Through the Whole Bible: Genesis 28 (link) takes a look at Jacob’s journey from Canaan back to Paddan-Aram. Paddan-Aram, for those who are interested, is mostly in the upper stretches of the Euphrates River, between two branches of the river. It’s where the rest of Abraham’s extended family have continued to live since he went to Canaan.
In the aftermath of deceiving both his brother and his father, Jacob finds himself needing to live elsewhere. That’s what happens when you build your fame and fortune without integrity. Life ends up heavily disrupted.
So, Jacob flees. This is a mixture of good and bad for Jacob. He goes where he needs to be so that he can find a wife (next chapter) from among his own people. That’s been one of the sources of contention between Esau and Rebekah: Esau married from the local population and that bothered his mother.
Let’s take a quick look at Esau in this situation: Genesis 28:8-9 addresses some issues of Esau’s character. He finds out that his parents prefer Jacob to marry someone not from the region. So, he goes out and marries another wife, intentionally to aggravate his family. That’s not good. Neither for your parents or your wife.
Not to mention the whole polygamy issue which is not good.
Consider the chaos that you bring on your family with your decisions. There ought never be a decision we make with the intention of afflicting others.
Second in this chapter is the story of Jacob’s dream of a staircase or ladder between heaven and earth. Seems like a good story. The ending, though, is questionable:
Jacob in Genesis 28:20-22 makes one of those “bargain with God” promises: if God will do this, then I will do that. He misses an important point in this deal-making, and it’s a point that we tend to miss as well.
God had made a statement concerning Abraham and his offspring. That statement was that this family would hold the land and through them, and further their possession of the land, all the earth, all peoples would be blessed.
Jacob, for some reason, thinks it’s necessary to make a deal with God: if Jacob can return safely, then Jacob will worship God. Does Jacob think that God really needs a deal made?
When do we do the same? Make those “God, if you will…then, I will…”? Perhaps: “If I get this job, I will…” “If I get this girlfriend, I will…”
Try to keep something in mind: you have nothing God needs and are in no position to bargain. He does make some conditional promises in Scripture about obedience and blessing, but those are claimed and embraced by action not bargaining.
Instead, we need to view ourselves in this way: God does not need us. However, in His sovereignty, His grace, He desires and wills that we follow Him. Quite simply, we have nothing to offer except ourselves, completely and totally.
From there, we learn to trust His grace and His promises. Not because we want to play trade-off but because He will fulfill what He has said.