Genesis 28:10-22 ~ 200802 24 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
2/24 Genesis 28 God's Sovereign Grace Toward Sinners
Let's spin up on the background of this story:
Jacob is running for his life. He has just cut in on his brother's inheritance and conned his father into unwittingly giving him the family blessing. Esau is a hairy man and a skillful hunter and now he's after his kid brother. Rebekah arranged for Jacob to travel to her family in Paddan-Aram and wait there until things cooled down at home, and then she would call for him to return. He will never see her again. He is leaving behind his father, who he had just deceived and lied to. Even when his mother had arranged for his father to send him away, it was under pretense that he needed to go find a suitable wife – they didn't tell Isaac the whole story. It was very clear to Jacob that he was not his father's favorite son. And now his twin brother is out to kill him, since he had taken both birthright and blessing that should have come to Esau as the oldest son. Jacob is on his own for the first time – away from his momma's side – away from her cooking and away from her protection. He's on a long journey alone and it seems he's somewhat aimless – he's someplace along the journey and the sun had set so he just finds a rock to rest his head on and goes to sleep. This is probably a harsh reality check for Jacob as he is away from the plush comforts of home and away from a mother who loved him.
So Jacob is running for his life. Remember – there are no good guys in this story! Esau has no interest in spiritual things – he is only interested in satisfying his own cravings and filling his own belly – he despised his birthright and sold it for a bowl of soup, and now he's out to kill his brother. Isaac is not much better – willfully going against God's express design by trying to secretly give the blessing to his favorite son Esau in exchange for a meal of wild game. Rebekah is eavesdropping and scheming and manipulating to get her own way in the situation. Jacob gladly goes along with his mother's plan and deceives his own blind dad -lying to his face and he's willing to let his mom take the consequences for his actions if he gets caught. He even takes God's name in vain and lies that he had the Lord's blessing on his hunt. Nobody is without guilt in this situation. No one is seeking God and his plans.
Jacob is not looking for God. He was looking for the birthright and the blessing and he went after them in his own sinful way, but there is no indication that he at any time is looking for a relationship with God. And he is certainly not looking for God on this journey. He is running away from the situation he created. He is running scared – running for his life. He is exhausted and it is dark and he makes himself as comfortable as he can under the circumstances and goes to sleep in the middle of nowhere. But although he is not looking for God, God is looking for him.
And that's the way it always is. God comes and seeks us out and finds us -often when we least expect it.
Our condition is helpless and hopeless. When we most need God's help, we don't even know that's what we need so we go around trying to find help everywhere else. It is sheer sovereign grace when God reveals himself to us. We are described as:
And that's the definition of grace – God's kindness extended to those that don't deserve it and aren't looking for it.
And in Ezekiel:
Jacob is lost and alone. He's not looking for God; but God shows up right where he is and speaks to him what he needs to hear. God initiated the relationship with this sinner named Jacob.
God gives him a dream and he sees a stairway connecting heaven with earth. Back in Genesis 11 the people came together to build a tower with its top in the heavens and make a name for themselves. The Lord stooped down to see their puny efforts.
We, like Jacob, are sinners. We have dishonored and disobeyed and rebelled against our perfect Creator, and we have placed ourselves in a position that demands the condemnation of a just judge.
Jesus picks up on the imagery from Jacob's dream in John:
Jesus claims to be the stairway to heaven – he is the only one able to bridge this infinite gap.
God in his sovereign grace sent his only Son to bridge the gap of separation between us and our God – to cover our sin and satisfy justice and reconcile us to God.
Listen to what God says to this crook named Jacob:
God is promising to give this wicked deceitful trickster everything – everything he has promised to Abraham. He promises him land and offspring and he promises that in him and his offspring all nations would be blessed. He promises to be with him and keep him wherever he goes and he promises to bring him back to the land. He promises that he will never leave him. And notice what strings are attached – what conditions are stipulated – none! God simply shows up unasked and uninvited and declares what he will do for Jacob. This is simply amazing! Amazing grace toward a wretch like Jacob. God is keeping his promise to Abraham that he made back in chapter 17:
God had promised to be God to Abraham's offspring, and now we've got Jacob and God has a lot of work to do.
In fact, look at Jacob's response to God's unconditional promises and free grace:
Jacob wakes up from his dream terrified. Verse 17 says he was afraid and said 'how awesome is this place'. Actually, the word for fear, terror or dread is repeated – he was filled with dread and said 'how dreadful is this place' or he was terrified and said 'how terrible is this place'.
Jacob's response is appropriate for an unrepentant guilty sinner who finds himself unexpectedly in the presence of the holy righteous God. He was afraid and running from his angry brother. He suddenly realized he had someone much greater to fear. He had offended God.
Hebrews 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
But God is not showing up as his judge this time. He doesn't even mention his sins (he doesn't have to – the sheer presence of the holy God is enough to pierce the conscience of the most hardened sinner). God is not showing up to judge Jacob – God shows up to bless Jacob – he promises gifts and real estate and children and he promises to be with him and to take care of him and to bring him safely back home. He promises that he will not leave his side. These are amazing promises – poured out on a fugitive who is fleeing for his life. How does Jacob respond to God's sovereign grace? It's apparent that Jacob has not yet learned about generosity. When his brother was hungry and wanted a bowl of soup, he took advantage of the situation and demanded the exchange of birthright for soup. Now God shows up in the middle of the night to Jacob and makes vast promises at a time when Jacob has nothing to give – he doesn't even have a pillow. Jacob is scrambling in the morning. He sets the stone he slept on up as a memorial; he names the place Beth El – the house of God. And then he makes a vow. And his vow takes the form of a bargain. He lays out his requirements for God – if God is with him and takes care of him and meets his basic physical needs and brings him safely back home, then he will accept God as his God, and he will do some really nice things for God in return. He will make this place where he camped the night into God's house and he will give a tithe to God. WHAT???
First of all, God didn't show up and say 'I've got some really nice things that I would like to do for you if you will give me a tenth of your income'. This wasn't a business transaction. God showed up and said 'I am God, and I can do what I want. I am going to bless you whether you like it or not. I am giving you land whether you want it or not. I am going to bless you with lots and lots of children – whether that's what you wanted or not. I am going to use you and your line to bless the whole world. And I'm going to be with you taking care of you and bringing you back home safely. I'm not leaving your side – whether you like it or not.' God didn't make him an offer – he declared to him what he was going to do. He didn't ask for Jacob's permission.
Next, notice what Jacob is willing to settle for in his bargain with God. God offers him land and offspring and his own presence to bless him and take care of him, and Jacob settles for bread and clothes and a safe return to his father's home.
Last, notice what Jacob offers in return. If God will do all these things for him, then he will acknowledge him as his own God. 'God, if you jump through my hoops and do what I've requested, then you will earn the right and privilege of being my own personal deity'. As if Jacob is in the position to be taking applications from any available deities to see who gets the job. And he offers God a house. Even Solomon, when he built the temple in Jerusalem, recognized the absurdity of that:
And then he offers him a full tenth. God, if you give me $100 I will give you $10. What a bargain for God! This is the epitome of arrogance to think that you can give God a gift that will do him some good. At least Jacob acknowledged that he didn't have anything to give that wouldn't have first come as a gift from God. God makes it very clear that he does not need our gifts. He is the unlimited source of all things. And he is the sovereign who owns and controls all things:
So Jacob has a long way to go. God has a lot of work to do on this guy. He's a deceiver and a deal maker, and he doesn't know what to do when he is offered a generous gift. We're going to be with Jacob as God hones and develops his character for the next seven chapters, and then he shows up again at the end of the book.
But I want to close with a question; how should we respond to God's free and sovereign grace? God has made promises to us – ridiculously beautiful and generous and good promises. Promises to be our God and forgive our sins and reconcile us to himself and give us an inheritance that was purchased by Jesus Christ. How should we respond?
1. Acknowledge our need – we are in a desperate circumstance and need God's help.
2. Take God at his word; trust him; believe. Accept the help he offers.
3. Worship – thank and praise him for his generosity. Spread the news that there is a great and generous God who has paid the ultimate price to secure freedom and life for us who are enslaved by sin and on our way to hell.
Acknowledge your need; Take God at his word; Worship him for he is worthy of our affection.