Genesis 28:16 – Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”
Genesis takes a very important and dramatic turn when God appears to Jacob at night to bless him with the promises of land, descendants, and blessing for all nations, much like he had his grandfather Abraham in Genesis 15. After God appears, Jacob recognizes Him and names the place where God had met him “Bethel”, which means “house of God.” Yet, it is questionable whether Jacob was yet truly converted as a believer because his prayer to God remains conditional and therefore lacks faith. Jacob, in essence, seeks to barter with God by promising that, if God blessed him, then he would worship Him.
Theologically, the point of this section is to show us that, for the first time in his life, Jacob has encountered God. Subsequently, this is the beginning of Jacob not living under the faith of his parents but, for the first time, beginning his own relationship with God so that the God of Abraham and Isaac could also be known as the God of Jacob. The turn in Jacob’s heart toward God first appears in his declaration that he will tithe to God, which is the first instance of worship we have seen from him thus far in Genesis and may indicate his conversion.
As was the case with both Noah and Abraham before him, Jacob is likewise a sinner undeserving of God’s grace. Although Jacob shows no interest in God, it is God who seeks out Jacob for a covenant relationship, which is continually the pattern for all believers throughout human history. Indeed, as God stated in his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17, His blessing was to be responded to by obedient faith and He would have it no other way, even though Jacob would like to have God bless him without him honoring God.
What do we learn about the importance of someone having their own faith and not simply living under the faith of their parents?
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