The Glory of the Story Sample: Day 109 – Stairway to heaven

Reading: Genesis 28:10-22

Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.

Jacob leaves home, ostensibly to seek for a wife (28:1-2), in reality to flee for his life
(27:42-44). He certainly isn’t seeking God, but God has not forgotten him. In order to be shown the depths of his own need and appreciate God’s sufficiency, Jacob needs to be eased out of his emotionally claustrophobic family with its possessive mother, embittered father and murderous brother. Observe how:

1. God renews his promise (13-14)
When God speaks there is no word of reproach or demand; only a renewal of the promises to Abraham and Isaac. They meet all the needs of Jacob’s solitary, homeless and precarious condition. That the God of Abraham and Isaac should now reveal himself as the God of Jacob the con-man, from whom you wouldn’t buy a used camel, demonstrates just how scandalous grace is.

2. God assures his presence (15)
‘Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ (ESV) This additional promise, particularly suited to Jacob, is underlined in the dream of a stairway resting on earth and reaching to heaven. The fugitive has not been abandoned. Heaven has come to a particular spot on earth and Jacob, like Elisha’s servant, is privileged to see heaven’s resources (2 Kgs. 6:15-17). Just as God’s choice of Jacob caused a conflict that would follow him through the rest of his life, so God’s commitment to him would endure and bring him safely home (cf. Phil. 1:6).

3. Jacob makes a vow (16-22)
Jacob’s response is sometimes regarded as just another example of his wheeler-dealing. But this seems unfair. He expresses profound awe in God’s presence, calling the place Bethel, meaning house of God (16-17; cf. 35:14-15). Jacob is made aware, as Abraham was, of another dimension; a heavenly one. Though his vow (20-21) may seem like bargain-hunting, it is only because God has offered such wonderful bargains! Just as any prayer request is based on God’s promises (cf. Matt. 6:10-11, 31-34), Jacob is claiming precisely what God has promises.

Closing thought
Psalm 23 is the musical version of Jacob’s vow without the ‘if’. Here is a summary of God’s best promises to his children. Rest and revel in them again today.


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