Laying one’s head on a stone…or one’s life on a promise

Genesis 27-28

Have you ever taken things into your own hands and ended up making a mess out of everything?  Or have you noticed a problem festering in a relationship for a long time; suddenly something was the last straw and the whole relationship blew up?

In this story several fires were festering.  1) Isaac and Rebekah played favorites with their twin boys.  2)  Two brothers were very different and both were jealous of the other.  3) A culture dictated that the oldest son, even if a twin and the oldest by only few minutes, got a bigger portion of inheritance. 4) A society believed that a last blessing from a dying father could  predict and set a son’s future… something which we post-modern westerners have a lot of trouble with.

All of these smoldering troubles led Jacob (the youngest twin) with the help of his mother to manipulate his future through deception and lies.  He dressed up like his brother and tricked his blind father into giving him the oldest son blessing.  He took things into his own hands to get what he thought he deserved and it all blew apart. 

Before the twins were even born God had told Rebekah the younger would be the ancestor of God’s people.  So did Jacob really need Esau’s extra inheritance to make God’s plan happen?  No.  Did Jacob need to pretend to be Esau in order for God to work God’s purposes out?  No.  Isn’t it true that one of many temptations for us humans is to thinking we can be in control and to prefer our means of getting things done to God’s ways?  Yes.

With cheated Esau planning his brother’s murder, Jacob had to run for his life, leaving parents, friends, even the birthright and blessing he had manipulated to get.  Everything was left behind, and for the first time in his life he was really alone.  He was on a long journey through wild country to a place that he had never seen, to relatives that he had never met.  If anyone was scared and uncertain about his future, it was Jacob that first night when he laid his head on a stone and tried to sleep.

Sometimes we have to be scared, desperate, lonely or uncertain about the future, before we can hear God.  It’s that human nature thing again.  That night with his hopes shattered, Jacob finally heard God’s message to him.  The dream of a ladder to heaven was certainly strange (stone pillows will do it every time) and makes good illustrations and camp songs.  But it’s God’s message that is really  profound:

Jacob, I will make your descendants  live in this land you are lying on.
I will bless all the people’s of the earth through you and your descendants.
I am with you now and I will keep you safe on your journey.  I will bring you back home one day.  That’s my promise to you.

So Jacob didn’t need a birthright after all, or a father’s blessing, or tents and herds or any of that.  He needed to know that God was his God, not just his father’s God. He needed God’s blessing and God’s promise, not his scheming.  He didn’t start realizing that until his lonely night under the stars.

Centuries later we know that one of Jacob’s descendants was Jesus our savior.  We, on the other side of the world and most of us not even Jewish, have inherited that profound blessing through Jesus.   The blessing of baptism is like the blessing of God for Jacob that night he slept with his head on a stone pillow, because at our baptism God says to us:

You are mine.  You are forgiven, even forgiven the ways you try to control things without me.  You are not alone.  My son died for you, and now you belong to the family of Jesus Christ.   I will never leave you on this journey and I will keep your life…..forever.

That’s God’s promise in case we have been overwhelmed with the journey this week and simply forgot.