Like Jacob, we often encounter God between a rock and a hard place
Scripture does not record the depth of Jacob's emotions that precede this powerful encounter with the Lord. I can identify with some of the feelings he may have experienced before I encountered the Lord on December 10, 1982 and was saved: deep sadness, regrets, confusion, loss of family, uncertainty, scary future, feeling alone and totally unaware of God. (See the words to my song on next page.) Just after Jacob receives the blessing of God (yet, deceitfully) he becomes a fugitive running for his life, and yet not running after God. He feathered his own nest and is now uprooted. He was to be the master of his brother and family-to-be in his homeland and now he will be a servant to others in a foreign land. As I have listened to the testimony of others over the years, it is in times like this, between a rock and a hard place (literally for Jacob) that many people encounter the Lord in a life-changing way as Jacob did here (salvation, renewal, spiritual growth) .
Here we see God move in His amazing grace to reveal Himself to Jacob and to encourage Him with every blessing he so desperately needed. Notice there is no rebuke from God over his deceiving Isaac. It is true that in time God began to discipline Jacob for his deceitful ways to prepare him to be His man, as He does with all his children. (Heb. 12:5-11) But at this point it is pure grace and blessings. "I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants 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. 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."
God promised an exile a homeland; He promised a lonely man a wife and many descendants; he promised a grabber that he would be a giver and bless others; He promised a confused man guidance by His constant presence; and He promised a failure sure success!!! And doesn't the Lord promise all these blessings to us today: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all-how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is He that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died-more than that, who was raised to life-is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:28-39)
What was Jacob's response to God's amazing grace? A worldly heel-grabber and deceiver became a worshiper of the living God. Again God's word calls us to respond the same. Paul, in Romans, after three chapters of telling us our true condition (not a pretty picture – a la Jacob) gives us the good news and in chapter 12 tells our only "reasonable" response: "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:19-24) And our reasonable response to God's amazing grace is to be like Jacob, a worldly, self-centered man who becomes a worshiper of God and a blessing to others. "I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]." (Rom. 12: 1-2 Amp.)
But like Jacob we must see Jesus at the top of the ladder (or stairway to heaven) for He is the only mediator and the ultimate intercessor between man and God. "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. There above it stood the LORD." This vision is such a powerful picture of salvation and provision and protection from our Lord as mediated through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Jesus alludes to Jacob's vision in John 1:51 in describing Himself. ("Jesus is this ladder, the foot on earth in his human nature, the top in heaven in his divine nature: or the former in his humiliation, the latter in his exaltation. All the intercourse between heaven and earth, since the fall, is by this ladder. Christ is the way; all God's favors come to us, and all our services go to him, by Christ. If God dwell with us, and we with Him, it is by Christ. We have no way of getting to heaven, but by this ladder; if we climb up any other way we are thieves and robbers. To this vision our Savior alludes when he speaks of the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (Jn. 1:51); for the kind offices the angels do us, and the benefits we receive by their ministration, are all owing to Christ, who has reconciled things on earth and things in heaven (Col. 1:20), and made them all meet in himself, Eph. 1:10. The angels are active spirits, continually ascending and descending; they rest not, day nor night, from service, according to the posts assigned them. They ascend, to give account of what they have done, and to receive orders; and then descend, to execute the orders they have received. Thus we should always abound in the work of the Lord, that we may do it as the angels do it, Ps. 103:20, 21.1 Cor. 15:58 – Matt. Henry)
"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." When we encounter God, an ordinary place ("place" is used six times in this chapter) becomes a holy place – but mainly sinners become saints – holy people set apart for God. As the ladder and stairway pointed upward to the Lord at the top, this stone was to do the same for Israel over the years as they came to Bethel and saw this marker. But today we are to be living stones, human pointers, pointing others to Jesus by saying, "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world." "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." (John 1:29; Heb. 12:2)
"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." Commentators disagree on whether Jacob's vow here is conditional as seen in the underlined words, "If – then." If his vow is conditional it is certainly not what the Lord calls us to. On the other hand if the Lord is not with us to guide us, provide for us, protect us and empower us then we can't do anything for Him. But by faith in the promises of God (He keeps His Word) we are certain that God is with us and will provide everything we need to do His will. If we try to get Him to meet our worldly, selfish desires then we will find Him to be our enemy. (James 4:3-6) Jacob definitely had some more refining to undergo before he became God's new man (Israel) as we will see later in Genesis 32. And likewise, the same can be said for us.
Discussion Questions FOR APPLICATION OF GOD'S WORD
What did the Lord say to you through this message?
Have you ever encountered the Lord between a rock and a hard place? What emotions were you experiencing? How did the Lord meet your needs?
Describe your response to God for His amazing grace to you?
Is your commitment to serve and honor God conditional on Him giving you what you want/expect in this life? "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:3-4)
Scripture memory verse: "I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]." (Rom. 12: 1-2 Amp.)
ABBA FATHER (Romans 8:15) Len Sykes – 1983
I LEFT MY HOME AND I WANDERED. I WAS SEARCHING TO FIND MY PLACE
YOU CALLED ME HOME AND WELCOMED ME, IN YOUR STRONG EMBRACE.
Chorus: I CRY ABBA, OH ABBA, ABBA, MY FATHER
I CRY ABBA, OH ABBA, ABBA, MY FATHER
I FELT UNWORTHY, I WAS STAINED BY SIN, FRACTURED, BROKEN, UNDONE
YOU WASHED ME IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB AND NOW YOU CALL ME SON.
I'VE ENTERED INTO CANAAN LAND, THAT PROMISED PLACE OF REST
NO MORE TO EARN MY FATHER'S LOVE, I'M HOME, I'M HIS, I'M BLESSED.