Please be patient: God is not finished with Jacob yet!

God can still use saints that have failed and help them make right choices again, even in their last years. Isaac and Rebekah are an example that it’s never too late to do right. True saints experience guilt and conviction that leads to repentance, forsaking sin, and prospering again. Now governed by the Spirit, Isaac comes to his senses and sends Jacob on a journey to continue in God’s will.

God’s Plan for Jacob (verses 1-9)

God uses various circumstances to woo His children. Jacob is well on in years, probably 70 around this point. He is still externally submissive to his parents, but has not been converted yet. He obeys his parents’ instructions to find a wife from their relatives in Paddan Aram, accepting and following God’s plan for his life. God superintends all human strengths and weaknesses for the salvation of His chosen ones.

Parents should not be tempted to forsake truth because their children don’t know the Lord. It is God’s will for children raised in a godly home to share their parents’ faith. As parents continue to trust God and do the right thing, He uses their obedience, perseverance, and prayer to influence their children.

This chapter shows some spiritual movement and progress being made in this family. Even Esau tries to imitate a godly lifestyle in marrying another wife from the descendants of Ishmael.

God’s Pursuit of Jacob (verses 10-17)

God pursues His children no matter where they are. Jacob finds himself tremendously alone, away from the comforts of life that he loves. He may feel like he’s wandering aimlessly in the wilderness, but he is not alone. God appears to Jacob in a dream and restates the promise of Abraham that Jacob has inherited. He also promises to be with Jacob personally in his journeys.

Scholars differ on their interpretation, but this is likely the moment of Jacob’s salvation. The story illustrates the saying, “the doors of Heaven are never opened from the outside,” but only from the inside. Salvation is completely a work of God. People cannot save themselves or present themselves as acceptable before God. Jacob is even asleep and unconscious! And he still experiences God’s amazing, infinite grace.

God doesn’t save Jacob just because he is a patriarch-to-be. God is excited to save every single soul! Jacob sees God and sees himself as God sees him – completely dark and condemned.

The image of a ladder in Jacob’s dream is God’s way of telling Jacob that He is everywhere. Even in the middle of nowhere, God is working. Angels are doing His bidding. God has His “ladders” set up all over the world, working through His angels and the restraining power of the Holy Spirit. His will continues whether we come along or not, but we can have the privilege to be a part of His work.

Jacob’s Worship of God (verses 18-22)

Jacob’s response to God’s grace is worship. He has a new awareness of God’s presence and how it affects him. His attitude is one of fear and awe at the same time. He wakes up with a different governor of his life, One who demands fear and respect. In the face of God’s glory, Jacob cautiously desires to know and do God’s will the best he can. In the doing of God’s will is where God’s children find joy, even mixed with proper fear.

Jacob learns that God is not dependent on location or structure to meet his needs. Anytime or any place where you are, that is where God’s presence is for you. Understanding this truth about God changes Jacob’s thinking. He names the place “Bethel,” the same name his grandfather Abraham gave it. He acknowledges that any possessions he might have are not his own but God’s and promises to honor Him. Jacob embraces God’s Word for himself and moves forward to do it.

From this amazing experience, Jacob is about to experience 20 years of consequences for his previous failure. Life is never easy for saints, but God allows them to endure.

Application Points

  • Parents and grandparents, stay faithful. Abraham didn’t see his grandson following in his steps, but Jacob came to know the same God as his grandfather. The Lord uses your obedience.
  • God’s will continues whether we come along or not, but we can have the privilege to be a part of His work. Are you cooperating with God’s plan, or fighting it?
  • True worshippers recognize God’s ownership in all areas of life. Do you need to repent of owning your own life? Follow Jacob’s example of having a right attitude, embracing truth, and expressing that in right activity. If you don’t allow God to own every area of your life, examine your own heart – you may need to be saved or get right with God.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • John 6:44 – God the Father draws people to be saved.
  • Malachi 1:2 – Esau is not converted.
  • Hebrews 13:5 – God’s promised presence for church saints.
  • 1 Timothy 2:1-2 – God works through our prayers.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:7 – The Holy Spirit restrains evil in the world.
  • Luke 15:10 – Heaven is excited for each soul’s salvation.
  • 1 Kings 8:27 – God’s presence cannot be contained by any space.
  • Genesis 14:18-20 – The Bible’s first mention of a tithe.
A Hymn to Encourage: “Worthy of Worship”

Worthy of worship, worthy of praise,
Worthy of honor and glory;
Worthy of all the glad songs we sing,
Worthy of all the offerings we bring.

You are worthy, Father, Creator.
You are worthy, Savior, Sustainer.
You are worthy, worthy and wonderful;
Worthy of worship and praise.

Worthy of rev'rence, worthy of fear,
Worthy of love and devotion;
Worthy of bowing and bending of knees,
Worthy of all this and added to these.

Almighty Father, Master and Lord,
King of all kings and Redeemer,
Wonderful Counselor, Comforter, Friend,
Savior and Source of our life without end.