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Jacob's Ladder

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Today we continue in our trek through Genesis.

Today we will be in , and specifically .
Go ahead and open up your Bibles to this great text and let’s look at it together.
Read Genesis 28:10-22.

There’s a movie plot line that drives me crazy.

It’s overused, trite, cliche - it just bugs me.
It’s the plot where someone makes one bad mistake, then makes a series of bad mistakes trying to fix that first problem.
It’s often a comedic plotline.
The dad is trying to have the perfect Christmas for the family.
Nothing works.
He ends up losing his temper.
Pulling out a chainsaw.
Chopping down a tree in the neighbor’s front yard and putting it up in the living room as the tree.
A person takes an ordinary person, and tries to pass her off as part of the sophisticated and elite crowd.
In the process, he falls in love with his little social experiment.
Only for her to find out about the experiment.
Her heart is broken, because she was deceived.
His is heart is broken, because he cared.
I hate watching the story line of things going from bad to worse.
I cringe when I watch it.
Today’s sermon begins with a bad situation.
If you remember from last week it might not have seemed like a bad situation.
Last week, we met Jacob.
Jacob swindled his brother out of his birthright.
Then later, with the help of his mom, deceived his dad into blessing him, instead of his older brother, Esau.
At end of the passage, you would think everything was good for Jacob.
He’s going to inherit his father’s fortune.
He’s been blessed and told that he will rule over his brother.
You’d think things are good.
You’d think this is happily ever after.
Unfortunately, there are consequences to sin.
Jacob may have gotten what he wanted, but his brother was pretty angry at him.
His brother was out to kill him.
He is forced to flee his family.
He leaves his family to save his own life.
He heads towards his mom’s hometown in an effort to not just live, but also to find a wife.
So see where he is now.
His brother wants to kill him.
He’s traveling through the desert alone.
Night comes on him.
He evidently doesn’t have cover, because he lays down on the ground to sleep, and uses a rock as a pillow.
How bad do things have to be to use a rock as a pillow?
This isn’t where Jacob wanted to be.
He had a birthright.
He was blessed.
It’s Esau who should have been on the run.
Yet, this is the consequence for his sin.
He lied.
He deceived.
He wasn’t innocent.
How do you fix this situation?
He’s sinned.
He’s on the run.
Nothing is going right.
What is the solution?
This is where that overused movie plot comes in.
Most attempts would only make the situation worse.
Let’s go back in our minds to earlier in Genesis.
In , God unleashed a flood upon the earth.
The sin of man was so great, that God said He wouldn’t put up with it anymore.
He opened the hidden storehouses of water under the earth and above the earth, and flooded the whole earth.
All life, except for those 8 humans and the animals on the ark were killed.
Unfortunately, the flood didn’t change condition, the problem within man.
Yet, the pride of man was not destroyed.
Because even after the flood, and after Noah and his family had left the ark, man’s condition remained the same.
says, “… the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
Man had experienced the wrath of God.
Unfortunately, man didn’t fear God.
There’s a difference between knowing God’s wrath and fearing God.
They knew His wrath, because it killed all mankind.
Man didn’t fear God.
So here is where they made a bad situation worse, by the time we get to , they decided they didn’t like God being the one who acted as God over the earth.
And they decided to build a tower that stretched up into the heavens.
Man wanted to establish himself as a force that God needed to reckon with.
You can see how things are upside down.
Mankind decided they would do something great.
They built a tower that would stretch into the heavens.
And you remember what happened to that tower and man’s great knowledge and might?
God came down.
He destroyed the tower.
He dispersed the people all over the globe.
He confused their languages.
And who knows what technology and great secrets were lost in that awful event.
That’s the wrong way to try and reconcile yourself to God.
You don’t go to God and say “Let’s make a deal. God here are my terms.”
How do you fix this situation?
You have sinned against God.
How do you fix it?
How do you reconcile yourself with God?
This question is something that every religion wrestles with.
Some religions ignore the nature of the question all together.
They have imagined a god that has zero standards.
Who doesn’t punish sin.
And has no justice.
But for the vast majority of religions, they answer this question the way those in Babel did.
They try and fix it themselves.
They arm wrestle God into a position where they think He needs them.
They do this by works.
Do enough good deeds and God will let you into heaven.
Do enough good deeds and God will change how He thinks about you.
And how do you know if you’ve ever done enough?
That’s why I think Jacob is one of the most perfect examples of how to fix the problem of man.
He’s not a good guy.
His name means deceiver or trickster.
He’s a liar.
He’s sinned.
He’s a man on the run because of sin.
He has nothing to offer to God.
He has no negotiating power.

The first part of the answer is that God comes to us.

As Jacob is sleeping, Jacob has a dream.
And in this dream there is a ladder.
Some think it was more of a staircase.
Either way, there is this ladder, a staircase, something that is connecting heaven to earth.
And on this ladder are angels going up and down it.
And who’s at the top of this ladder?
It’s God.
This ladder wasn’t put there by man.
It wasn’t something designed by a committee.
This wasn’t something engineered.
It was placed there by God Himself.
The solution to man being made right with God first begins with the understanding that God comes to us.
You don’t have to catch God’s attention.
Wear a cross necklace.
Or listen to listen to Christian radio.
God comes to us.
He does the seeking.
Remember Jesus came to seek and to save the lost.
And He does this by coming down to us.
Without Him … there’s no communication from heaven.
You may be wondering why this is a good thing?
Why is this better than fixing it on our own?
Because this frees you from having to get God’s attention.
How do you do that?
How could you do that?
How do you stand out from all of creation?
Really, we are ordinary.
In 100 years … probably only a few of us will be remembered.
We have a hard time standing out among the rest of humanity.
That’s why we get so excited when our name is in the newspaper.
Because for one day, in one little sentence, there is a mention of you.
But the next day you are forgotten.
But when it’s God who comes to us that changes everything.
This means it’s not a matter of you being qualified or having met any kind of requirement.
If God could come to someone like Jacob … He can come to any person.
So never think that your:
Ordinariness.
Or even sinfulness has some how made you unloveable or unsaveable by God.
You may be unqualified … but the whole point here is that God comes down to our level, despite our own lack of qualifications.

Not only does God come down to us, but then He reveals Himself to us.

Look at verse 13, “And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. ...”
There’s this staircase, this ladder, and God is at the top of it, and He speaks to Jacob.
And what does He say, “I am the Lord ...”
“I am Jehovah.”
“I am Yahweh.”
Let there be no confusion over who He is.
There are angels ascending and descending.
They are going up and down on this ladder.
But He’s not one of them.
He is the I Am.
He’s not some temporary being.
He says, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac ...”
He’s stating His eternality.
He’s existed for all time.
Uncreated.
Creator.
Again, this is the solution to our problem.
The solution isn’t try and undo what has been done.
Instead, it’s God comes down to our level, then He introduces Himself to us.
You might be thinking, “It’d be nice if God revealed Himself to me like He did Jacob.”
But in reality, He has.
God has revealed Himself to us through:
Creation.
says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Or how about , “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
When you look at the stars and you are mesmerized by them.
That’s because you are in awe of God’s creation.
One of my favorite times with my dad was looking at animals and my dad asking me, “Why did God make it that way?”
Animals that are prey, why do they have eyes on the side of their heads?
So they can see predators as they sneak up from their side or behind them.
Why are jackrabbits so big? Why are their legs so much bigger than a cottontail?
Because jackrabbits live in drier conditions.
They don’t sprint from bush to bush like a cotton tail.
They are going to try outrun their predators on the desert floor.
And if they are grabbed, they’ll use those big feet to fight back.
I love admiring God’s creation, but even more, I love admiring the Mind that created them.
How else has God revealed Himself to us?
By our conscience.
This is a pretty amazing truth.
says, “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
This means that even people who are not religious and have never been religious, they still have God’s imprint upon their nature.
We see this more and more today by the way.
Some have said we live in a post-Christian culture.
Christianity is no longer the primary belief system.
Christian values are often unknown.
I’m surprised by how many people I meet who have no idea what Easter is about.
I’ve even met people who go to church and fit this description.
You might have a person who’s never gone to church, never heard the 10 Commandments, and yet, they still know right and wrong.
Why is that?
Because they are created in the image of God, and God has put that knowledge of right and wrong upon their conscience.
And lastly, God has revealed Himself through His Word, the Bible.
I don’t need to physically see a ladder coming from heaven to earth - because I’ve read .
I don’t need see an empty tomb that says, “Jesus of Nazareth was buried here” to know that Jesus was resurrected.
Because I’ve read the end of the Gospels.
If you want a sign, if you want an introduction to God, know that it’s been given.
It’s found in creation.
It’s found in your conscience.
And it’s found in this treasure of a book, the Bible.
Which is why it’s so important to read it.
If you are craving evidence of the great workings of God … open the pages of this book.
So for the person who has a guilty conscience and wants things to be made right with His maker.
Maybe you are here today, and this past week you messed up bad.
You feel guilty.
You had a hard time coming here today.
And you are hoping that God would pay attention to you.
Here’s the good news, God has paid attention to you.
God has already revealed Himself to His creation.
And now we have to pay attention to how He has revealed Himself.
I’m always surprised by how many people don’t feel close to God, but yet they refuse Him in how He has revealed Himself.
They say:
“I want God to reveal Himself to me.”
“I need a sign.”
I ask them if they’ve read the Bible.
They say, “They don’t want to be tied to a single religion.”
I ask if they’ve gone to church.
They say, “With so many religions, how can one of them be right.”
Do you see the problem here?
God has revealed Himself.
It’s us who reject Him.
And if these are your excuses, then pursue Him in the avenues He’s given us.

The next great solution to our problem is to rest in the promises God has given us.

After God introduces Himself to Jacob, and says that He is the Lord, the God of Abraham and Isaac, He then reaffirms the promise that He gave to Abraham.
He says that the land where he is at, will one day belong to his offspring.
And his descendants will be so many, that they will be like the dust of the earth.
They will spread and inhabit the whole earth.
And even better, through Jacob’s descendants, all the families of the earth will be blessed.
Remember, where Jacob is.
He’s fled his family.
His brother wants to kill him.
He’s in the middle of nowhere.
He’s using a rock as a pillow.
And perhaps he’s thinking that he has been abandoned.
Is this what his life was meant to be?
And yet, God has not abandoned him.
Those ancient promises are his, even though they aren’t fulfilled yet.
And most notable to us, is the end of that promise, “And in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
As great as the promises were for Israel.
The most famous of Jacob’s descendants was Jesus Christ.
They would have a land.
There were great promises for
They would increase.
And Israel would be a special nation, that God had a unique relationship with.
That special relationship was not just for Israel.
God intends to save a people from all over the world.
And these people would come from:
Every family.
Every ethnic group.
Every language.
Every color of skin.
And how would this happen?
Through Jesus.
He is the offspring that would bless all the families of the earth.
And Jesus would
, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
And so … you come here today, beat up, tired, feeling unworthy.
Know that I’m not going to give you 12 steps to catching God’s attention.
Instead it’s know that God has already come.
He’s communicated.
He’s promised.
And He’s blessed through Jesus.
And so look to Him.
In fact, that ladder that is mentioned back in verse 12, Jesus says it’s Him.
In , Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
He is the mediator that you desire.
This means our focus, our goal, our main pursuit is to be about Christ, above all else.
It’s funny how that is.
All that we do should be to magnify Him.
Our troubles begin when we lose sight of that.
When our goals become the priority instead of Christ being the priority.
When our goals become the priority, then:
Frustrations sets in.
We become dissatisfied.
Because we think it’s all about us.
Instead, and I mean this … may we exalt Christ in everything and be satisfied in Him.

Don’t be confused, none of this means life will be easy.

Look at verse 15, God continues to speak with Jacob, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Initially, that sounds great doesn’t it.
God is with him wherever he goes.
That promise is not saying that since God is with you life will be easy.
God says that no matter where Jacob goes, God will bring him back to this land.
As Genesis progresses, we will meet Jacob’s 12 sons.
Eventually, all of Jacob’s sons and family will experience a severe famine, and they will move south into Egypt.
Their time in Egypt won’t be easy.
In fact it will be awful.
In 400 years, Jacob’s descendants will be many, but they will be reduced to slaves.
Living a life of sweat and tears.
God promises that during that terrible time, He is still with them.
Those 400 years of slavery are not 400 years of abandonment.
God is with them.
And at the end of the 400 years, God will bring them back to this land that is promised, this Promised Land.
I can’t think of a better promise for us to hold on to, God will never leave us.
Those He calls and saves, will belong to Him forever.
God has not promised you a life of roses.
It’s so important to see that here.
Many have bought the lie that belonging to Christ means life will be easy.
They superstitiously think that an easy life means things are good with God.
says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Instead, we are to know that no matter what happens it’s a part of God’s sovereign plan.
And we are to patiently endure it, knowing that God will never leave us or abandon us.
is a verse that has been comforting to me, and gives me a finish line to look forward to.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
But He has promised that He will keep you.
And for the Christian … this promise is even better.
For Jacob, he had God’s word, His promise.
God’s Word and His promise are secure.
God does not lie or change His mind.
You might be wondering, what could be better than a promise from God?
Well, we are on this side of the Cross.
Christ has already died for sin.
He’s not going to die again.
Therefore, if Jesus has died for you, then the payment to God has already been given.
Have you ever had someone pay for your bill and you didn’t know about it?
My brother-in-law and sister, love to pay for our bills at restaurants and they do it secretly, without us knowing.
So at the end of the meal, Amanda and I eagerly want to pay the bill, only for the waiter or waitress to say that it’s already been paid for.
When it comes to the believer and his sin, it’s already been paid for.
concludes with these words, nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You come today, with a burden.
Trust in the death that paid for sin.
Trust in Christ’s death.
Know that if it was for you … then God will never leave you or abandon you, because the payment was so great.

Jacob’s had a rough stretch in life.

He deserved it.
He’s on the run from his brother.
He’s homeless.
He’s sleeping on a rock.

But after this dream everything changes.

Jacob knows that he’s had an encounter with God.
He’s been chosen by God.
He’s been blessed by God.
And God will keep him.
And you see a change.
Most people think they are just as blessed by God.
Sadly, it’s not true though, not everyone is converted.
God hasn’t blessed everyone in this way.
There are many who will find themselves in Hell on judgment day.
In Jesus’ own words he says in , “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven ...”
“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “
This should be frightening.
Because you have people who think they’re blessed.
They think they’re going to heaven.
But then Jesus says “depart from me”.
So how do you know that God has chosen you, blessed you and promised to keep you?
We see 3 things that Jacob does that demonstrate there is a change, and these 3 things should be in every Christian as well.

The first change in Jacob is that he fears God.

He wakes up after having this incredible promise from God.
And in verse 17 it says that he was afraid.
But this isn’t fear as in a phobia.
This isn’t an irrational fear.
He says “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God ...”
This is a reverential fear.
This is a healthy fear.
I like knives.
I like blades.
And when I handle a blade, I have a fear of it.
I know that it can cut me.
If I didn’t have a fear of it, I’d run it along my skin haphazardly.
But because I fear a blade carefully, knowing that it can slice me open.
The fear that Jacob has, is the fear that rightly understands the greatness of God.
says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom ...”
You know when you are approaching God when it begins with a healthy fear of Him.
When you fear the Lord, then you are beginning to understand Him rightly.
You carefully handle God, like the blade that can cut you open.
This calls for a change in how we think of God and our attitude towards Him.
Jesus is not your home boy.
He is not your buddy.
He is the Alpha and the Omega.
says He will return with a robe dipped in blood, a sharp sword, an army; treading the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
He is not someone that you play around with.

The second change in Jacob is that he believed in God.

Jacob names the place where he is at Bethel, meaning House of God.
Look at his statement in verses 20-21, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God,”
Those final words, “then the Lord shall be my God.”
This might seem like common sense, but where there’s no faith … there’s no understanding of God.
What does it mean for God to be God?
If you believe that God is God … then there is obedience.
Notice where obedience comes in the formula here.
Obedience isn’t trying to get God’s attention.
It’s not trying to balance the scales.
It’s not, “I will do this so you can give me that.”
Jacob makes this statement after God has already appeared to him.
Many people think they believe in God.
They think they trust in Him.
Yet, there’s no obedience.
Jesus calls this type of person a worker of lawlessness.
If you understand God to be God, then you:
Fear Him.
And you demonstrate that fear, as Paul says in , by working out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Is your pursuit of God, your obedience to Him done in fear and trembling?
For most Christians it’s done with an attitude of when I have time for it.
If this were a marriage, it’d be a terrible marriage.
I’ll love you … when I have time for it.
There should be a sense of urgency to repentance.
If you say you fear God, is that matched by your obedience to God.

And lastly, you can see the change in Jacob’s life by his worship of God.

He built a pillar as a monument to God.
And then in verse 22, he gave a tithe to the Lord.
He gave 10 percent of whatever he had.
And he recognized that whatever he had, had come from God first.
By building a pillar, he was publicly stating here is the God who saves.
Worship happens within the heart for sure.
Worship is also something that is public.
It’s something that is visible.
says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This is why corporate worship is so important.
Because this gathering is where we publicly profess our faith and worship of God.
Your involvement in Sunday worship is evidence that you have been changed, and that the Lord has saved you.
How else did Jacob worship? By giving a tithe.
He gave 10 percent of all he had.
But notice the motivation of the tithe.
It wasn’t to receive anything.
And it wasn’t because God lacked anything.
God’s not up in heaven and saying, “I could do more, if only people gave to me more.”
says, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”
Jacob’s tithe was recognizing that he had already received something.
He gave of all that God had given him.
He was recognizing God’s provisions already.
This simple act of giving a tithe meant that he knew he lived and was given what he had from the abundance of God’s riches.
This means that giving can really be an act of worship.
By giving, you are recognizing:
That God is God.
That He is Lord.
And that He gives you all that you need.

As we bring this message to a close I’d like for you to consider your problem of sin and how it is solved.

Your problem of sin and how it is solved.
It’s solved by what God has already done.
He’s come to us.
He’s revealed Himself.
He’s promised to save us and to hold us to the end.
What does this mean for you?
Well if it’s true then you respond by:
Fearing God.
Knowing God to be God and obeying Him.
Then living a life of worship.
As we close the sermon, we will close in a song.
And as we sing, think about Christ’s lordship over your life.
After we sing, we will take the morning’s offering.
And prepare your own heart for how you give to the Lord.
Pray
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