I’ve been studying Genesis for the last several weeks, most recently through a Precept Upon Precept study called Wrestling with God: a Study on Isaac, Jacob, and Esau (Genesis 24-36). Before this, I did the Precepts study on Abraham. I really like the Precept studies – they definitely require a lot of thinking, and if you’ve ever done one, you know they require a lot of marking in your Bible. I can say that I don’t do all the marking like they suggest, but I still enjoy what I learn just through the thought-provoking questions and guided discovery that they provide.
Anyway, today’s study was on Genesis 28, which tells the story of Jacob when he was on his way to Haran to choose a wife from among his Uncle Laban’s daughters. I won’t get started on what I think about choosing a wife from among your first cousins, but I guess things were a lot different back then than they are now. On the way, Jacob stops in an area which at that time was called Luz, and he grabs a rock for a pillow and lies down for a good night’s sleep (if that is even possible with a rock for a pillow). So, as he is sleeping he has a dream about what we called “Jacob’s ladder” when I was a kid. In his dream he sees angels going up and down this stairway that leads straight from the surface of the earth to heaven. And if that’s not enough for him to freak out a little, at the top of the staircase is God, and God speaks to him. All of this is very interesting, but what really hit me today were the promises God made to Jacob:
- “I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying” (v. 13)
- “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” (v. 14a)
- “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (v. 14b)
- “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” (v. 15)
Since I have been studying Genesis for a while, these promises sounded very familiar. In fact, in Genesis 26, God tells Isaac (Jacob’s father) something very similar: “…I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed…” (v. 3-4). And prior to that, God made the same promises to Abraham (Isaac’s father, Jacob’s grandfather) – in Genesis 12, God tells Abram “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (v. 2-3). And in Genesis 17, God makes his covenant with Abraham (same guy, different name), promising to make him fruitful, a father of many nations, and to be his God and the God of his descendants, among other things (which involved some cutting, I believe).
So what I take away from this is that God has plans, and sometimes His plans span generations of time. So often I want to ask God to give me something right now – like my own house to live in (I’m currently a renter). I can’t imagine being told by God that my descendants would be the ones who got to live in the nice house. And I might even get upset to find out He told my child the same thing, and my grandchild something similar. But of course, me having a nice house probably has little impact on God’s overall plan, whereas the blessings that would come from Abraham’s, Isaac’s, and Jacob’s descendants would give everyone on earth the opportunity to live eternally in heaven (namely the fact that Jesus is one of their descendants).
So I guess patience is a big part of faith… As Paul said a few hundred years after all this occurred, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him…” (Romans 8:28).
*Note: I apologize for making a parallel between my selfish desire for a nice house and God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I was only attempting to make an illustration :)