return. But God gave him a guarantee that night. He said He would “bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (verse 15b). God gave His word that Jacob would come home. He swore He would make it happen somehow and that NOTHING would stop Him from doing so.
I’m curious about the phrase “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Was God meaning that His favor wouldn’t leave Jacob the whole time he was away from home? Was He referring to His protection while away? What was to happen when he did get home? Was God going to “leave” him then? We know that Jacob went to live in Egypt at the end of his life. Did God “leave him” there?
Jacob grew up in the home of Isaac and Abraham. He was about 15 when Abraham died. I imagine both these men introduced him to their God. He watched them as they made altars and sacrifices to Him. He watched as they lived their lives according to His promise. He probably heard about the generational promise from the moment he was born. We KNOW he was initiated into that covenant through circumcision.
Now Jacob had a personal encounter with God at the gates of Heaven. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” (verse 16b). It was Jacob’s turn to set up a reminder and an honoring token to the Lord. He chose the very stone his head lay on while it was filled with the dream God sent him. We hear his excitement as he proclaims this place “the house of God” (verse 17b). I would have wanted to stay a while in that place to enjoy it. But he has a mission to complete.
Jacob now made a promise back to God. We are not told if there were any witnesses to this promise beyond God and the angels, but his oath is as solemn to God as God’s was to him. God’s promise wasn’t dependent on Jacob’s actions but Jacob’s began with an “if” which listed what God had already said He would do. But Jacob made it specific and added one caveat to it.
Jacob asked for “bread to eat and clothes to wear” from God. He didn’t ask that they be the grandest or newest, just sufficient for his needs. Here is his added clause; “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace” (verse 21a). Jacob doesn’t want to just come back to the Promised Land someday. He wants to return to his father’s house IN PEACE. He is currently running for his life from his own brother. They were never bosom buddies but Jacob wants the fighting to stop. I wonder if he is regretting his actions in the “blessing theft caper” yet. It sounds like he might be, to me anyway. But it will take a while before he can act on his regret and try and make amends.
AFTER God performs all these things for Jacob, he will dedicate his life to God. He will claim the God of his fathers as his God too. Jacob adds one caveat to his promise beyond that too. He promises God that he will give back to Him a tenth of all God gives him. This is going to become a substantial amount with all God is preparing to do for him. I’m not certain if this promise is recorded as fulfilled or not. I guess we will find out as we read more of Jacob’s story.
I have one final question I want to pose. What was it that made God choose to work through Jacob instead of Esau? It certainly wasn’t that one was “more righteous” than the other as both had issues. Jacob was a thief and a deceiver but God chose him anyway while he was STILL behaving as such!
Father God I’m SO glad that “the gates of Heaven” aren’t geographically specific on this earth. They are “spiritually specific” in that where Your Spirit is, there You are too. I haven’t had the same dream that Jacob had and woken with that feeling of awe but I have had similar experiences of Your presence. For EACH AND EVERY ONE of those times THANK YOU HOLY SPIRIT! I have experienced dreams from You Father that have helped me understand different situations in my life. Thank You for those too.
Lord Jesus, thank You for being that one special descendant that touched the WHOLE world! Why You chose the path of genealogy that You did is beyond my understanding. Maybe You chose such fallible people to show that You can work with ALL of us. Their stories of renewed relationship with You and Your favor before, during and after their sins gives me hope for my life. It renews again my faith in Your forgiveness. Maybe that is the reason for why You choose who You did. Who am I to argue!