Genesis 28:10-32:3 The Story of Jacob's Three Stones

Overview: Like a great race, the journey of the patriarch Jacob from Canaan to Haran and back is marked by three stones:

1. The first stone (28:18), like a starting line of a great race. This stone in our reading is covered with oil and stood up at Luz to mark the place where God gave to Jacob the dream of the stairway.

The scene begins with Jacob, hot off the desert sands, 50 miles into the 400 mile trail to find a wife and to flee the anger of Esau. Tired of running, and with little to show for himself, he places a stone headrest below him and falls asleep. His slumber is disturbed that night by an incredible, life changing event. GOD MEETS JACOB THERE. In his sleep, Jacob’s eyes are spiritually opened wider than ever before. He is able to see the traffic filled stairway extending from Heaven to earth. In that place he hears the unmistakable voice of the God of His Fathers. The promise given to him includes:

  1. The land is yours, and you will have a seed that will inherit it.
  2. Your seed will be as the dust of the earth, and though scattered, they will have an inheritance.
  3. All the nations will be lifted by the presence of your scattered seed.
  4. Wherever you go, I will be with you, and I will bring you back home!

Jacob awoke a different man. The God of His Father and Grandfather had become the God of Promise to HIM. Awestruck that God had met with him, he began his journey with a PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, not just the faraway stories of adventures of His forefathers of the past. He took the headrest stone, stood it on end, and anointed it with the oil of consecration. He promised God that if this were truly a revelation of Himself to Jacob, Jacob was committed to follow Him!

2. The second stone (29:10), like a lap marker of a great race, as a huge well cap that Jacob removed to gather the water for Laban’s flocks.

Returning to our story, Jacob arose from place of consecration and continued on His journey with a new sense of purpose. He was no longer just fleeing a past, he was pursuing a revealed future. Filled with anticipation and hope, but with little in his hands, Jacob came upon a well near to his uncle Laban’s home. Joy filled him anew when the young Rachel came to get water from the well. Jacob presented himself, and kissed her. He rolled the stone that kept the well closed and dark, protecting the water’s purety in darkness. This stone was also anointed, this time with the sweat of the man who was strong enough to give even an angel a workout in a wrestling match twenty years later!   

This stone would represent the whole central portion of our narrative, because the whole section is anointed with the sweat and hardwork of Jacob. He worked seven years to gain his wife Rachel, only to be tricked into lying with Leah. Rachel would be then given for another seven years of work. All told, Jacob will spend 20 years with his uncle, and go thru no less than ten failed salary arrangements with this fickle boss.

As if the struggle with Laban wasn’t tough enough, Jacob will be further subjected to manipulation inside the tent of his own wives, who will bargain and manipulate for sex, just to compete for his affections in their children.

Leah’s eyes weren’t very good, but her womb was producive: she bore 1) Reuben: Look, a son! 2)Simeon: Hearing 3) Levi: attached 4)Judah: Praise! in a short succession.

Rachel would not be outdone: She gave Bilhah to Jacob to bear 5)Dan: justice  6)Naphtali: wrestling (alias, I beat my sister!)

Leah matched with Zilpah 7)Gad: fortune 8 ) Asher: happy

Rachel even swapped her spot in bed for mandrakes (an aphrodisiac), but Leah got the babies: 9)Issachar- reward! 10) Zebulun: dwelling

Rachel finally bore her own baby: 11) Joseph: may the Lord add. And later will die giving birth to the last of the sons: 12) Benoni (son of sorrow), changed by his Father to Benyamin (son of right hand).

Jacob’s house now full, and Laban- having son’s of his own and cancelling the adoption inheritance to Jacob, caused Jacob to want to move on. Laban saw the great blessing that was his because of Jacob, and negotiated a way to keep him there. The end of all the hard work was that Jacob grew to be a wealthy man, and Laban also prospered. The time came for them to part, and Jacob left in the night with all of his goods. Rachel, unfortunately, took also the teraphim of Laban- the guarantee of inheritance and blessing that once belonged to her husband, but was lost after her father had sons of his own.

3. The third and final stone (31:46), like a finish line of the race, brings us to the final scene of the Parashah (portion). It is no longer a single stone of a nomad with little but his strength and dreams, it is now the pile of stones of a successful and wealthy Patriarch of a family. It will not be anointed with oil, but with crumbs from the table of a meal covenant between Jacob and his father in law, Laban. It is a place of reconciliation that prepares Jacob for the great reconciliation with his brother, yet to come.

When Laban caught up to Jacob, Rachel, Leah, eleven sons and a caravan full of camels, flocks, herds and servants, he was angry, but controlled. God told him to watch his tongue. He searched for his inheritance pledge symbol, the teraphim, but Rachel was sitting on them, so he couldn’t find them. After a time, a settlement between them, filled with conditions and contracts that would please any lawyer, Laban and Jacob found themselves eating a meal covenant together, sitting atop a heap of stones.

Genesis 17:1-16 The Recipe for God's Blessing

People everywhere seem to be needy and unfulfilled. Is there a formula for fulfillment and blessing in the Bible? The answer is YES!

Consider Abraham’s story. With the birth of Ishmael, God again waited at least another thirteen years to move in and fulfill His promises to Abraham! We glimpse into the story of Abraham at age 99, as God moves powerfully one more time, changing his name and setting in motion the long-awaited promise.

Key Principle: Abraham’s open heart led to solid belief and obedient steps. Those steps led him to fulfillment of his deepest longings and desires.

  1. The Platform of Blessing – a surrendered life: The blessing of God followed two events – the trust in God’s Word by Abram and the daily living by God’s standard in his life! El Shaddai called Abram and told him to appear for Divine inspection (17:1) so that God could bestow His promised blessing of children (17:2).
  2. The Prerequisite for Blessing – a prepared heart: “When the heart is right, the feet are swift!” Without the need to prepare himself further, Abram came immediately into God’s presence in worship (17:3a)!
  3. The Precision of Blessing – a fulfilling promise: God saw Abram’s heart, and met his needs with Divine power. God’s blessings are specifically tailored, and follow six important principles (17:3a-8):
  • I chose you out of the many (17:4). They are Deliberate: God encourages by letting His follower know that they are not a random accident, but a choice of love.
  • I will use you to affect millions (17:4b) and they will know you by your new name (17:5-6). They are Impacting: God affirms how profound an obedient believer affects his whole world!
  • I will maintain the covenant through the generations after you are gone (17:7). They are Intimate: God reaches into the life of a follower to fulfill their deepest longings!
  • I will meet your physical needs and be a guardian to your children (17:8). They build Confidence: God secures the heart of his follower concerning their deepest worries!
  • I will set the requirements for following me (17:9-14). They are Prescribed: God sets the standards of obedience in His follower’s lives for each generation!
  • I will change the identity of your partner (17:15) and bless her because of your faith (17:16). They are Overflowing: God blesses the people around us because of our right response to His love and His Word!

What was the formula? An open heart that leads to firm trust and obedient steps equals blessing!

Genesis 16:1-16 Helping Out God

Introduction: God made promises four times to Abraham, and then delayed in fulfilling them. Anxious to have her husband experience all that God had promised, Sarah steps in – and Abraham accepts her plan. Abraham had a full knowledge of the promises of God – the question was not WHAT, but WHEN! Abraham saw the faithfulness of God to him – the question was not WHO, but HOW!

Key Principle: When we seek to “help out” God by performing FOR Him, and not BY, THROUGH and IN Him, we create a terrible mess out of His great promises!

Seven Observations on Overcoming Failure:

  1. Some are caused by our nature overcoming our walk with God: Sarah tried to fulfill God’s promise (16:1). Following our natural desires to fulfill a role that God should fulfill will bring us pain, not fulfillment!
  2. Some are caused by “mis-focusing” our efforts: Abraham was passive in the leadership of his home. (16:2). A failure to fulfill the role God currently has given you, will further delay God’s blessing on your future roles and promises!
  3. All failures are enhanced by flesh performance: Neither Abraham nor Sarah consulted God in their plan (16:3-4). A believer can do what “feels right” or will “seem to work” and create greater pain and trouble!
  4. Failures cannot be overcome without identifying the real underlying problem: Neither Abraham nor Sarah detected the true problem when troubles materialize (16:5-6). The underlying deception must be rooted out to truly solve the problem!
  5. Many (not just ME!) suffer from my failures: Hagar ended up stripped of her dignity, despised and on the run (16:7-8). Wrong assumptions and poor choices lead to victimization in those who were not a part of our problem – until we dragged them in.
  6. God is not afraid of stepping in to failure scenarios: The angel directed Hagar’s return (16:9). The beginning of blessing is submission to God’s Word!
  7. God does see the inequities, and is able to put something great together even in the midst of pain: Hagar received promises that encouraged her (16:10-16). God builds up, even standing with us in the dump of all the destruction we have experienced on our way to Him!

Bill Borden (of the famous dairy family) left his fortune to be a missionary in China. He left the note: “No retreat, no return, no regrets.” Victory is being where God tells you to be, doing what God tells you to do. There is no greater call.

Genesis 15: When God Cut a Deal

Introduction: God met Abraham a fourth time, and each time God added to the promises He made.

  • Emptying Promise: The first meeting was in Genesis 12:1-3, when God told Abram to move out to a country God would show him, and that God would make Abram a blessing to all nations.
  • Defined Promise: The second meeting was recorded in 12:7 when God told Abram that he would receive all the land he could see for his descendants.
  • Extended Promise: Another meeting was recorded in 13:14, after Abraham rescued lot and gave tithes to Melchisedek. God promised Abraham the land allotment would be forever his for his family.
  • Specified Promise: This fourth meeting between God and Abraham was the record of a vision, where God made an additional promise: Your household will have great reward. Abram asks “How?” God replies, “Your seed will be many, and come from YOU!”

God met Abraham to respond to his fear of constant conflict and limited reward (15:1). Encouragement Principle: God recognizes our need to be encouraged when the rewards are distant, and offers His Word to lift us!

Abraham wanted to make sure he was doing what he could to realize the promise, so he checked with God on his plan to have heirs (15:2-3). Inspection Principle: Mature believers pass all their plans before God for the “how” of the fulfillment of His promises. God’s work must be done God’s way.

God responded to Abraham’s query with a “No!” God told Abraham that He was going to meet the need in His own way (15:4-5). Passive Principle: Because Abraham asked – he got God’s direction. Believers need not fumble through life, we can ask God for even a specific word of direction. God delights in our asking!

Abraham accepted at face value God’s promise, simply offering an “Amen!” to the plan. God accepted the simplicity of faith and set up the most intimate covenant with him, a covenant of blood (15:6-7). Affirmation Principle: God’s gifts come by His grace through the vehicle of our faith (simple acceptance and acting on them as though they were already true!).

Abraham asked, “With what covenant symbol will you make this promise?” (15:8). Model Principle: God loves models! He shows us earthly things to mirror heavenly truths!

To close our story, note: God replied, “With blood!” (15:9-21). The covenant included new prophetic details:

  • Your seed will be kept from the land, but return after four hundred years (13).
  • They will be enslaved, but then set free by God (14).
  • It will happen after your lifetime (15).
  • God had a reason for this lapse (16).

Note that God made this covenant while Abraham slept; Abraham already offered consent by obediently killing the animals. God’s most intimate promises are given in blood covenant. He made one with Abraham, but He also made one with us!

Genesis 14:1-24 Reaching Out With a Generous Heart

Last time we saw how God blessed Abraham’s generosity. Today we will see his heart in action and how God used it for a testimony!

The Problem: The uninformed choice Lot made for a home was based on beauty – but was a choice that led him to step into the conflict of the region, and it cost him his freedom (14:1-12).

1. The generous heart saw the need of another as more important than any plan he had already! Abraham heard about the troubles and immediately mobilized his assets to help (14:13-14).

2. The generous heart used every bit of creativity to help where help was needed! Abraham outsmarted the opposing army by doing the unexpected (14:15).

3. The generous heart was always focused on PEOPLE and their needs! Abraham was careful to bring everyone home (14:16-17).

4. The generous heart recognized the blessing of God when it came! Abraham offered a tithe of all he had in recognition to God’s goodness (14:18-20).

5. The generous heart was able to be a testimony by giving with no misunderstanding about his open intention to help without strings (14:21-24). Abraham offered everything back to the kings!

Are you prepared to see others needs, be creative, keep your focus on the people you desire to minister to, identify the blessing of God in your life and be careful to build a “stringless” testimony? God will use your generous heart!

Genesis 13:2-18 Secrets of a Generous Heart

Introduction: Abraham learned to receive God’s blessings, and he learned how to “turn off the valve” of the blessings. Had he learned the secret to blessing others?

Secret #1: Know the Source of Generosity (13:2-4)

Abraham’s generous heart was rooted in the knowledge of his undeserved blessing from God. Coming from a defeat in his life, God cleansed his heart, and God’s grace marked Abraham’s relationships. Principle: A right relationship with God nurtures a generous heart, and curbs a critical and judgmental heart.

Secret #2: Understand the Problem (13:5-7)

Generosity and other person-centered living is not the norm in our world. People are self interested, which causes constant strife (James 4:1). Principle: When my heart is truly generous toward others, there will be those who cannot understand what I am doing!

Secret #3: See Problems as Opportunities to be Generous (13:8-9)

Generosity is “acts that are based on a deliberate intention to help another gain what they need to become what God intends them to be (to reach their potential for God).” When Abraham saw the tensions, he used the opportunity to better Lot’s fortunes! Principle: Opportunities are either viewed as obstacles (and chafed at) or as opportunities (and carefully responded to).

Secret #4: Delight in the Progress of the Other (13:10-11)

Abraham was energized by the progress of his nephew, Lot. He was not resistant, but reinforcing and encouraging. Principle: Nothing kills a generous heart more than the venom of jealousy.

Secret #5: See God’s Promises to YOU as the continued source of Happiness and Security (13:12-18) 
Abraham got a Divine endorsement of blessing in light of his generous heart. You cannot out give God, and He will care for those whose heart is truly generous toward others.

Principle: We are never so tall as when we stoop to help others! Is your heart generous?

Genesis 12:9-13:3 How to Kill Blessing

Introduction: God’s desire was that Abraham, as a believer in a lost world, would spread blessing to lost men (cp. 12:3). His sojourn into Egypt was NOT a blessing to the lost – it was a curse. How did Abraham kill the spread of God’s blessing? What could he do about a lost testimony?

Sliding Downward Into Failure in five easy steps!

Step One: Discontentment. The discontentment with the “place” God put Abram in sent him packing to a “better” place. It also led him into the heart of a series of perils (12:9-10). Principle: Where God places us is the best place to be. When we kick against His revealed will, we may feel we are getting more of our own way, but we are heading for long-term disaster.

Step Two: Fear. The problems brought on by Abram’s choice to walk away from God’s revealed place for him led him into problems. In the midst of the peril, fear set in. He found himself frustrated and vulnerable (12:11-12). Principle: Without the assurance that we are in the center of God’s place for us, we are vulnerable to sweeping fear and frustration!

Step Three: Deception. The fear and vulnerability led to Abram trying his best to “cover himself”. He did not turn to God for aid, he solved the problems in the realm of the flesh. In the end, he found it easier to lie, and the poison of deception thwarted his testimony to both his wife and the world. His misplaced trust is a notable tip-off to the problem (i.e. “of thee” in12:13). Principle: The “father of lies” will do his work in us when we have left our “place” and are walking in a way that opens us to deception. We will be deceived into believing WE can solve our problems, and then DECEIVE others as the lies spread. We cannot be an uncompromising testimony to truths we don’t believe enough to consistently live!

Step Four: Hypocrisy. The encounter Abram had with the world was met amid deception and a total departure from his walk with God. He killed his testimony by reaching out in deception rather than in a genuine walk of integrity (12:14-16). Principle: We cannot give out what we don’t possess. We cannot urge others to trust a God we do not!

Step Five: The Rotten Fruit encounter with Abram left Pharaoh in worse shape than he was before this “man of God” came to him! In the end, instead of bringing the blessing that should come when a believer enters the scene, Abram brought pain! Pharaoh loathed the God of Abraham (12:17-20)! Principle: A believer walking in defiance will bring pain and heartache to the people he should bring blessing to!

What could Abraham do when he destroyed his testimony? Abraham left the scene (13:1-4) and returned back to the place God put Him. When he came back to his “place” he turned his heart back to God and bowed before Him!

Genesis 12:1-8 Five Steps to Blessing

  • Step One: “Get out of thy country”: Be ready for a “trust exchange”. God’s promises always come at the same price – Trade what you see for what you cannot, based solely on my Word! (12:1).
  • Step Two: “I will”: Understand the source of the blessing. All God’s promises are rooted in His Word to us – it is what we have to follow Him by! (12:2).
  • Step Three: “Bless them that bless thee”: Acknowledge the nature of His plan. God uses us to reach into the lives of others – our failures have broader consequences! (12:3).
  • Step Four: “As the Lord spoke”: Wear the mark of obedience. It is not brains, nor trust that are the mark of blessing – it is obedience! (12:4-5).
  • Step Five: “Lord appeared – built an altar”: Recognize the One who gives victory and blessing (12:6-8). Note that God was blessed when Abraham gave Him worship in the form of giving back to God his own things!