Bible Focus: Genesis 25-35
And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching the sky, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. The LORD was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.”Genesis 28:12-16 CSB
When it comes to job-hunting, there’s a time-honored maxim: “It’s not about what you know, but about who you know.” It’s a reminder that employment decisions are made by people inside of a network of relationships. That maxim might not apply as much in the current economy; today it seems like most every sector is hurting for employees, and many employers seem willing to give any decent-looking person a chance for a fresh start in their company.
But that trend won’t last forever, and once our employers are not faced with slim pickings, they will again prefer people who already have good connections. Our documented skills and job experience can only advance our career so far. A good word from a former boss, valued customer, or current employee of a company will often gain us more consideration than the items on our resume. On the other hand, a bad word from any of those folks can quickly land our resume in the trash bin. So when it comes to career advancement, it makes sense that we should prioritize the who over the what.
However, when it comes to knowing God, we often take the opposite approach. We should primarily focus on the who: God himself. But we too easily shift our primary focus to the what: acts of service, Biblical knowledge, financial giving, teaching skills, church leadership, and the like. None of those things are bad (in fact they are very good), but none of them really matter if we don’t know God personally. When it comes to knowing God, it’s not about what we know–it’s about who we know. And there’s a further twist: a personal relationship with God never begins with us. It always begins with him.
When God called Abraham to leave his family home and travel to a strange place that he had never seen, Abraham obeyed God and left. Many years later, Abraham’s promised son Isaac was born. When God called Isaac to continue to follow him just as Abraham did, Isaac obeyed God and followed him as well.
But then things took a strange turn. Isaac and his wife Rebekah had twin sons named Jacob and Esau. Esau was technically the firstborn, and by birthright he should have been the one to inherit his father’s estate and blessing. But Esau treated his birthright with contempt, carelessly promising it to Jacob in a bargain for a meal of bread and stew.
Later, with Rebekah’s help, Jacob deceived his father Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing that was supposed to be Esau’s. Esau was enraged by this and plotted to kill Jacob. Fearing for Jacob’s safety, Rebekah persuaded Isaac to send Jacob away to get a wife from her relatives. So Jacob left everything behind and went away, with a staff as his only possession.
At that point, it might have seemed that Jacob was far from God and headed in the wrong direction. But instead, God appeared to Jacob one night in a dream of angels on a stairway, and spoke promises to Jacob like the ones which had been given to his forefathers Abraham and Isaac! When Jacob woke up from the dream, he had two primary responses of faith: (1) he was overwhelmingly grateful to God, and (2) he was determined to be loyal to God.
Over the next twenty years, Jacob lived in the land of of his mother’s relatives. He married and had children, and he gained many possessions. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he kept believing in God and following him. God finally led him back to his homeland, where he reconciled with his brother Esau and was reunited with his father Isaac before he died.
God pursues those that he wants to bless and save. And if we try to claim that God has not pursued us with blessings, then how do we explain the coming of Jesus and the message of the gospel? Jesus came to reveal God’s love to us once and for all.
God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 John 4:9-10 CSB
Here’s the good news: God’s promise depends on him, not on us. Our strengths can’t provide us what he’s promised, and our weaknesses won’t prevent us from receiving his promise. So when we receive by faith God’s promise of love, forgiveness, and life through Jesus Christ, then we can be sure that we have received love and forgiveness and life. Those things don’t depend on what we do or what we know; they only depend on who we know.
Featured image by Joana Abreu on Unsplash