The Way In
Text: Genesis 28
Proposition: All that we long for in life is only ever from the hand of God.
Introduction: In the aviation world there is a term called 1000 on Top, it just means that a pilot has to stay 1000 feet above the clouds so that he can see about him. The problem is that sometimes the weather beneath them gets worse and though it’s sunny up above how will they get down? We were flying in a small plane one time and the pilot was 1000 on top, we could see the weather deteriorating beneath us as we were attempting to get to a remote village in the jungle. When arrived at where we thought the village should be there was a solid blanket of cloud beneath us and we began to circle, looking for a brief break in the cloud, looking for a way in. We were all looking for that opening and then there it was and down we descended through the opening in the clouds and soon found the village airstrip. Finding the way in is something we all do, whether it’s finding the way in to a company for a job, finding the way in to a new friendship or finding the way in to a new start in life. This morning we are going to look at the story of a man named Jacob as his life is about to change. He is suddenly going to find that the way in is at a place he’d least expect. Turn with me to Genesis 28.
I. Sometimes the Way In Is Found On the Way Out.
Can you imagine the predicament of Jacob, he deceives and tricks his way into getting the family inheritance and then when it’s right within his grasp he has to leave it and in essence flee for his life. His brother whom he cheated wants to kill him and the only solution is leave everything behind and temporarily take refuge in a distant place. As he is about to leave his father Isaac calls Jacob and blesses him again, this time knowing fully who it is in front of him. He passes onto Jacob the promise that God gave to Abraham and to Isaac, the blessing of posterity that a nation would come from Jacob and the blessing of a land for the people of this soon to be nation. Isaac had wanted to give this blessing to Jacob’s older brother Esau and had resisted God’s choice of the younger brother, Jacob. This act of submission on Isaac’s part was like a way back to the heart of God for this old man. As he is sending his son off to find a wife back in Haran, Isaac doesn’t know that this will be the last time that sees his son Jacob. As Jacob is on the way out Isaac finds a way in, he obeys God’s will in blessing Jacob, he trusts God’s plan in using that which is younger and weaker and undeserving to be the one whom God would choose to use. Sometimes the way out feels like a surrender to the will of God, to a series of inescapable open doors in front of us. Sometimes the way in is found on the way out. It’s where Jacob is in verse 10, forty eight miles from home, in a rocky field as the sun is going down, on the way out.
II. Sometimes What We Think Is the Way In, Is the Way Out.
We can’t miss what happened with Esau as he hears his father say that Jacob is not to take a wife from the people around them, the Canaanites. He sees Jacob obey and Jacob being blessed and Esau reckons that maybe the way in to his father’s blessing is to do the same. So Esau goes to the next best thing in his mind, he goes to Isaac’s brother Ishmael and marries one of his daughters. Esau had made a bad situation worse, though he already had two wives he takes a third. What Esau thought was the way in, demonstrating feigned obedience, doing what he thought would impress, wasn’t. He missed the true way in… faith in what God wanted, repenting from previous bad choices and learning a humility that places it’s confidence in God. We can easily manufacture what we think is the way in but in reality, especially for Esau, it was the way out of his father’s will.
III. Every Time We Find the Way In, It Will Be Because of Grace.
When I was about 27 I was visiting Edmonton with a couple of friends and we needed a place to stay. I had a good friend who had a place out in the country and so we went to where he was working and borrowed the key to the house he rented. The directions he gave involved a series of turns and awkward landmarks and it was dark out by then. Well we got to where we thought the house was, tried the key in the door and it worked. We went in, kicked off our boots and flopped down on the couch and suddenly noticed that place looked awfully clean. We checked out the refrigerator and it was full of food, again very usual. Then we noticed the pictures on the wall and it suddenly became very clear that we were in the wrong house. We backtracked to where my friend was still at work and sure enough what we thought was the way in to his house …wasn’t. He had to finish work and we followed him home. He needed to be the way, the literal way, for us to find out where he lived so that we could get there. Every time we find the way in to God it will be because of grace, it will be because Jesus Himself became our way. That’s what happened to Jacob in that rocky field that night.
Jacob has a dream and in the dream he sees this ladder going from earth to heaven and if that wasn’t amazing enough, he sees angels ascending and descending on that ladder. Suddenly he hears a voice and he looks up. At the top of the ladder in heaven is the LORD, the God of Abraham and Isaac. Then Jacob hears the LORD say five things:
1. The land where you lay this moment will be your land forever.
2. Not only will you find a wife but from you shall come a great nation.
3. They will not only possess this land but spread out over the whole earth.
4. From these people will come a blessing that is for the whole earth.
5. This will all happen because I will enable you and guide you, even back to here.
I would say that all these things added up to the way in for Jacob: finding a wife, finding success, finding significance, finding purpose. You could even say that Jacob didn’t deserve this, it came to him from God. That’s what grace is isn’t it, undeserved favor. You could even say that God became the way in for Jacob, God showed Jacob how to get home. In essence He said, “Follow Me, I’ll be the way.” Jacob wakes from the dream and says something that is true and yet short sighted at the same time. He says, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” That’s true, in fact there’s many times we have made exactly the same mistake. God has been right there and all we could see is that we were all alone, nothing but a rock to lay your head on, a long road ahead. Yet God is there, right there with you, wanting to be the way as you face tomorrow. So that was true but Jacob was also short sighted in thinking that God was only in this place, that somehow when he left this place God stayed behind. He missed the truth that God is with us everywhere.
I think that perhaps God moves towards us with great grace but many times there’s still too much of us in us. There was too much of Jacob in Jacob. Though he sets up the stone upon which his head lay as an altar, though he even pours oil upon it to consecrate it and though he calls the name of place Bethel, ‘House of God’, and though he worships in fear and a sense of great awe at the presence of God there yet remains too much Jacob in Jacob. Why do I say that? It’s because although Jacob recognizes that grace was how he found the way in, he still doesn’t trust God. Look at verses 20, 21, “ 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.’” It kind of reminds me of what Satan said to God when accusing Job. Basically it was, the only reason any man serves You is for what he can get from You. Take that away and man will curse God. Satan was pointing out the existence of a sin nature in man and in essence Jacob was saying the same thing…as long as God blesses me I will trust in God. That’s why I say there was too much Jacob in Jacob. There was some refining that was yet to take place, even though grace had been given to Jacob, even though Jacob had found the way in.
Some 2000 years later Jesus Christ, the Son of God and yet very man, called His disciples to Himself. One of these was a man named Nathanael. When Jesus addresses him He says something that only God could have known. He tells Nathanael that He saw him under the fig tree. The man is amazed and says, “You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel!” It’s what Jesus says next that I want to draw your attention to: “Most assuredly I say to you hereafter you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Jesus, whose body was on earth and able to shed blood reaches like a ladder to the portals of heaven because He is also fully divine, fully God. He is our way, He is your way, He is the Way in. Today, perhaps while you are on the way out, recognize the grace of God, by faith trust in Jesus’ blood as your ladder to God, let Him lead and guide you, especially if there is too much of you in you.