As he slept, he [Jacob] dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” …
Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”
A few weeks ago, my pastor preached a sermon on Jacob which intrigued me. Going back and rereading his life story in one sitting was interesting (Genesis 25-35 plus a little more). It reads like a novella and could easily compete with any drama on tv. But looking specifically at the above passage from chapter 28, two things strike me.
First, as my pastor pointed out, even though God promised to be with Jacob, Jacob still questioned and doubted God. God said clearly I will. He said I am your God…I am with you…I will be with you…I will protect you…I will not leave you. Jacob was promised by the God of the Universe His enduring presence. But look at Jacob’s response: If God will be with me…if he will provide…if I return safely…then…. On God’s part there’s no if-then relationship. God doesn’t put conditions on Jacob He simply promises to be His God. God, without reserve or condition, promises to bless Jacob. And Jacob’s response is one of maybe a little awe (he does, after all, erect a monument) but mostly doubt. Jacob looks at the God of the Universe and in effect says: prove it. If you do all that, God, then I’ll believe you. Not much faith when it’s after the fact is it?
Secondly, Jacob did nothing–not one thing–to deserve God’s blessing and presence. In fact, he lied, cheated, stole and connived his way through life. Yet, God chose Jacob and blessed him and God kept His promise to Jacob. Again, there’s no if-then relationship. God is not bound by our conditions and rules. He chose to bless Jacob, so He blessed Jacob. There’s nothing Jacob did to deserve it and once God gave it, He kept His promise and Jacob couldn’t lose that blessing.
It seems so unfair doesn’t it? I mean, Jacob was a mama’s boy; he cheated his brother, lied to his dad and didn’t readily embrace the God of the Universe when He offered His blessing and yet, Jacob was chosen.
I can’t help but think of my own life. Countless blessings enjoyed and each completely undeserved, I still waiver and doubt and say if and then to God. I reeeeally want to be good enough to deserve God’s blessings. I know I’m a hopeless wanderer; ever doubting God and His promises, I stumble through life. And yet, I’m His. His patience, persistence and love continue to amaze me.
We’re all Jacob’s aren’t we? Undeserving, He offers us His blessing, love and salvation.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. ~John
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. ~Paul to the Romans