Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and father of the twelve tribes of Israel, journeyed to his uncle’s land in search of a bride in the same way Abraham’s servant was sent to retrieve Rebekah. On his way, he has a dream in which the Lord shows him a ladder between heaven and earth, prophetically symbolizing that the Messiah will come through his lineage, bridging the gap between God and man created by the fall of Adam. (In John 1:51, NKJV, the Savior says, “You shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”)
It’s important to note that Jacob is not yet fully committed to the Lord at this point. He contemplates it, and strikes a bargain with God.
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You. (Gen. 28:20-22, NKJV)
It’s as if he’s saying, Look, Lord, I’m going to Haran, and I’m going to do whatever I want there, but if you bless me while I do whatever I want, then I’ll serve you religiously when I get home, tithing and all, okay?
God blessed Jacob despite his ignorance and presumptuous approach to worship. But God had some hard lessons to teach him. Do not assume that if God is blessing you as you do your own thing, that it means he’s condoning your behavior and that you’re in his favor. On our road to sanctification, it is God’s goal to kill our flesh and any self-contained strength that would keep us operating on our own and seeking our own way. He wants to put our hip out of joint and give us a limp so we cannot walk without assistance. God wants us to come to him with “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Ps 51:17). He wants to change us, to make us like his Son, and his Son said he didn’t do anything he didn’t first see his Father doing. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”
God is more concerned about the internal process and the position of our hearts than the results. Abraham’s servant prayed for God to show him specifically who he was supposed to bring for Isaac. Jacob merely copied the externals, thinking, perhaps, Grandfather’s servant picked the first girl he saw at the well, so that must mean it will be the same way for me… But, unlike Abraham’s servant, Jacob didn’t sit down and pray for the Lord’s direction, giving him glory each step of the way.
Jacob took the blessing of Bethel for granted. You may have God’s blessing on your life, you may know that he has called you for a certain purpose. Maybe you’re a worship leader or a teacher or a missionary, and you know that God’s going to use you to “bless the Gentiles.” But recognize that submission to God’s will is a continual act, a continuous internal bowing of our hearts to the Lord. We need to live our lives in humility, empowered by the Holy Spirit. We cannot operate in our lives as if we have a divine mandate, and yet forget to open our written authorization to see what his directions are.