Lord, Your Word is my guide and Your promises are sure. Open my heart to the opportunities and possibilities of today.
Read GENESIS 28:10–22
Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[a] stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[b] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[c] though the city used to be called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[d] will be my God 22 and[e] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.’1 Recall some of God’s promises, giving thanks that through Christ they become our reality.
God often meets us in our extreme places. Jacob cuts a lonely figure in a remote wilderness. Having left the security and comfort of home, particularly his mother’s devoted love, he now suffers the major discomfort of choosing a stone for a pillow. He’s on a journey to an extended family he has not met and on a mission to find a wife (1,2). The one thing he can hold on to is his father’s parting gift: a prayer of blessing and a reminder of his heritage as an heir of the covenant promises of God (3,4). Sometimes our sole consolation is the bare word of promise: ‘I have called you by name, you are mine’.2
Jacob’s isolation brings a rich experience of God. I never quite know what to make of the Celtic idea of ‘thin places’, supposedly places where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially thin. Certainly, this secluded site becomes a place of revelation. The presence of God is revealed to Jacob, and he names it ‘the house of God’ (Bethel), erecting a memorial pillar to mark it. Is it the location or the person who is ‘thin’? God graciously meets Jacob in his des-perate need and speaks a transforming word, just as He blesses the poor in spirit and those who mourn.3 It is the word rather than the experience that will sustain him. God grabs his attention so that he will listen to the renewal of the covenant promise (13–15). In our own lives, too, it often takes upheaval for us to hear God. Our troubles can be the occasion for a voice that transcends the ‘tumult of our life’s wild, restless sea’.4 It comes to remind us of God’s universal purpose (14), His commitment to His promise (15) and our part in it all.
Jacob’s response to God’s promise produces his own far-reaching promise, including a commitment to generosity. What practical response will we make to the precious promises of God?
Gracious Heavenly Father, make me sensitive to hear Your voice, to sense Your guidance, and to do Your will. This is my heart’s desire.
1 2 Cor 1:20 2 Isa 43:1, NRSV 3 Matt 5:3,4 4 Cecil Frances Alexander, 1818–95, ‘Jesus calls us; o’er the tumult’