Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Genesis Chapter 28 ~ Jacob Sets out for a Wife and Sees a Ladder

Genesis Chapter 28

Before Jacob left to stay in Paddan-aram with Laban, Bethuel the Aramean's son, his father Isaac told him to take a wife from the daughters of Laban, not the Canaanites. Then he blessed him saying, "God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!” (Gen. 28:3-4) So he went to Laban's, his mother Rebekah's brother.

Esau saw Isaac bless Jacob and send him away to get a wife from Paddan-aram, and he saw that Jacob obeyed Isaac and Rebekah. So he went to Ishmael and took Mahalath, his daughter as a third wife. She was also Nebaioth's sister.

Jacob went from Beersheba to Haran, and he came to a place and stayed the night laying with a stone under his head. He dreamed and saw a ladder on the earth and the top reached to heaven that angels of God were ascending and descending on. The LORD stood above it and said the following:
"I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen. 28:13-15)
Jacob woke up and said that the LORD was in that place and he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Gen. 28:17) So he rose early in the morning and set the stone up for a pillar and poured oil on it, and he called the place Bethel (meaning "House of God"). Prior to all this it was called Luz. Then Jacob made a vow:
"If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (Gen. 28:20-22)
Reflections on this chapter:
Esau takes a third wife. He was already committing polygamy with his two wives, Judith and Basemath. It's difficult to tell if he marries Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael, to spite Abraham or because he thinks the marriage will put him in a better position in his father's eyes. Either way, he just further digs a whole of sin. To my eyes it seems like he's doing this as a reaction to Isaac's urging of Jacob to take a wife from Rebekah's family line. Keeping in line with Esau's past actions and character it seems that he is doing this in rebellion to spite Isaac. Some commentator's think he does this to redeem himself with his folks, but it doesn't quite seem that way to my reading. It could go either way though.

Here we see another example of the "tithe". Tithe simply means 10%. This can be applied to money or goods. We saw the introduction of this 10% gift in Genesis 14 when the then Abram gave Melchizedek 10% of everything he had willingly. So here we see a little more of the concept of tithing fleshed out. First, the tithe was voluntary before it became a mandate later in Israel's history. Second, notice that Jacob sees this tithe in the proper perspective. God Almighty (El Shaddai) owns everything and he simply gives back to God 10% of everything He has given him. Third, it appears to be an act of worship as one who is chosen or elected into God's covenant.

As New Testament believers there are a few passages that speak to us about our giving for the sake of God's kingdom in worship. First consider 1 Corinthians 16:2, "On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come." Christians gather on the Lord's day weekly, the first day of the week when Jesus rose from the grave...Sunday. And as part of their gathering they give back to God an unspecified amount of what He has given them. Another passage to consider is 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." So Christians are not to give out of compulsion but out of joy or good cheer. Christians don't necessarily tithe by giving 10% of what they own on the Lord's day, the first day of the week, Sunday; however, 10% is a good starting point in giving. If we are giving for the support of the ministry and the spread of the gospel to all nations we should consider how we can bump that up to an even larger percentage, don't you think?

In this chapter we see God confirming and further establishing of His covenant with Jacob. He had done this with Abraham and then Isaac. First, we see Isaac give the covenant blessing to Jacob saying may God almighty (El Shaddai) bless you, and now here we see God Himself establishing this covenant to fulfill the covenant He began with Abraham through him. This isn't the first we've seen this name of God, El Shaddai or God almighty. Back in Genesis 17:1 we saw it too when God calls Himself this name and based on the unchangeableness of this name, the full trustworthiness of this God, Abraham is called in covenant to Him. This name is also associated with the giving of the covenant sign of circumcision in Genesis 17. So now, this will be the trustworthy God of the covenant with Abraham and Isaac that will sustain and covenant with Jacob, and that's just what we see.

Lastly, we see the revelation of God in Jacob's dream with angels going into heaven and coming down again on a ladder. The LORD stood above this this ladder and affirmed and extended the covenant to Jacob. What should we make of this? Well, it is through Jacob that God will continue His covenant promise to bring the Messiah that was promised in the "covenant of salvation/redemption" to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15). He is keeping His promise. Since it is God Almighty (El Shaddai) making this covenant with Jacob there is included a wonderful accompanying promise that He will never leave him or forsake him. We saw this promise to Isaac in Genesis 26:3 as well. When Jacob is in isolation, all alone, and miserable he can know that God will be with him when no one else is. We also see that God promises to watch over Jacob and that He will bring Jacob back. This promise will no doubt be sustenance for Jacob in the future. We see this covenant promise of God to His people in the New Testament as well in the "Great Commission". Specifically, as we go into all the world to make disciples He will never leave nor forsake us! (Matt. 28:18-20)

Let's come back to the ladder though. This can also be translated as a "stairway". What is this? It brings to mind what Jesus said in John 1:51 where Jesus said to Nathanael, "And he said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'" God's promise to bring a Messiah through His covenant with Jacob is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Despite our sin, and the utter hopelessness we have in life and death we can have hope. This world is fallen and countless trials accompany a life here. God's wrath is bearing down on us, stored up for us, and yet here in Jesus Christ we see that reconciliation with Yahweh is possible. As the rest of the book of John shows, Jesus Christ would become the perfect fulfillment of Jacob's ladder by being hung on a tree and bearing the eternal wrath of His Father for sinners like you and me. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), and similar to the angels ascending and descending on the staircase/ladder to heaven we can enjoy Yahweh's eternal pleasure and joy for eternity through Christ. He is our ladder! We can escape God's wrath through the blood of Christ. We must turn from our sin and believe in this Messiah!

In this covenant God is making with Jacob we see the promise of the Messiah carrying on. Jacob is in awe of God at this event and sets the stone that he was laying on up as a pillar and anoints it with oil saying this is the "house of God" or Bethel. By pouring oil on the stone he consecrates it and sets it apart for God, and he commits himself to God. This doesn't quite seem like bartering (vs. 20-22), but rather a statement of trust that he is taking God at His word. He's saying that if God holds to His covenant with him, he will too. As we see through the entire Bible, God upholds His covenant and is the one true and living God, God Almighty "El Shaddai". We can be reconciled El Shaddai and come into covenant with Him through Jesus Christ! Praise be to God.

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