JACOB IN SEARCH OF A WIFE
“So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.”
Isaac, like his father Abraham, should have seen fit to ensure that his sons seek themselves wives from among their own people. At this time he realized that there should be no further delay lest Jacob committed the same sin as his brother Esau.
As Christians we enjoy God’s blessings in our lives only when we are fully obedient to God’s word in respect to the person we choose as a marriage partner. God’s blessings are conditional in that we are obedient to Him.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God”
As Jacob started out on his long journey he found himself alone with no company and very little to sustain him; causing him to be in danger from bandits and beasts. All he had to go on was his father’s blessings and the thought that somehow God would protect him. Until this time in Jacob’s life, he had spent many years in a rather restrictive family life dominated by his mother, affected by his brother’s worldliness and his father’s weakness. He did not know the skills of hunting like his brother, and possibly was not able to defend himself to any extent. Now he finds himself alone and heading for a distant country and people with whom he was not familiar, and yet unknown to him he would be away from his home for over twenty years. We would question why God would allow this to happen to Jacob, seeing that Abraham had sent his servant to bring back a wife for Isaac, why didn’t Isaac do the same for Jacob? The answer to this is seen in two facts:
- The hatred that Esau had for Jacob could have led to murder, so Isaac had to send Jacob away.
- If Jacob was to be used of God to establish the Tribes of Israel and thus the Nation, this would require the strengthening of his character through a long period of forced dependence upon God alone. This was essential if his character and faith were to be built and strengthened to the point where he could fill the role that God required of him. So God literally had to drive him away from the situation he was in so that he could be retrained.
“When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.”
This “certain place” later came to be known as Bethel, and would become a lifetime memorial to Jacob of God’s promises to him. God does not lead his people by chance, and neither did He lead Jacob by chance; God brought him to Bethel for a purpose even though Jacob was not aware of it. So God deals with all His people. “I know, 0 LORD, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”
It is not apparent from the Scriptures that Jacob recognized this as the place that was also important in the life of Abraham his grandfather; and as he slept that night he may have used some of the very stones that remained from Abraham’s altar that was built there so many years before. However, this was the place that God would make Himself personally known to Jacob, as He had been known to Abraham and Isaac. “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”
The Hebrew word for ladder or stairway is used in this incident only in the Bible, and whatever its exact form may have been it is obvious that this was no ordinary stairway; it clearly pictured to Jacob that there was an intense interest in heaven concerning what took place on earth. This was seen in the multitudes of angelic beings descending to earth to perform their duties, and returning to heaven to give their reports to God. The Scriptures do teach that there is are “thousands upon thousands of angels” referring to them as “mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word” ; that their main function is to serve as “ministering spirits to those who will inherit salvation” <Heb. l: 14>. They take special interest in God’s people in our salvation and spiritual growth .
In the execution of their duties there is constant liaison between earth and heaven and have the ability to ”fly swiftly” as they carry out their assignments ; they provide help during times of trial and testing ; they deliver us from those who would wrongfully do us harm ; they fight on behalf of God’s people by blinding the eyes of the enemy .
It was possible that Jacob, like many of us, often wondered about the accessibility of God and just how much God was concerned with the affairs of men as he was taught by Abraham and Isaac. No doubt Jacob remembered the teachings of Abraham and Isaac in regard to the fall of Adam and Eve and the fact that sin now separated man from God. He would also be aware of the fact that God had promised a Deliverer who would someday bring man and God back together into fellowship. He would also have suspected that somehow the blessing he received from his father had something to do with this promise of a Deliverer. All these possibilities existed, but Jacob had never personally seen or spoken with God, and must have had a sincere desire for some assurance that God would reveal Himself in some way. And surely this was God’s plan: “There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 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.” When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.””
Although this was only a dream, it symbolized to Jacob, and to us today, the reality of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of man’s sin, earth and heaven are separated by a vast gulf, keeping mankind from the holiness of God’s presence. Therefore, to bring God and man together, a bridge had to be built to span this gulf, and this bridge would have to be God Himself.
More than two thousand years would pass before a devout Israelite named Nathanael would be meditating upon the things of God, perhaps this very passage, and wondered to himself how God would bridge this gulf. He also knew that this promise was centred around the coming of the Messiah, he too would see and speak to the God of Heaven. “He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open. and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The Lord Jesus claimed that He was Jacob’s Ladder and that He was the only way, and mediator between God and man; and was further explained: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven- the Son of Man.”
Jacob may not have fully understood all the implications of the New Testament teachings, but he could surely understand that communication between God and man was possible, and that beyond any further doubting God would care for him, lead him and fulfill His promises to him. “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 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.”
Jacob had actually met God in this place:
- It was none other than God Jehovah.
- Here God was seen and heard; God had met with His servant.
- This place should be called “The house of God … Bethel”. The “gate of Heaven”; a gate through which God would come to man and through which man must pass to God.
- Jehovah had revealed Himself to Jacob; now Jacob responded in an attitude of worship. He raised a ”pillar” from his pillow and ”poured oil upon it”. He was aware of God’s requirement – the blood of an innocent victim – but he had no animal to offer. However, in faith he vowed to give to God “a tenth” of all that God would give to him.
It is good for us to learn the lesson which Jacob learned.