- Locate the passage
Jacob has left home. He had never in his life been alone, not even in the womb. Now, having left home by himself he meets the Lord who says to him, “I am with you.”
The passage is narrative. The Divine conversation is one-directional. The Lord spoke to Jacob. Jacob responds with recognition and worship.
- Determine the structure of the passage
28:10-11 – Jacob settled in a “certain” place
28:12-16 – Jacob hears from the Lord in a dream
28:17-22 – Jacob vows to worship the Lord
- Exegete the passage
The alone-ness of Jacob and the kind assuring presence of the Lord stand out in the text. The comforting message of the Lord’s presence (“I am with you”) overshadows Jacob’s loneliness. Note, that the first request that Jacob makes of God is that “God will be with me.” Indeed, as we track the subsequent events of Jacob’s life, not only can we see the evidence of Divine presence in Jacob’s life and the fulfillment of God’s promise, but we also realize that only God’s direct intervention in Jacob’s life could accomplish the events that are about to unfold.
Allen Ross highlights the significance of this encounter for Jacob noting how the “place became a shrine, a stone became an altar, and a fugitive became a pilgrim.”Allen P. Ross, “Studies in the life of Jacob, pt 1: Jacob’s vision: the founding of Bethel,” Bibliotheca Sacra 142, no. 567 (1985): 224-237.
28:11 – “A certain place”
- The word, “maqohm” occurs three times in this verse to accentuate the apparent randomness of the location, but also the anticipation of the future significance of this location (vs. 19 – “Bethel”).
- God was not there because the place was holy; the place was holy because God was there.
- Jacob put the stones at his head. It is not entirely clear in the Hebrew if Jacob is using the stones as a pillow or a marker of that precise spot.
- The Hb. here and 28:18, “at the head”
- The LXX seems to suggest that the stone was “at the head” of Jacob
- See other similar uses of this phrase (1 Sam. 19:13, 16; 26:7, 11, 16; 1 Kings 19:6).
- However, the fact that Jacob later moves the stone in order to make it a pillar suggests that here the stone had a more functional purpose (Cf. Ex. 17:12) for him.
- It seems here to be a pillow that became a pillar!
- The Hb. here and 28:18, “at the head”
28:12 – In his dream, Jacob saw a “ladder” on the earth and ascending into Heaven
- The word, “sullam” can mean either “ladder” or “stairway.”
- The angels are ascending and descending on the ladder, but do not speak.
- John 1:51 – Jesus references this passage and refers to Himself as the “ladder” on which the angels of God ascend and descend.
- The significance of this ladder is access to Heaven. The presence of the angels (Cf. Gen. 32:1) were a reminder of the Lord’s comforting presence for his journey.
28:13 – The Lord stood above the ladder.
- Thus, the ladder points to and provides access to the Lord
28:13 – I am the Lord
- The self-identification of the Lord to Jacob foreshadows the revelation of God’s Covenant name to Moses (Ex. 3:15; Cf. Isa. 42:8)
- It also establishes the family connection (“God of your father Abraham and Isaac”)
- It also re-establishes the Covenant through Jacob
28:14-15 – Your descendants will be as the “dust”
- This was the promise that the Lord made to Abraham in Gen. 13:16.
- God’s Covenant promise to Jacob included:
- Multiplication of his descendant
- Occupation of the land
- Blessing to people
- Promise of Divine Presence
- I am with you
- I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken
- Assurance that the Lord will bring him back to this land (the land of promise)
28:16 – The unspoken reality of too many in the church today is being unwittingly in presence of the Lord
28:17 – “Awesome … house of God … gate of Heaven”
- Jacob was afraid (Hb. “yara”) and proclaimed “how awesome” (Hb. “nora”)
- The Hb. “nora” is derived from “yara”
- Literally, Jacob was afraid and proclaimed, “How fearful is this place!”
- The “place” now described as the “house of” seems less random than first appeared in vs. 11.
- The “house of God” anticipates the fulfillment of Jacob’s promise in 28:22.
- The “Gate of Heaven” originates from Jacob’s dream where he witnessed the entryway into Heaven.
- Bethel began as a “certain place,” but is now the awesome entryway into the dwelling place of God
- Would that that dream could be replicated in our churches, today!
28:18 – The stone, which Jacob used to mark the place where he slept
- Early in the morning
- Like Abraham before him, Jacob arose early in the morning to worship the Lord
- Jacob took the stone which previously aided in his sleep and used it to mark the spot where he met God
- Setting up and reflecting on pillars was a significant factor in Jacob’s life
- See Gen. 28:18, 22; 31:13, 45; 35:14, 20
- The word only occurs three other times in the OT (Ex. 24:4; Deut. 16:22; Hosea 3:4)
- The pouring of oil on the pillar consecrates it unto the Lord (cf. Lev. 8:10-12)
28:20-22 – Jacob’s vow to the Lord
- Jacob requests four things of the Lord:
- Divine Presence – “If God will be with me”
- Divine Protection – “and keep me”
- Divine Provision – “and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on”
- Divine Peace – “so that I come back to my father’s house in peace”
- Jacob’s reciprocal promise to God is:
- Unique worship of God – “Then the Lord will be my God”
- An establishment of a place of worship – “This stone … shall be God’s house”
- The practice of tithing – “I will surely give a tenth to you”
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
Exp. This passage reveals the significance of recognizing God’s presence and accessing God’s presence through prayer, reverence, devotion, and worship
Exp. Any place can become the “house of God” and anywhere God is, is Holy Ground
Ill. David said in Ps. 16:8 (Cf. Acts 2:25), “I have set the Lord always at my face” in recognition of the omnipresence of the Lord and need for my perpetual acknowledgement of Him
App. Indeed, David affirmed, that “because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”
- The Revelation of God’s Presence
Exp. What we need today in the church is a fresh revelation of God’s presence
- Note the significance of God’s presence both in reality (“Surely the Lord is in this place”) and also an aspect of God’s promise (“I will be with you”)
- The Recognition of God’s Presence (“Surely the Lord is in this place”)
Exp. We need to learn to recognize the presence of the Lord in our lives
Exp. The renaming of the “place” commemorates the significance of this moment for Jacob. Every time he would pass by Bethel again, he would remember that he met God there.
- The Reliance Upon God’s Presence (“If God will be with me”)
- I know that I need Him
- I am aware His presence
- I rely on His protection
- I trust His provision
- I long for His peace
- I trust that God is with me
- I trust that His provision is enough
- I worship Him
- Worship Only Him
- Regular practice of worship
- Worship involves giving
- I know that I need Him
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Allen P. Ross, “Studies in the life of Jacob, pt 1: Jacob’s vision: the founding of Bethel,” Bibliotheca Sacra 142, no. 567 (1985): 224-237.|