“A Lesson in Jacob’s Dream” (Series: Five on Five: Genesis)
Scripture: Genesis 28:10-22
The story of Jacob going to Haran is actually a story of Jacob on the run. Just a chapter earlier Jacob had deceived his father and stolen his brother Esau’s blessing. Esau was so upset at his brother that Jacob is sent away in order to save his life. When God meets Jacob and appears to him in the middle of his journey, Jacob is a fugitive. Yet God does not show up in order to curse Jacob but to bless him with a reaffirmation of the covenant promises made to his grandfather Abraham. God’s actions are surprising and show the depth of his grace. Sometimes God’s grace only makes sense to us when they’re given to virtuous, faith-filled men like Abraham – certainly not scoundrels, schemers and sinners like Jacob. But when we fail to grasp the truth that we are more like Jacob than we are like Abraham, this is when we lose a sense of God’s incredible grace to us.
In Genesis 28 Jacob is in the middle of nowhere (“an uncertain place”) with nothing (not even a pillow!). And yet God shows up to him in a dream and promises that he will lead Jacob somewhere (the promised land) and give him everything (many offspring). It’s important to understand that God doesn’t make his promises to people because they’ve impressed him or earned it. Nor does he withhold promises in light of all the ways people sin against him. This is true in Jacob’s life and it’s certainly true in our lives. God’s promises are always offered on the basis of his grace – undeserved favor toward the undeserving. God is in the business of coming after those who deserve nothing from him.
Jacob dreams of a ladder leading up into heaven but the ladder was not for Jacob to climb up to God. It was for God to come down to Jacob. Jesus references this dream in John 1:51 and declares that the Son of Man is the ladder! Jesus is literally Jacob’s dream come true. Because we could never reach God, God condescended to us in his Son. This makes the message of Christianity different than every other religion in the world. The gospel message is not about how we can reach God but what God has done to reach us. And that is through sending Jesus Christ into the world to live a perfect life in our place and die a sacrificial death in our place. The gospel message assures us that there is nobody too bad and defiled that Jesus will not go after them and there is nobody so good that they can reach God on their own. Rather God comes after anybody because nobody can reach up to God.
When Jacob finishes the dream he declares that the ground is the gate of heaven. He discovered that God opened up the way to heaven for scoundrels, schemers and sinners like himself and also like us. In response to his encounter and experience of God’s grace, Jacob is transformed. He responds by worshipping and tithing. When we encounter and experience God and his grace, we cannot help but be marked and transformed as well. There must arise a tangible expression that evidences that we have come face to face with his grace in Jesus Christ and been changed.
Suggested Group Discussion Questions
- On the spectrum between two options A) feeling so sinful that God’s grace could never reach you and B) feeling so righteous that you don’t need God’s grace to reach you – where do you think you lean? How has that manifested itself in your life? Give an example if you can.
- How does the grace of God experienced in your life become the grace of God expressed through your life? What tangible, concrete and specific expression can that lead to? (Think through how you can respond to God’s grace with specific actions, thoughts, words, etc) v
- Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon?
- Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.