Jacobs Dream At Bethel
Jacob left Beersheba and started toward Haran.
Genesis 28:10 (GNT)
Jacob the “home boy” is now without a home and is starting on a five hundred mile trek to Haran. He was fleeing from an angry brother and facing an unknown future, and all he had to depend on was his father’s blessing. From now on, the home boy would have to become a pilgrim and walk by faith. It was a three-day journey to Bethel, and those first three days of his adventure must have been very difficult.
Would Esau follow him and try to kill him?
Would he have enough food to keep him going?
A Significant Dream
As dusk approached one day, he came to a place where he could stay for the night. He saw stones scattered all around and put one of them under his head; then he lay down to sleep. During the night, God gave him a dream. He saw a ladder set up on the earth, and its top reached to the heavens. He saw some messengers of God ascending and descending on it.
Genesis 28:11-12 (VOICE)
Jacob slept on the earth with a stone for his “head piece”, a common practice in the Near East. The stone was probably more a protection than a pillow. As he slept, he had a dream in which he saw a ladder or stairway with angels going up and down between heaven and earth. Jacob discovered that he wasn’t alone but that God was with him! The God of Abraham and Isaac was watching over him and His angels were there to guard and serve him.
A Significant Declaration
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.”
Genesis 28:13-15 (NLT)
Genesis 28:13-14 repeats the blessing God gave to Abraham and Isaac and identifies this as the actual time that this blessing was passed to Jacob. The events of Genesis 27 were not necessary. God would have given Abraham’s blessing to Jacob just as He promised Rebekah (Genesis 25:23). They didn’t have to go through the lies and deception. All that produced was hardship for the whole family.
The Lord didn’t rebuke Jacob for participating in Rebekah’s scheme; instead, He spoke words of promise and assurance to him. The same God who had cared for his father and grandfather pledged to care for him and to give him the very land on which he was lying. He would also multiply his descendants and fulfills the promise to bring blessing through them to the entire world.
This didn’t physically come to pass in Jacob’s lifetime. He actually went into Egypt and died there (Genesis 50:5). Four generations of Abraham’s descendants didn’t see this promise fulfilled in their lifetimes (Genesis 15:13-16). But it did come to pass (Habakkuk 2:3).
The Lord promised to be present with Jacob in whatever circumstances lay before him. In those days, people had the idea that when you left home, you left your god behind you. But the Lord of all the earth promised to go with Jacob, protect him, and one day bring him back home. No matter what happened, He would accomplish His will in and through Jacob.
God would appear to Jacob at least five more times in the years ahead, but this first meeting was a significant one. He learned that God was interested in him and was at work in his life. From that night on, as long as he trusted the Lord and obeyed His will, he had nothing to fear.
A Significant Decision
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”
Genesis 28:16 (NLT)
Dreams are a bit mysterious. There are many theories about what dreams are and why we dream, but no one knows for sure. What is sure is that at times in the Scriptures God uses dreams to reveal Himself to His covenant partners. Certainly not everyone has revelatory dreams, and not all dreams are revelatory. But sometimes, on special occasions, when it suits God’s purposes, dreams can be a vehicle to see, hear, and experience reality, as God knows it.
Notice that Jacob didn’t awake and say there really is a God. He already believed in the existence of God, but his life wasn’t submitted to Him at this time.
The truth is that the Lord is everywhere we are. The problem is that we seldom recognize it. The Lord wasn’t any different; it was just Jacob’s perception that had changed.
But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”
Genesis 28:17 (NLT)
On awakening, Jacob’s first response was one of fear and surprise. God was in that place, and he didn’t know it! But “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7), so Jacob’s response was the right one.
He discovered that he could find God in unlikely places and that any place is “the house of God” (Bethel) because God is there. He would be away from his father’s house for at least twenty years, but the Lord would be his “dwelling place” no matter where he went (Ps. 90:1).
Jacob got up early the next morning took the stone that was under his head, and set it up as a memorial. Then he poured olive oil on it to dedicate it to God.
His next act was to worship the God who had appeared to him. He turned the headpiece into a pillar to memorialize the great experience that had been his that night. By pouring oil on the stone, he consecrated it to the Lord. He didn’t use the stone as an altar or make a sacrifice; he simply set it apart as a memorial.
He named that place Bethel, which means “house of God.” Before that the name of the city had been called Luz.
Genesis 28:19 (VOICE)
This was the same place the Lord had spoken His blessing to Abraham. Abraham built an altar at Bethel shortly after the Lord first appeared to him when he came into the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:7-8).
Then Jacob made a promise. He said, “If God will be with me and take care of me as I go, and if He will give me food to eat and clothes to wear, so that I return in peace to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God.”
Genesis 28:20-21 (NLV)
Making deals with God is not the best way to approach Him. He is God. We aren’t. We just need to submit to Him. But each one of us has to go through a process where we are convinced that He exists and we turn our lives over to Him. God graciously manifests Himself to every single one of us.
God had already promised to be with Jacob wherever he went and bring him again into this land (Genesis 28:15). Jacob was saying that if God’s promises to him held true, then he would serve Him.
And this stone I have made into a pillar will be the first stone laid in God’s house. And Lord, of everything You give me, I will give one-tenth always back to You!
Genesis 28:22 (VOICE)
Keys To Generous Living
The lives of the patriarchs richly illustrate the generosity toward God and other people are the inevitable result of a life-changing encounter with God. The faithful act of tithing (giving a tenth) began as an act of faithful devotion to God to acknowledge that he alone is our source.
Understand that, to the patriarchs, tithing was an expression of loyalty to and faith in God. It was also an expression of covenant relationship with God. It preceded the law and today abides as a choice under grace.
Jacob didn’t have an easy life in the years that followed; for though God forgave his sins and was with him in his journeys, Jacob suffered the consequences of his sins. God in His grace forgives us, but God in His righteous government sees to it that we reap what we sow.
Jacob had deceived Isaac, but his father-in-law Laban lied to Jacob and deceived him. Jacob used a kid to deceive his father, and Jacob’s sons used a kid to deceive their father (37:29-35).
During the years he worked for Laban, Jacob endured many trials, both as a shepherd and as the husband of four wives and the father of many children. The thing that kept him going when the going was tough was his faith in the promises of God. God promised to be with Him, and that’s what Jacob depended on (31:42; 49:24-25).
And the Lord didn’t fail him, nor will He fail us. “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.“ (Ps. 46:7).
DECLARATION OF FAITH
My heavenly Father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is with me at all times. He is ever mindful of our covenant and sees to it that its blessings are fulfilled in my life. He is always with me and watches over me wherever I go. I have His Word that no matter what may take place in my life, He will provide for me and sustain me through it.
Father, I commit myself to you wholly. You are my God and Father. My provision comes from You alone. I do not trust in riches or the strength of my arms. I trust in You. You alone are the provider of my food and clothing. Your goodness and mercy surround me, and I find rest in your tender care. Therefore, I will gladly give back at tenth of my increase.
I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
Jesus has become my Rock. He is with me wherever I go and provides for my every need. He keeps me in safety at all times. He continually watches over me, giving me food to eat and clothes to wear. Therefore, I will not fail to pay Him the tithe of all of my continual, God-given increase.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’s name! Amen.