Already, in a brief history, God repeatedly issues severe punishment for sin:
- Separation from Himself. Shame between wife and husband. Pain in childbirth. Painful toil in working the land. (Genesis 3)
- Hate between siblings. (Genesis 4)
- A catastrophic flood. (Genesis 7)
- Confused languages. (Genesis 11)
- War. (Genesis 13)
- Burning sulfur, rained-down to wipe-out whole towns. (Genesis 19)
- Broken and divided families. (Genesis 21 and 27)
Yet, time and time again, he is gracious to Abraham…and those his covenant passes through. They’ve certainly shown their sinful, human sides: lies, adultery, manipulation. And they are certainly deserving of punishment, received by others for similar acts. But instead, God show mercy.
At times, as I read their stories, this really bothers me. I mean, Jacob manipulates and lies to his father – stealing his brother’s inheritance and family position – yet God shows him favor. Why!?
Then I read Chapter Twenty Eight. Finally, I get it. The grace given to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is a powerful foreshadowing of the ultimate salvation made available to us through their covenant line…through Jesus. Jacob’s dream is a vivid picture of this. And it shows how God uses his grandfather, father, future son and grandsons to bring forgiveness to the world…to us.
We have the right to become children of God and share in Abraham’s covenant. (John 1:12) We have the privilege of Christ’s forgiveness, though we are so undeserving. The promise Jacob receives, also belongs to us:
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. (vs.15)
The “land” we inherit is Heaven. The “promise” we have is eternal life through Jesus.
Of course there are consequences for sin. Abraham lived with dissension between Sarah and Hagar…Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac lived with disunity in his marriage. Jacob was separated from his mother, whom he loved, and would never see her again. We live with the consequences of our choices…every day.
But ultimately, we are forgiven. And we are blessed. What a great way to start the day!