Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” –Genesis 28:16
This passage tells of Jacob running for his life after his grand deception with Esau. Rebekah directed her ornery son to the safe haven of Haran—400 miles away—where her brother Laban lives. Jacob would retrace the steps of Grandpa Abraham who journeyed from Haran to the promised land many years before.
Disclaimer: Like other stories in Genesis, Scripture simply reports events that happened. In the following story, however, I have elaborated with some fictional details.
You may read Genesis 28:10-22 here: Bible Gateway.
Jacob sped north on his camel for hours, stopping only once for water at one of his father’s old wells. He lapped up the water before filling all his wineskins.
The lowering sun would soon give way to darkness. How far had he traveled, 50-60 miles? So far there were no signs of Esau in hot pursuit. But he would surely be on to him tomorrow. By then Jacob would have a good 60-80 mile advantage.
The plan was simple. Jacob would stay in Haran a few months, find a wife, and then return home to Beersheba. Plenty of time for Esau to simmer down.
Rank sweat mixed with dirt gave Jacob’s skin a leathered look. Any other day he would have made cleansing a priority. Today, however, was no ordinary day! He had secured his father’s blessing. But knowledge of his success didn’t lessen the lonely fear that kept creeping in. If only he could rid Esau’s bitter cry out of his throbbing head.
Jacob’s throat felt parched again. He would only drink a couple sips of water. Tomorrow he would have to ration the water and food carefully. Hopefully he would reach Haran by week’s end. Hopefully he would stumble across more wells. Be optimistic, he told himself. It will all work out.
Jacob stretched his aching muscles. He chose a spot sheltered by a cluster of trees—away from the dirt road—for his makeshift bed. The physical exertion of leveling the ground helped ease a little of his anxieties. At least the darkness would temporarily hide him from bandits. He willed himself to not think about hungry wild animals.
Jacob’s heartbeat boomed inside his head as his eyes opened. The words—God’s words—still ringing through his mind. His voice, majestic and rumbling like a wild river, filled him with awe and a sense of holiness.
“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land in which you are lying . . . . All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 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.”
This is no ordinary dream . . . so vivid and real. Mighty angels were climbing up and down a staircase that stretched to the heavens. Although they glowed with a holy aura, their light brightened as they climbed upward. So much so, that even in his dream, Jacob had to shield his eyes.
Fear sprung up in him again. For he was unworthy of being in the presence of such a holy God. Yet, God promised him blessing and protection.
“How awesome is this place! . . . This is the gate of heaven!”
Early that morning Jacob took his stone pillow and set it up as a pillar to remind him of his experience. He poured oil over it. “This place shall be called Bethel.” He bowed his knee and vowed, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey and will give me food and clothes so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
God’s covenant promise given to Abraham and Isaac was also offered to Jacob. Although he was Abraham’s grandson, Jacob would have to establish his own personal relationship with God.
It’s not enough for us to just hear about wonderful Christian family or church members. God has no grandchildren, only children. He desires to be in a personal relationship with each of us. He makes this possible through the work of His son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” –2 Corinthians 5:21
God was gracious with Jacob. He is also gracious with us.
With Easter around the corner, I encourage you to reflect on Christ’s sacrifice. He not only longs to save us from the consequences of our sin—eternal death—but also desires to fellowship with us daily (Rev. 3:20).