Introduction: We frequently under-appreciate how God’s Providence and Grace safely guide us. Even though our own steps wander in a crooked line of sin and doubts, His Hand guides right to the place where He has ordained for us to be all along. To find that place, and to discover that God has a place for us, and a work for us to do for Him in this world, is something to cry over in amazement even as Jacob weeps with joy in Genesis 29:11. Let’s study in this week’s notes God’s amazing Providence and surprising Grace in Jacob’s life and be reassured that His plan for our lives is just as specific and tailor-made though perhaps surprising in its twists and turns.
Monday: read Genesis 28:16-29:6 and John 1:50-51. Jacob is led by God to the very well of water where he will discover Rachel – from the very family into which his parents Rebekah and Isaac planned for Jacob to marry. But we ought not be surprised that God led Jacob so flawlessly. Already in Gen. 28:16, Jacob discovered that God’s guiding Hand and Presence were much closer than he had realized: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” No wonder Jacob is thankful (as his tithe to God in Gen. 28:22 shows), and fearful, Gen. 28:17. Such a discovery that God is in every corner of our lives, and that we cannot escape His watchful Eye or Presence is indeed awesome!
Meditate and Pray: Have you come to appreciate that the Son of God is Omnipresent in your life? Do you realize that, if God desired to show Himself in the Person of His Son standing in heaven, it would be simply a matter of pulling back the curtain of heaven and you too would see ‘the Lord standing at the top of Jacob’s ladder’ (Gen. 28:13)? Jesus came to earth to be born, live, die and rise in order to bring down once and for all the very rungs of Jacob’s ladder into your life, as He tells Nathanael in John 1:51. Jesus Christ is Jacob’s ladder, and He rose from the dead so that He could make all the nooks and crannies of your life instantly accessible to His Presence. Ask the Son of God to help you to live in awe and thankfulness for this reality: that there is no hiding from Him.
Tuesday: read Genesis 29:7-13 and Jeremiah 29:11. Rachel runs to tell her father Laban of a visitor at the well who watered the sheep and who amazingly revealed himself to be Jacob, son of their relative Rebekah. Laban himself runs to meet Jacob, who then recounts to Laban in Gen. 29:13 “all these things,” that is, all the amazing Providences which God put in Jacob’s path to lead him safely and miraculously to Laban’s house. No wonder Jacob ‘weeps aloud’ in Gen. 28:11! He is full of joy to see how well God’s plans for him are unfolding.
Meditate and Pray: None of us can grasp or believe how good God’s purposes are when He answers our prayers and brings us safely where we and our loved ones are meant to be. Rebekah too would have wept if she were there, beholding her son Jacob safely arrived at the home of his long-lost relatives. Thank God for the promise of Jeremiah 29:11: “God knows the plans He has for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Do you believe God has your best interest in mind? If you can’t see His good plans in the Providence of your life right now, then look to the cross. If God did not spare His Son for you, but freely gave Him up for your sins, will He fail to guide you all your life long? You must entrust yourself entirely to such a Caring, Planning God.
Wednesday: read Genesis 29:10 and 29:14-20. It is amazing that humble domestic tasks cheerfully performed become under God moments of answered prayer and blessing. Jacob shows his heart for Rachel by volunteering to water her father’s sheep in Gen. 29:10. In such a humble spirit of labor and love, the 7 years of toil which Jacob will give to marry her (Gen. 29:20) seem like ‘just a few days.’ Since these Bible Notes are sent out to several singles in our church family, let me ask this question: “Do you want to find true love?” Refuse to heed Hollywood’s promise that physical attraction and appearance are the cement for a long-term relationship. Instead, find someone who is willing to ‘water your sheep,’ as Jacob did for Rachel; as Moses did for his bride’s father (Exodus 2:15-21) and as Rebekah did when she first met Abraham’s servant who had come to find a bride for Isaac. What did that wise servant choose as a sign that he had found a godly bride for his master’s son? A willing, servant’s heart to give water not only to him but also to the camels, (Gen. 24:14), which Rebekah did in Gen. 24:19!
Meditate and Pray: “Lord, in our nearest and dearest relationships, help us not to grow weary in humbly serving one another. Give us the servant’s heart spoken of in Hymn #335:” “Gracious Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would gracious be; and with words that help and heal would thy life in mine reveal; and with actions bold and meek would for Christ my Savior speak.”
Thursday: read Genesis 28:13; Genesis 32:24-30 & Genesis 48:16. The same Spirit of God which motivates Jacob to humbly serve Laban to win his bride Rachel in Gen. 29:20 also one day would motivate the Son of God to come down to earth and ‘serve’ by giving His life a ransom for many in order to win His Bride, the Church – see Mark 10:45. The Son of God is in His essence a loving servant-husband. No wonder that in our story the Lord Himself is ‘standing’ at the top of Jacob’s ladder in Gen. 28:13. To stand in human visible form in heaven, ready to come to our aid, is the job of the Son of God, our Redeemer and Jacob’s. Just as this same Son of God would later stand in heaven ready to come to Stephen’s aid as he faced martyrdom in Acts 7:55-56, so here Jacob sees the Lord, ready to come down and help him – not as ‘a mere angel’ descending and ascending Jacob’s Ladder, but as The Angel of the Lord, whom Jacob will praise at the end of his life, as the ‘One who delivered him from all harm,’ in Gen. 48:16.
Meditate and Pray: Thank Jesus now that He still stands ready to send you aid in your wanderings in this life. He promises to come to you when you cry out to Him for help. When was the last time you cried out to the Lord Jesus as your only hope? Do so, and Jesus’ promise in John 14:18 will be yours: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
Friday: read Genesis 28:18-19. Before we follow Jacob into more than 14 years of struggle and compromise under the thumb of Laban his father-in-law in Gen. 29:21ff, let us pause to remember the place where Jacob takes his stone pillow, consecrates it as a ‘pillar’ by which to remember God’s faithful appearance to him, (Gen. 28:18), and renames the place ‘Bethel,’ meaning ‘House of God.’ Just as Joshua would later build with stone a permanent memorial to God’s parting of the Jordan River in Joshua 4:3-7, so here Jacob wants all the world to see his stone pillar as a visible reminder of His faith in God’s promises and appearance to him at that place. He calls the place ‘House of God,’ to testify to his profession of faith in the God of Abraham and Isaac. One day he would return and set up another pillar in thankfulness to the God who brought him back to the Promised Land and to his father’s house in Genesis 35:14.
Meditate and Pray: Sadly in later years Israel would pervert these early stone memorials to God’s faithfulness. Though erected by ‘fathers in the faith’ these ‘pillars’ or ‘sacred stones’ would be outlawed by Moses along with other forms of idolatry in Leviticus 26:1. Let us ask God now to deliver us from all forms of heart idolatry: silver, gold, houses, lands, man’s praise and honor, or even the flesh and blood of our fathers. As Andrew Bonar writes in his commentary on Leviticus 26:1 – “Set up no rival, none that approaches near to God; not even father or mother, wife or child.” Of course, this is not to say that God fails to remember His covenant to our children – this very place called ‘Bethel’ in Gen. 28:19 will become the place where all of Jacob’s wayward children return to God, having buried their idols in a journey of repentance back to ‘Bethel.’ “Lord, please make your House where we worship you a place of constant reconsecration for our families. Please help us as families to bury our idols even after years of wandering, and find new joy with you in your House.” Amen.
For further reflections on Jacob’s wandering to Bethel and back again, consider the lyrics to this Scottish hymn by Philip Doddridge:
O God of Bethel, by whose hand
thy people still are fed;
who through this earthly pilgrimage
hast all our fathers led:
Our vows, our prayers, we now present
before thy throne of grace:
O God of Israel, be the God
of their succeeding race.
Through each perplexing path of life
our wandering footsteps guide;
give us each day our daily bread,
and raiment fit provide.
O spread thy covering wings around,
till all our wanderings cease,
and at our Father’s loved abode
our souls arrive in peace!
Such blessings from thy gracious hand
our humble prayers implore;
and thou shalt be our covenant God
and portion evermore.