Old Testament Encounters with Christ
Part 11: Face to Face with God’s Great Grace
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 1, 2012
*We have been exploring Old Testament encounters with the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, Jehovah, the Lord God Almighty, who appeared at special times in the Old Testament.
*Last time we were in Genesis 18, where God appeared face to face with Abraham and Sarah. The Lord came down to confirm His promise of a coming son. And to tell Abraham about His decision to destroy Sodom and her wicked sister-cities. When we last saw Abraham, he was praying for God to spare Sodom, if even 10 righteous men could be found in the city. And Abraham taught us a lot about prayer.
*Tonight in Genesis 28, we skip ahead almost 150 years to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. Over these years, God surely spoke to people, but we only see two reports of the Lord appearing.
*Both of these appearances were back in Genesis 26, and both times the Lord reconfirmed His covenant promises to Isaac. Listen first to Gen 26:1-6:
1. There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.
2. Then the LORD appeared to him and said: "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you.
3. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.
4. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;
5. because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws."
6. So Isaac dwelt in Gerar.
*Later on, Gen 26:23-25 says:
23. Then he went up from there to Beersheba.
24. And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake."
25. So he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there; and there Isaac's servants dug a well.
*Now in Genesis 28, the Lord appeared to Jacob in a dream. And here is some essential background: Isaac and Rebekah had twin boys, Esau and Jacob. They struggled even in their mother’s womb, and this struggle was loaded with all kinds of meaning: personal, historical and spiritual meaning.
*Mom Rebekah was troubled by the struggle in her womb, so she took her trouble to the Lord. Gen 25:22-23 says:
22. The children struggled together within her; and she said, "If all is well, why am I this way?'' So she went to inquire of the Lord.
23. And the Lord said to her: "Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.''
*On a personal level, this meant that the brothers would struggle all of their lives. Dad favored Esau. Mom favored Jacob. Jealousy and tension ruled the day.
*On a historical level this struggle previewed the bitter battles between the Israelites and their enemies the Edomites.
*But there were much deeper spiritual meanings in this brotherly struggle. First: God in His infinite wisdom had chosen Jacob to be the link in the line that would lead to birth of our Messiah Jesus Christ. John Phillips tells us that the struggle between Esau and Jacob also symbolizes the believer’s struggle between our old and new natures. (1)
*In Genesis 28, the brothers are grown, and their father, Isaac, is concerned about blessing them before he dies. This passage of Scripture took place under a dark cloud of sin. The father Isaac was stubbornly rejecting God’s choice of the younger son, wanting to give the blessing to his favorite son, Esau.
*Mother, Rebekah, has led her favorite Jacob to lie and deceive his father. And following His mother’s advice, Jacob used lies and tricks to deceive his old, feeble and blind father, Isaac.
*God intended for Jacob to have the blessing in the first place, and the Lord would have made a way. I don’t believe that God intended Jacob to get the blessing through lies. But that’s what he did.
*Since the blessing was ordinarily intended for the first born son, Esau was greatly offended with his brother. He hated Jacob so much that he planned to murder him just as soon as their father passed away.
*Mom desperately wanted her favorite out of harm’s way, so she persuaded Isaac to send Jacob to her brother to search for a Godly wife. And Genesis 28 begins with Isaac sending Jacob away. Look at vs. 1-4:
1. Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, and said to him: "You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan.
2. Arise, go to Padan Aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take yourself a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother.
3. May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples;
4. And give you the blessing of Abraham, To you and your descendants with you, That you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, Which God gave to Abraham."
*Now Jacob is running for his life, headed for the safety of his uncle’s home. With that background in mind, let’s read vs. 10-22, looking for the grace of Almighty God.
*Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.
*God’s grace is so wonderful! -- As Philip Yancy explained: “Grace means that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. Grace means that God already loves us much as an infinite God can possibly love.” (2)
*Someone else said that mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve. And grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. God’s grace is amazing! But how can we see the greatness of God’s grace in this Old Testament encounter with Christ?
1. First: Look at the torment of our sin.
*We get a small taste of that torment in vs. 10-11:
10. Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.
11. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.
*If you want to get a better grasp of the grace of God, you need to study the destructive power of sin. Take a good look at the pain and devastation of our sin.
-Sin puts you out in the wilderness alone.
-Sin only gives you cold comfort with your head resting on a rock.
-Sin brings bitter fruit: It steals. It destroys. It breaks your relationships.
*Jacob’s sin broke his father’s heart, put his mother into great fear, and put murderous hatred into his brother’s heart. Sin kills. And unless you open your heart to trust in the Lord, sin will send you to Hell.
*Sin never did us a bit of good. No matter what you might think you are getting from your sin, it’s not worth it!
*Jacob got all of that trouble. But God’s grace is greater than our sin! -- As Paul tells Christians in Rom 5: 20: “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.”
*Grace abounds much more! God’s grace is able to rescue us from the torment of our sin. Yes there will still be consequences in this life and loss of rewards in the next. But God’s grace will rescue us from the torment of sin.
*Jacob found this truth that night in the desert. And I hope you have too.
-How can we see the greatness of God’s grace? -- Look at the torment of our sin.
2. And look at the treasures of our Savior.
*The Lord revealed great treasure to Jacob starting in vs. 12:
12. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
13. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: "I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. . . ”
*Jacob dreamed a dream. John Phillips told about another young man who had a dream. The next day he told his girlfriend, “I dreamed about you last night.”
*Naturally she was curious and wanted to know all about it. He said, “I dreamed I proposed to you. I wonder what that means?” -- His girlfriend replied, “It’s very simple. It means you have more sense when you’re asleep than when you’re awake!” (3)
*That’s the way Jacob was that night. And that night he learned that the God of Abraham and Isaac could become the God of Jacob too. So the Lord identified Himself in vs. 13.
*Then God began to make all of these fantastic promises to Jacob:
13. . . The land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants.
14. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
15. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.''
*It is so important for us to see that Jacob didn’t do a thing to get these promises from God.
-He didn’t build a ladder up to Heaven. God set that ladder up.
-Jacob couldn’t have built that ladder with all the wood in the world!
*And at this point, Jacob wasn’t trying to seek the Lord. He was just running for his life. Jacob wasn’t seeking God. God was seeking after Jacob!
-And God was seeking after you long before you ever thought of seeking Him.
*Why did God make these amazing promises to Jacob? -- Only because of His grace!
*And notice that with God’s grace, things just keep getting better and better.
-In vs. 13-15, it’s as if God said, “This is good, but I’ve got something better and better and better.”
*Then in vs. 15, came the best blessing of all! The Lord said: “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
*Of course, this blessing of God’s presence and protection does not mean we won’t have troubles. Jacob had lots of trouble.
-He was about to meet his uncle Laban, who was even more crooked than Jacob. He had to work for his cheating uncle for 20 years.
-Then Jacob would be crippled by the Lord.
-Eventually he had to bury his beloved wife, Rachel.
-And Jacob had to see his sons deal more treacherously with him than he ever dealt with his dad.
*Yes, he had troubles, and so will we. But with Jesus, life still keeps getting better and better. And one day it will be perfect.
*How good will it be? -- Really it’s impossible to say. God trying to explain Heaven to us is a little like you being shut up in a closet with your children who have never been outside. You could never explain all the wonders that waited for them just on the other side of that door. And it’s all because of God’s grace! (4)
*How can we see the greatness of God’s grace? -- Look at the treasures of our Savior.
3. And look at the transformation of our salvation. In vs. 16-22 we see Jacob’s life transformed by this revelation of Almighty God.
 In vs. 16-17, God’s grace turned Jacob from ignorance to understanding:
16. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.''
17. And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!''
*“Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t have a clue!” -- We’ve all been there. Too many times all of us could say. “Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t have a clue.” How many of us could say that right now?
*But by God’s grace Jacob’s heart was opened to the presence of God. And by His Word, His Spirit, and the cross of Jesus Christ, God will reveal Himself to us too. God’s grace turned Jacob from ignorance to understanding.
 It also turned Jacob from trouble into triumph. And we see this in vs. 18: “Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.”
*An amazing thing happened here:
-The symbol of Jacob’s failure became the symbol of his faith.
-The symbol of his sorrow became the symbol of his salvation.
*And it is just the same way with us. If we belong to Jesus Christ, then the cross is not just the symbol of our sin. It’s the symbol of our salvation!
-The cross is not the symbol of our death. It’s the symbol of our life, because Jesus died to give us life. And the cross is the symbol of our life, because the cross is empty. Jesus is alive!
*God’s grace turned Jacob from trouble into triumph.
 It also turned Jacob from self-reliance to serving God. We see truth in vs. 20-21:
20. 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,
21. so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God.”
*Sure, Jacob still had a long way to go. But on this night Jacob was saved, and God’s grace began to transform his life.
*He was like the young girl who accepted Christ as her Savior many years ago. When she asked to join the church, a deacon asked her, "Were you a sinner before you received the Lord Jesus into your Life?" -- "Yes, sir," she replied.
-"Well, are you still a sinner?" -- "To tell you the truth, I feel I'm a greater sinner than ever."
-"Then what real change have you experienced?" -- "I don't quite know how to explain it," she said, "except I used to be a sinner running after sin, but now that I am saved. I'm a sinner running away from sin!" (5)
*There was a life transformed by the amazing grace of God. Have you allowed His grace to touch your life? Are you allowing His grace to touch your life?
*God spoke to Jacob in a dream. He is trying to speak to us tonight through His Spirit and His Word.
-Allow the grace of Jesus Christ to transform your life.
-It will make a difference in the way you live tomorrow and forever.
1. Detailed explanation in “Exploring Genesis” by John Phillips - p. 211-213
2. “What’s So Amazing about Grace?” by Philip Yancey - p. 62)
3. “Exploring Genesis” by John Phillips - p. 236
4. Seen on TV show: “Touched by an Angel”
5. Source: Our Daily Bread -- found on Sermonillustrations.com)