It is time for the Lord to break into Jacob’s life. He has been chosen by God, but has been pretty unremarkable and deceitful up to this point. Twice he has deceived his brother and he needs to go into his own exile, for things to cool off. Isaac sends him off to Canaan to get a wife and Esau, resentful of how things are going deliberately gets a non Canaanite wife!
Jacob heads off for Haran v10 to escape the wrath of his brother and on the way camps out v11. He uses a stone for a pillow (no memory foam for him!). He’s most aware of his need of protection and guidance and so the Lord is about to reveal himself to the undeserving Jacob, so while he is sleeping has a prophetic dream. In it there is a ladder (not a stairway!) linking heaven and earth. Angels are going up and down it, watching over him and bringing him what he needs. At the top God the Father reveals himself to Jacob – “I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your Father and the God of Isaac”. He’s away from family, left his Father’s house, but the Lord connects him to his family and God’s purposes for the family. I will bring youback toteh land – despite Jacob’s failure and deceit, God in His grace stood by his promises.
The Lord is not just theGod of Jacob’s father, but Jacob’s own God, though he is still looking for further assurance. It’s vital that we find our own faith and not rely on the faith of parents. It’s vital that our children find God for themselves too – a daily prayer for Janet and I.
In a Gospel coalition article, Kevin DeYoung notes five principles
- Parents have more religious influence than they think – The single most important factor in the spiritual and religious lives of adolescents continues to be their parents.
- Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad. Personal piety is no substitute for the quality of the parent-child relationship. Parents who are warm and loving are more likely to pass on the faith than those that are distant and authoritarian. This is especially true when it comes to fathers. A relationally and spiritually distant dad is very difficult to overcome, despite the religious zeal of the mother.
- Allowing children religious choice can encourage religious continuity – Children must not be afraid to explore the whats and whys of their parent’s faith, even if that exploration feels uncomfortable to mom and dad for a time.
- Don’t forget the grandparents. Research shows the important role grandparents play in either subverting the faith of the parents or reinforcing it in their grandchildren.
- “Don’t give up on Prodigals, because many do return.” In Bengtson’s sample, the prodigals who came home were the ones who knew they had parents waiting for them, ready to accept them if and when they returned to their roots. Don’t give up parents. Keep praying and keep on loving.
The last thing to note from today’s passage is that a previous generation had tried to reach heaven by building a tower (Gen 11:1-9). Our efforts don’t succeed – we cannot earn our way. So God comes down – He is not far away, He is close at hand and a very present help in trouble – even to this unscrupulous dishonest Jacob who had robbed his elder brother twice! God who revealed himself to Jacob at Bethel loves to reveal himself to us and come to us. Hallelujah!