A Life-changing Encounter

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Jacob’s amazing dream: Genesis 28:10-21

Background: Jacob was running away from his brother, Esau because he heard that Esau planned to kill him. Why? Jacob deceived his father, Isaac into giving him the blessings that belonged to Esau, the eldest son. (Gen. 27)

Where: on the road as his bed, with a stone for a pillow (v.10-11)

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 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. 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.” How amazing? “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.”

Jacob’s response: an offering and naming the place
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, though the city used to be called Luz.

Jacob’s prayer and promise:
“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 will be my God 22 and 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.”

To ponder:
1) Where do I discover God? When can I find Him? I can encounter in Him the strangest of places, in unexpected experiences at the most unlikely times of my life. Jacob was fleeing and afraid for his life. He had a rough road for his bed and a hard stone for his pillow.

2) What is God saying to me? Whatever my experiences (not necessarily in dreams), it is God reaching out to me. His promise: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised.

3) What is my inner response? Does my heart bow in worship? Do I realize the significance of each encounter? Am I in awe of God’s presence? Is my experience of God’s presence like the gate of heaven?

4) How do I respond outwardly? What will my hands offer? Jacob made an offering in thanksgiving, he set up stone of remembrance of experience. He named the place. Do I remember and honor each encounter with God? In worship and thanksgiving, in praise and sharing the blessings to others?

5) What do I say to God? Jacob’s prayer is simple and basic: food, clothing, shelter. Provision for his journey: food to eat and clothes to wear, safe passage to home. How contented or how greedy am I when I pray to God?

Ultimate response:
a) Loyalty to God: the Lord will be my God. Where is my focus? Is there a shift in value or perspective when God reveals Himself to me? Do I linger in my problem or in the One who promised to be with me never to leave?

b) Witness for God: pillar set up to be God’s house: so others will also experience God. Do I pay it forward: Share the good news? Does an encounter with God make me less selfish and think more of others?

c) Give back to God: all you give me, I will give you a tenth. All I have come from God. What do I have that is not by His grace? What have I earned that is not by His mercy? Material blessings: how do I perceive them? How do I receive them? Are they taken for granted? With a sense of entitlement? Am I grateful? Even a breath of air is a breath of life. Can I give God back each breath I take? Does He need it from me? No and no.

Giving back to God is rightful response of a thankful heart – a heart of worship. All of life is meant for worship to the Ultimate Giver of life… a worship of thanksGiving by thanksLiving.

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