Oct 27 Lesson 9
Purpose: To believe in God’s promise always to be present
Background Reading: Genesis 27:19-29; 28:1-4, 10-22; 32:22-30; 35:9-15
Key Verse: I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you. (Genesis 28:15)
Lesson Text: Genesis 28:1, 10-22
By Rev. Dr. John Brantley
Have you ever notices how similar the key verse is to Jesus’s words in John’s gospel 14:1-4? Jesus promises the disciples that he will go and prepare a place for us, and he will return to be with us together. The promise God makes to abide and dwell with us is eternal.
1So Isaac summoned Jacob, [and] blessed him. . . . 10Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. 11He reached a certain place and spent the night there. When the sun had set, he took one of the stones at that place and put it near his head. Then he lay down there. 12He dreamed and saw a raised staircase, its foundation on earth and its top touching the sky, and God’s messengers were ascending and descending on it. 13Suddenly the Lord was standing on it and saying, “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. 14Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. 15I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.” 16When Jacob woke from his sleep, he thought to himself, The Lord is definitely in this place, but I didn’t know it. 17He was terrified and thought, This sacred place is awesome. It’s none other than God’s house and the entrance to heaven. 18After Jacob got up early in the morning, he took the stone that he had put near his head, set it up as a sacred pillar, and poured oil on the top of it. 19He named that sacred place Bethel, though Luz was the city’s original name. 20Jacob made a solemn promise: “If God is with me and protects me on this trip I’m taking, and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, 21and I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God. 22This stone that I’ve set up as a sacred pillar will be God’s house, and of everything you give me I will give a tenth back to you.”
Unknown Holy Place
God faithfully blesses Abraham and Sarah with Isaac who later has sons, Jacob and Esau. The time comes and Jacob is ready to map out his life, settle down and get married. Isaac passes the covenant blessing to Jacob, which changes his plans with Beer-sheeba, creates the opportunity for jealousy to divide the brothers and journey to find a wife in a foreign country. Jacob is feeling like he has the family curse instead of a blessing.
With his body still and sleeping, Jacob’s mind and spirit are awake. Jacob is busy dreaming of a busy ladder, connecting heaven and earth. He finds the Lord at his side in the dark and lonely place. In a time of family crisis, division and searching the Lord shows up to connect Jacob to God’s covenant. The genealogy my progress from parent to child, but the covenant is connected directly from God. God promises that Jacob’s descendants will not be as numerous as the stars but more like the amount of dust or grains of sand in the dessert. They will be not only in one place, instead his people will be found in every direction. The people of God are growing and expanding beyond the family. Jacob is the next in line and the Lord is next to him through it all.
Jacob makes a historical marker for the sight of God’s presence. It is a dark and lonely place where the sun didn’t shine when we went to sleep and when he awoke the same place become holy. The places of our failures and emptiness can become markers of where God connects us, fills and send us. Jacob takes the stones he used for pillows and makes an altar. He anoints it and praises God for the retreat.
Can you imagine going to a retreat center where you were alone, in the dark and slept on rocks? I don’t think this is the motto for our retreat center. We prefer the life giving water, the refreshing shade of the wooded walks and rustic yet comfortable accommodations. I suppose Jacob was hoping for these as well. Instead God found him where Jacob was. What grace and love. God comes to use in our fears and loneliness and connects us to covenant! Can you see the good news?
The Tither Response
In response to God’s grace of conferring the covenant, Jacob is compelled to express his appreciation and devotion, with a gift of one tenth. God did not command the gift. It is Jacob’s reaction to God’s extravagant giving. Our congregation strives to be known as extravagant responders. That means we teach and encourage one another to see God’s presence and to be guided by our appreciation and not our budgets and balances. God continues to extend the inclusive covenant to us through Jesus Christ who is our bridge and connection. We find the Lord standing with us and we give because grace, hope and love bless us still.
Faith in Action
Easy- Help support those who respond with extravagant gifts from the heart. Don’t belittle the expression and response of tithing as archaic and old-school. If you’d rather try sleeping on stone pillow give that try.
Challenge- This is the season for pledge cards in many churches. Consider being joyful about turning yours in instead of an act of duty, test or requirement. Remember God is with us and will see us through the journey of faith. Live each day in God’s extravagant presence and try not to tithe.
Prayer: God, meet us in where we are. Visit us in our dreams, and where we work and play. Disturb our plans and meet us in our fears and failures that we might find you by our side. Amen.