Jacob; The Altar Builder
Questions to ponder before you attend Connect Group
- After waking from his sleep, what did he use to set a pillar and what did he pour over the pillar (Genesis 28:18)?
- What did Jacob call that place (Genesis 28:19)?
- In Genesis 31:13, how did God introduce Himself to Jacob?
Jacob was the younger of the twin boys given to Isaac in answer to his prayers (Genesis 25:21-26). At birth Jacob came to this world after Esau, holding onto Esau’s heel. As they grew older, Jacob deceived Esau into forfeiting his rightful inheritance as the first-born to Jacob, thus bringing enmity between the two (Genesis 27:41). To avoid Esau’s revenge Jacob escaped to his maternal uncle Laban.
1. Jacob Had a Dream
It came to pass that Jacob departed from his homeland and headed for Haran. Jacob settled for the night in the place called “Luz”. As Jacob laid to rest for the night, burdened emotionally from loneliness and fear, God caused him to dream. In the dream, Jacob saw a stairway rising from the ground and reaching up to heaven. On that stairway, many angels were ascending and descending to and from heaven. He even saw God standing at the top of the stairway (Genesis 28:12,13). The dream was a source of great emotional relief for Jacob.
Through the dream God taught Jacob about His continued interest and active intervention in world affairs and in the lives of people in covenant with Him. Jacob realized that wherever he might go, God and His angels would guide and protect him.
2. God’s Promise to Jacob
Through the dream God also made promises to Jacob.
First, God promised to give the land where Jacob lay for the night to Jacob’s descendants (Genesis 28:13). The very land where Jacob laid himself to sleep to comfort his loneliness and fear was given to him as an inheritance. Similarly, although we may feel the circumstances and the very environment we might find ourselves in are futile and full of despair, hopelessness can be turned into blessing.
Second, God promised Jacob that his descendants would number like the dust of the earth. This is hyperbole for lots and lots (Genesis 28:14).
Third, God promised that the Messiah would come from one of Jacob’s descendants and that all people worldwide would be blessed by that descendant (seed vs. seeds [Gen 28:14] – the Bible uses the singular rather than the plural). The very blessings of Abraham promised by God, as told through Galatians 3:14 can only be made available through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Fourth, God promised that He would be with Jacob. As Jacob set off on his way to his uncle’s house in Haran, his future was bleak indeed. However, through the dream God’s promise to be with Jacob was a tremendous encouragement. It is the greatest blessing anyone can receive to have God be with that person always. And as Christians we have received that very blessing. Although the world may turn its back on us, God will be with us till the end (Isaiah 41:10).
3. Jacob Built an Altar
Jacob awoke from his sleep after the dream. The events following his dream are clearly recorded in the Bible from Genesis 28:16 to verse 22. What changes came over Jacob?
First, Jacob learned to fear the Lord. Although Jacob had always believed in the Lord, he lacked a fear of God. However, with the realization that God’s presence was not limited to the small area where Abraham settled, Jacob learned to fear the Lord from whose eyes he would have no escape (Genesis 28:16).
Second, Jacob learned to thank the Lord. After awaking, he took the stone he had used as a pillow, set it up as a pillar and poured oil over that stone (Genesis 28:1). This was an altar Jacob dedicated to God in thanks for the blessing God had bestowed on him.
Third, Jacob changed his thought patterns and even his speech. The original name of the place where he met God (Genesis 28:19) was “Luz”. However, after having met God Jacob renamed the place “Bethel’ meaning “the house of God”. After his meeting with God, Jacob’s character started to change.
Fourth, Jacob made a vow to God (Genesis 28:20-22). Jacob vowed to worship and serve God to his fullest as God watched over and protected him on his journey until he could return safely to his father’s house. When we meet God and we receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ, we should dedicate ourselves to worship God and be righteous in His eyes.
4. We Can Build an Altar to God
“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb 13:5 KJV).
Jacob built an altar to God to show his gratitude and appreciation to Him for giving him hope and strength in the time of loneliness and anxiety. The reason God blessed Jacob throughout his life was that God remembered the altar which Jacob built at Bethel (Genesis 31:13). An attitude of thanksgiving has immeasurable power in moving God. Even in the darkest hours of our lives, when we offer thanks for God’s blessings, brightness will come and drive away the darkness enshrouding our lives. How is it that our thanksgiving has such great power?
- First, thanksgiving to the Lord symbolizes submission and obedience to God. Only those who have submitted themselves to God can give thanks to Him even when they are going through tough times.
- Second, thanksgiving is a confession of our faith which leads us to the realization of God’s providence. God told us to give our “thanks in all things” and not only in the happy moments of our lives but also in times of trouble and hardship.
At times we all struggle and fight against defeat, disappointments and despair. Just as Jacob built an altar of thanksgiving in rough times we must also build our altars of thanks to the Lord during our dark times to release the totality of the blessings He has awaiting us.