Genesis | Chapter 28

Genesis 27:41-28:22

“Running to be at rest”

  1. Intro.
  2. Vs. 27:41-28:9 The dividends of deception
  3. Vs. 10-22 Sweet dreams on the rock


As we trace these men of God in the lineage of Jesus we come to a new focus, “Jacob”. His is a story of a man who has a heart for the things of God but has a hard time keeping his hands off of them. Jacob will now take receipt of that which was already his by faith but he wanted to pay for it with a lie. Esau will pass from the scene until the 33 chapter with still no clue as to the things of God. Isaac won’t be mentioned again until Jacob meets up with him again some 40 years later in 35:27. Rebekah, Jacob’s co-conspirator, is not mentioned again and it is believed that she dies while Jacob is in exile. “Oh what a tangle web we weave when we practice only to deceive!” It is impossible to obtain the promises of God in the energy of the flesh and when we attempt to do so the price is always greater then we could have imagined. “Why do I want to purchase what is already mine in Christ with what I can never pay for?”

Vs. 27:41-28:9 The dividends of deception

Vs. 41 Sin and deceit never pays for the dividends it promises! Esau changes his attitude and wants what he has lost because he had no heart for the things of God. In his mind it is not his fault, “It never is, is it?” The only thing that restrains Esau from killing his brother is that he does not wish to grieve his father. It is this very thing that has caused Esau so much pain in his life as he has always sought his father’s approval above God’s. He has based his activity upon making his father happy instead of making his heavenly Father happy. Like Esau, we are often on the tread mill of trying to gain acceptance by what we do rather than what God has done for us. Oh that we might learn the truth that we are in the “Beloved” secure in His love which has been shed abroad in our hearts. 1 John 3:1 reminds us, (NIV) “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Vs. 42-46 Rebekah believes Jacob’s departure will be only for a “few days” yet she will never see her beloved Jacob again. This was the price she paid for loving her son more than the Lord, being separated from him until she would see him in heaven. Sin can never cash the checks it writes! There is no sin that does not “hurt” someone else. The author of Hebrews writes concerning Moses that he choose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin”. Rebekah knew Esau would be angry but she believed that his anger would diminish after a few days, if you considered over 14,600 days a few then she was right. She has not learned much as she lies again to Isaac in order to secure his departure. Griffith Thomas said, “Most human catastrophes have come about when men and women of God consider themselves agents instead of instruments thinking they can manipulate the situation by their shrewdness.”  Jacob doesn’t yet realize it but he too will face the results of his actions. Immediately he will be further distant from his father, his only brother now has a contract out for his life and he has to leave his beloved mother. All for what? He gained what was already his by simply trusting the Lord’s Word, now he cannot enjoy it for 40 years!

Vs. 1-2 The way of escape for Jacob was secured based upon Isaac’s feelings upon mixed marriages. What is curious to me is that these two boys are 75 years of age and this is the first time that we are told that they ought not to take wives from among the Canaanites. Abraham, Isaac’s father, made sure of this and secured a bride from his countrymen but Isaac and Rebekah had failed to do this for their boys. Prov. 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Where is the instruction? Esau was around 40 when he married the two Hittite women and Jacob won’t marry until he is 84, it is a bit late to instruct on not being unequally yoked with non-believers.

Vs. 3-9 Here Isaac offers up the true transferal of blessings, only this time it was not based upon deceit. Jacob is promised the same things that Abraham and Isaac were, “land, nation and blessings” yet he is not worthy of these things; he has shown himself as much.

Thirty-seven years later Esau figures out that his wives were not what his parents had hoped for. Yet his concern is still not based upon what God wants or even what his mother thought but rather what Isaac thought. Still seeking the approval of his father Esau sought a wife from among the Ishmaelite’s. Is that not interesting? Esau would seek the approval of his father by operating in the flesh choosing a wife form a descendant of Ishmael, the ultimate example of trying to inherit the blessings of God by means of the energy of the flesh! So he marries Mahalath (sickness) proving the very thing that God had already condemned striving to achieve the approval of God by the work of the flesh. Ishmael had already been dead for 13 years but Esau seems to be oblivious to the fact that God passed over Ishmael for his father Isaac. All too often we see folks who like Esau have no interest in giving up a worldly life style instead they just want to add religion to it to appear a certain way to others.

Vs. 10-22 Sweet dreams on the rock

Vs. 10-11 Jacob is on his way to Laban in Paddan Aram (tableland) with what we are told in 32:10 only his staff, thoughts and feelings. He stops for the night in a place called Luz (verse 19) that will later be called “Bethel” or house of God which is 12 miles north of Jerusalem and he had left an area that was 25 miles South of Jerusalem which means that he traveled 40 miles the first day. This tells us two things:

  1. He was in a big hurry to escape the wrath of Esau and he wanted to put some distance between them.
  2. When he stopped he would have been very tired.

This is the first time we see that he has ever left home and it comes on the heels of him having just experienced the height of success and the agony of defeat. All of his scheming and self-effort had gained him exile and he is alone with only his thoughts. Apparently he got there late so he stayed outside the city where the shepherds would stay and found a rock for a pillow.

Vs. 12-13a This is the first of eight theophany’s (visible manifestation of God) that Jacob will experience. In chapter 32 we read of two more then in chapter 35 two more, then finally in chapter 46 he will have his last.

The most important features of this dream are the ladder and that it is the bridge between heaven and earth. The angels of God are ascending and descending on it and the Lord stood above it. There are four things that will help to understand this dream:

  1. The words of God to Jacob
  2. The words spoken by Jacob immediately afterward
  3. The words of Jacob spoken later on this
  4. The words of Jesus about Jacob’s dream
  1. The words of God to Jacob: Vs. 13b-15 The words in this verse can be summed up by saying that they are God’s words confirming Abraham’s covenant upon Jacob. God reassures Jacob that what he had sought through the energy of the flesh was his based upon grace and not merit! Jacob is at the end of himself and he finds out that being at rest on the “rock” he has what was promised him. I can relate to this in my own experience as I fall down out of human exhaustion and fleshly fatigue striving to make something happen only to see it not happen. Coming back to rest upon the Rock of our salvation I am awakened to the reality that what I sought so hard for in my own effort is now mine because I have stopped striving and started resting on the Rock! The specifics of this promise are “land, descendants, as well as saying that in his seed the Messiah will be born”.
  2. The words spoken by Jacob immediately afterward: Vs. 16-17, 19-22 Here we see Jacob’s impressions of the dream. Jacob understood that God had uniquely met with him and communicated with him, as He had never done before. Prior to this it seems as though his knowledge of God was by way of his family now it is personal and experiential. He sees God as nearer even though he is on his own away from his home. He sees that God who reaches out to man and not man to God and it is this that enables him to worship the Lord.
  3. The words of Jacob spoken later on this: 31:13, 32:11-12 These words are recorded for us 20 years after this night as he comes back to this place of revelation.
    • 31:13 “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.” These are the words of God to Jacob reminding him of the encounter and the need for Jacob to fulfill what he promised 20 years earlier.
    • 32:12 “For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.” These are Jacob’s words reminding God of His promise just before he wrestles with the Lord all night.

Together they tell us that the day that God reached down to a lonely desperate man and revealed Himself and promised that He would never leave him was a day that Jacob needed to recall and remember both as the foundation of grace as well as the reason for obedience.

  1. The words of Jesus about Jacob’s dream: In John 1:51 Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” These words were spoken in response to Nathanael’s objection to the Messiah coming from Nazareth and Jesus’ reply in which he knew what Nathanael thought while he was under a fig tree. Nathanael responded by faith in Jesus and Jesus said, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” It here that Jesus speaks of Jacob’s ladder saying that the “Ladder” is none other than Himself. The ladder represents Jesus and the uninterrupted communication between heaven and earth through Him. Jacob learns that there is a great gulf between God and himself and that this ladder is the only bridge by which that gap is crossed.

The problem is that Jacob thought that it was the physical place that was important, “the house of God” and not the identification of the ladder (Jesus) in his heart. It is Jesus that has given us uninterrupted fellowship with the Father.

Vs. 16-22 Jacob wakes up and knows that the Lord has spoken to him but is not sure what it all means. There is some insight here on what the “House of God” ought to be for those who seek its refuge: It ought to be a place where every runaway sinner can collapse upon the Rock of Christ and find rest. A place where God’s children can come and be face to face with their “Ladder” Jesus and worship Him for truly He is in every place that has room for Him in their heart!

Jacob makes a pillar and takes a vow, which in 20 years as he comes back the Lord will remove all the “ifs”. But at least he see the fact that apart from the Lord’s hand he will not see what God has promised him. Jacob promises to give freely a 10th of all that the Lord gives him and in so doing Jacob is saying that his heart, home and treasure are all God’s. Notice the difference of God’s promise to that of Jacob’s vow:

God’s promise:

  • I am the LORD God
  • I will give to you and your descendants
  • I am with you and will keep you wherever you go
  • I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you

Jacob’s vow:

  • If God will be with me
  • And keep me in this way that I am going
  • And give me bread to eat and clothing to put on
  • So that I come back to my father’s house in peace
  • Then the LORD shall be my God

Even though some version render the word “If” to “since” still there is a big difference between God’s promise and our vows. He is faithful even when we are not!