16 November 2017

Genesis 28:10-22

”Know that 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.” (v. 15)

Psalm: Psalm 119:113-128


Jacob was travelling at his parents' suggestion to put some space into the difficult relationship with his twin brother (Genesis 27:42-43) and to find a wife from his mother's family instead of from among the local Canaanites (Genesis 28:2). At the day's end he bedded down in "a certain place" (v. 11) meaning it was as yet nowhere special. And as he slept he dreamed.

In his dream, he saw a stairway or ladder reaching all the way up to heaven, which even with our knowledge we still tend to visualise as being up in the sky! There is a two-way traffic of angels on this means of connecting heaven and earth, although angels, having wings, would not require steps of any kind to move from one to the other. Angels are heavenly beings who may act as messengers between God and human beings, so both they and the stairway are symbolic of God's desire to communicate with Jacob. However, verse 13 indicates that God had now come down to Jacob, and stood alongside him to speak.

This is the first account of God speaking to Jacob, who is at very least in his forties (Genesis 26:34). God makes an unconditional promise to Jacob, that the land will be his, that he will have numerous descendants, and become a source of blessing to all the peoples of the earth. This is the same promise made to his grandfather Abraham (Genesis 12:23; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4).

When Jacob woke up he knew it was more than a dream, and was awe-struck at having met with God. He created a memorial pillar from the stone he'd used as a pillow to mark this now special place, used oil to mark it as holy, and called the place Bethel meaning "house of God". Finally, he vowed that if his current journey proved successful he would give a tithe or tenth of all he possesses for God's use, thus emulating his grandfather after God had granted him victory in a great battle (see Genesis 14:20).

To Ponder

  • Have you ever found your life changed significantly as a consequence of a dream? If so, how? Or has God ever spoken to you or someone you know in that way, and if so what was it about? Or perhaps there has been another kind of totally unexpected encounter with God?
  • If you, like Jacob, have ever made a vow to God what was it about? Did it depend on God doing something for you? And did you, in the end, fulfil it?
  • How far is the giving of a tenth of one's income to a church or charity a good practice by which to put our money where our mouth and/or our heart is?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a recently retired Methodist minister now living in Devon. He is enjoying the freedom that gives, whenever mood and weather dictsate, to walk on Dartmoor, photograph varied and ever-changing seascapes, or grow vegetables in the garden.