Genesis: Root, Relationship, Redemption – Meeting God In Unexpected Places

CC image from きうこon Flikr

CC image from きうこon Flikr

Genesis: Roots, Relationship, Redemption

Meeting God In Unexpected Places

Genesis 28:10-19a

“Look at the sky Abraham, count the stars.

Count them, each and everyone, if you dare!

Do you see? Can you image, child? This is what your family will be like.

Shining bright and bold against the still sea of navy. So many of them! This is your family, Abraham.

And this place, the dust and dirt under your feet, the trees and the animals that live here … this is the home I have set-aside just for you. You and yours. Welcome home, child.

Don’t be afraid. You never ever have to be afraid for I am going to be your God, your great protector, your bless-er, your father. I am yours and you are mine.”

         God made a promise to Abraham. To bless, to protect, to be his God. A promise that was handed down from generation to generation. From Abraham, down to his son Isaac. From Isaac down to his son Jacob. On to all of Israel… and on, again and again, down to us today.

         But this is not to say that the passing of the blessing has been smooth … or that the promise is passed from one righteous or deserving person to the next. Quite the opposite actually! The blessing of God has seen some major twists and turns and shady people!

         For example, last week, we learned about the twins who were the next step in this passing on of the promise: we meet Esau The-very-hairy-more-brawn-than-brain older brother and Jacob Master-of-tricks-and-skilled-manipulator younger brother.

         Esau was the one that Isaac intended to pass the Birthright to. Birthright meaning an extra inheritance and the right to be called head of the family… but because we are talking about descendents of Abraham… we are also talking about the Birthright being the next link in the chain of God’s promise. This was a big time Birthright. So Jacob, not once but twice, tricked Esau out of his “rightful” Birthright.

         And this is where our Scripture passage, catches up with us today. Jacob had stolen the Birthright, the very blessing of God, from his twin brother. And rather than throw a party to celebrate the victory of the underdog… He runs! He has to! Esau is on a war path… So Rebekah, the mother of these two, helps Jacob hightail it out of there, pointed in the direction of Haran (her hometown) to escape his brother’s vengeance.

         Now you may be thinking, “Well, this doesn’t sound right. When we think of Father Abraham, we picture a kindly man with a white fluffy beard and a brood of pious-churchy type descendants running around him. The loyal Isaac, the hardworking and dedicated Jacob… So this, this couldn’t be Jacob.

         A thief and a trickster running for his life!   A man that would see his own success over the peace and unity of the family. That’s Jacob, really?”

         Yup, that’s him. But as I was saying early, the blessing of God has seen some shady people!

         Jacob ran away into the desert, ran for his life.   Away from his beloved mother, away from his home, away from his people. Ran with the label, ‘schemer’ and ‘usurper’ tagged on his back.

         And it is there, that he is found.

         It is there that he has a very unexpected encounter with God.

         When night falls, Jacob curls up with a rock for a pillow and dreams of a heavenly highway. Scripture tells us that Jacob sees in his dream a raised staircase that started on the ground and ascended into the heavens.

         Now, this staircase… May bring to mind a bunch of renaissance paintings of angels climbing wooden rung ladders up into the clouds. But that image is unlikely to be what Jacob experienced.

         In the ancient middle-east, there were structure that we now call ziggurats. These kind of looked like one of the Egyptian pyramids cut in half. One layer of block, on another layer of block set in a little bit. Built up towards the sky, until they eventually plateau.   And sometimes there was a ramp cut into the stone right down the middle. These were ceremonial religious structures. Priest, back in the day, would ascend to the top, high off the ground, to give thanks to God. So what Jacob saw, was probably less ladder-esque, and more like a very ancient church.

         And then Scripture says that God then appeared standing on it. But the language here suggests that God was then standing beside Jacob on it.

         Now, lets play with this image a little bit.

         Imagine this, Jacob falls asleep in the desert, and dreams that he is in a church (a church as we know it). Perhaps, similar to this one. Jacob (a man weary from the events of the day, bearing the stolen birthright, knowing that his twin brother has vowed to kill him, knowing that he had just rocked the boat big time at home) slides into a pew to rest and find comfort.

         And then God slides into the pew next to him. After a peaceful moment, God turns to Jacob and says,

“Take a look out that window Jacob, look at the land. See the dust.

It blows to the west and the east. To the north and to the south.

So much dust. Just like your family will be, spread across the globe.

Don’t be afraid, child, I’ll get you home again.

Don’t be afraid! You never ever have to be afraid for I am going to be your God, your great protector, your bless-er. For I am yours and you are mine.”

         This beautiful and comforting promise, begs the question: why is Jacob, given the mess he made and having stolen the blessing, why is he a part of this great promise? Is God really OK with this? Why is it now, after Jacob has made a royal mess of his life… why is it then that God chooses to appear?

         And to explore that question, I have a video for us to watch from the Skit Guys. Show video.

         Our Lord, said to Jacob,

“Don’t be afraid, child, I’ll get you home again.

Don’t be afraid! You never ever have to be afraid for I am going to be your God, your great protector, your bless-er. For I am yours and you are mine.”

         Jacob encountered God at his lowest point. And it is hard for us to fell pity for him, because he is the thief in this story. But, nevertheless, God finds Jacob in the desert. God finds him far away from his home, curled up with a rock as a pillow… and offers not judgment but the gift of grace.

         Can any of us identify with Jacob here?

         Have we ever gotten ourselves into a mess, and found that it is there that we find God’s voice. Have you ever been one of those people in the video. Lonely and turning to an addiction to ease that pain. Or been in a frustrating, in-over-your-head moment… needing relief and a spark of hope Or been just inches away from doing something implosive…

         If you have, then you know Jacob.

         God’s blessing went to Jacob. The story tells us that this is because Jacob tricked Esau out of it. But do we really think that God’s blessing would be derailed by the actions of human kind? No.

         God’s blessing went to Jacob not in spite his actions. But perhaps because of them.

        Now here is some truth for you: God uses the broken and the lost to carry the message of the Gospel. God uses the hard moments, those unexpected places, to teach us about grace.

         Just as God can use a schemer, and transform him into a richly blessed man who will later serve as a vessel of God’s love to others. So too can God use us. Even with the bruises and scars…

         When you find yourself in the desert’s of life. Having run away or lost hope in something. Know that God is looking for you. Searching for you, to gift you with perfect grace.

         As our Lord said,

“Don’t be afraid, child, I’ll get you home again.

Don’t be afraid! You never ever have to be afraid for I am going to be your God, your great protector, your bless-er. For I am yours and you are mine.”

Let us pray, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Lord of Ishmael, Hagar, Sarah even Esau. We pray to you this morning, seeking that you might find us in those dark/desert moments and redeem them for your purpose. Amen.


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