Based on Genesis chapter 27 verse 42 to chapter 29 verse 1
The sounds of the night drew ever closer as Jacob hurried to light his campfire. This was a good place to set up camp, but now that he was alone - he heard things he’d never noticed before, the noises of the night, menacing and frightening.
As the fire crackled and spat into life, Jacob threw on some more wood and then lay down, pulling his cloak tightly around his shoulders. And resting his head on a long flat stone, he thought back once again over the last few days, days that had turned his life upside down and led him to this lonely place.
‘It’s all Esau’s fault,’ thought Jacob. ‘He just doesn’t know when he’s beaten! And anyway, how was I supposed to know he’d be such a sore loser? (P) I knew he’d be upset, but I never thought he’d want to murder me! All I did was.. Well, what I had to do - to get what was mine. (P) Ok - I did use tricks and deception to get that blessing – but they shouldn’t have tried to take it away from me … I bought it off Esau fair and square - for a bowl of stew!’
Jacob rolled onto his side and stared into the fire. Had it been worth it? Had it really been worth it? All that trickery and deceit? What had it got him? Oh yes, he’d well and truly beaten his brother Esau by tricking him out of his birthright and stealing the blessing … but what good was that now? Because as soon as Rebekah, his mother, had found out about Esau’s murderous thoughts - she’d worked out a plan to get Jacob out of harm’s way.
‘Oh Isaac,’ Rebekah had said to the boys’ father. ‘Esau’s married a couple of these local girls who don’t know God and won’t worship Him. I just can’t cope with the idea of Jacob doing the same. Please, can’t we send him away to my family, to find a nice young wife from amongst my relatives?’
And for now her scheming had worked. His father Isaac had called him into his tent and told him to go to his uncle Laban’s house and marry one of Laban’s daughters. And so he’d left with his father’s blessing and very little else! (PAUSE)
Jacob sighed deeply, the flames of the fire flickering in his breath.
And now he was here, miles away from the home he loved, with almost nothing except the clothes on his back to call his own. It was the first time he’d ever felt truly alone.
Sleep came easily as Jacob was tired from all his travelling, but this was to be no ordinary night.
As Jacob slept he started to dream - a dream sent from God. (P) And as he dreamt he saw a stairway with one end on the earth and the other in heaven. And as he looked at the stairway, he saw the angels of God moving up and down between heaven and earth.
As his eyes followed the stairway to the top, there - above it all - was the Lord God Himself. And He was speaking to Jacob.
‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and of your father Isaac. This ground that you lie on belongs to you, for I will give it to you and your descendents. And your descendents will be so numerous, that just like the dust of the earth, no one will be able to count them. And they will fill this land from east to west and north to south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendents. (P) And what’s more, I Myself will be with you. I will protect you wherever you go. And the day will come when I will bring you safely back to this land, for I will be constantly with you until I have given you all that I have promised.’
And then Jacob woke up, terrified at what he’d seen! (WHISPERED) ‘This place! The Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it! It’s an awesome place - nothing less than the very house of God – the gateway to heaven!’
Very early the next morning Jacob got up and took hold of the stone he’d used for a pillow the night before. He took the stone and stood it upright, as a memorial stone to remember what had happened to him. Then, with the stone standing on its end, he poured some olive oil over it. And he named the place - Bethel, which means ‘House of God’.
And then he said, ‘If God is going to be with me and protect me on this journey, and give me enough food and clothing … and, if He’ll bring me safely back to my father, then I will make the Lord - my God and this memorial pillar will be a place for worshipping Him, and I’ll give Him ten percent of everything He gives me.
He’d felt alone, but God had shown him he wasn’t. So, with the promises of God ringing in his ears, and a new certainty that God was with him, Jacob hurried on with his journey to the lands of the east.