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4. Experiencing Intimacy with God (Genesis 28)

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So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman! Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants! Then you will become a large nation. May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram. Then Esau realized that the Canaanite women were displeasing to his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, along with the wives he already had. Meanwhile Jacob left Beer Sheba and set out for Haran. He reached a certain place where he decided to camp because the sun had gone down. He took one of the stones and placed it near his head. Then he fell asleep in that place and had a dream. He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it and the Lord stood at its top. He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants. I am with you! I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!” Then Jacob woke up and thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, but I did not realize it!” He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is nothing else than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!” Early in the morning Jacob took the stone he had placed near his head and set it up as a sacred stone. Then he poured oil on top of it. He called that place Bethel, although the former name of the town was Luz. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God is with me and protects me on this journey I am taking and gives me food to eat and clothing to wear, and I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will become my God. Then this stone that I have set up as a sacred stone will be the house of God, and I will surely give you back a tenth of everything you give me.”

Genesis 28 (NET)

How can we experience intimacy with God?

In this part of Jacob’s narrative, he leaves home because his brother, Esau, desires to kill him. Rebekah hears of his plan and convinces Isaac to send Jacob to Haran to marry one of her brother’s daughters. Jacob, who is about seventy-seven years old, leaves for Haran to find a wife.1 While camped at a place later called Bethel, God reveals himself to Jacob. In Jacob’s dream there was a stairway between heaven and earth, with angels ascending and descending, and God at the top of the stairway.

There at Bethel, Jacob experiences a greater intimacy with God—leading to a greater commitment. It’s not that Jacob didn’t know God, he did. He had been raised in a God-fearing family—one that believed in God’s promises to Abraham. However, Jacob had never really allowed God to take a hold of his life. Jacob was still living for himself and not trusting God. This is often true for those raised in Christian homes. At a young age, they develop head-knowledge but still live on the faith of their parents; however, at some point, their faith has to become their own. God has to become their God and not just their parents’ God.

Each of us needs an experience with God. Some still need an experience that leads to salvation. Others, because of apathy or even luke-warmness, need a fresh experience—leading them to greater intimacy and greater commitment. This would be Jacob’s first-time meeting with God, but he would have many other fresh experiences—including another dream (Gen 31), a time where he wrestles with God and God renames him (Gen 32), and a time where, it seems, God physically appeared to him (Gen 35). We need to continually experience intimacy with God as well.

As we study this narrative, we learn principles about experiencing intimacy with God, so we can experience him in fresh new ways.

Big Question: What principles can we discern from Genesis 28 about experiencing intimacy with God?

To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Practice Obedience

So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman! Leave immediately for Paddan Aram! Go to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and find yourself a wife there, among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May the sovereign God bless you! May he make you fruitful and give you a multitude of descendants! Then you will become a large nation. May he give you and your descendants the blessing he gave to Abraham so that you may possess the land God gave to Abraham, the land where you have been living as a temporary resident.” So Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean and brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him off to Paddan Aram to find a wife there. As he blessed him, Isaac commanded him, “You must not marry a Canaanite woman.” Jacob obeyed his father and mother and left for Paddan Aram. Then Esau realized that the Canaanite women were displeasing to his father Isaac. So Esau went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, along with the wives he already had.

Genesis 28:1-9

Previously, when seeking a wife for Isaac, Abraham made his servant promise to not take a wife from Canaan; the people of Canaan were ungodly and their character would have threatened the promise (Gen 24). However, Esau, who did not care about God’s promises, married two women from Canaan, which caused great distress in Isaac’s household. Therefore, twice Isaac commands Jacob to not marry a Canaanite, in verse 1 and verse 6, and in obedience, Jacob left for Haran to marry from Rebekah’s family (v. 7).

When Esau discovers that his ungodly marriages displeased his parents, he marries one of Ishmael’s daughters, which no doubt, only exasperated the problem (v. 8-9). Though Scripture does not hide the fact that some of Scripture’s heroes had multiple wives, it always shows these marriages in a negative light. There was conflict between Sara and Hagar, Abraham’s wives. There will later be conflict between Jacob’s wives. There was also jealousy and conflict between Elkanah’s wives, of which one of them was Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Solomon’s many wives led him away from God. Scripture clearly teaches that it is God’s ideal for one man to marry one woman. In Genesis 2:24, we see that man is supposed to leave his family and cleave to his wife, and they become one flesh. The kings were commanded to not multiply wives, which none of them seems to have obeyed (Deut 17:17). In the NT, the requirements for an elder is that he should be the husband of but one wife (1 Tim 3:2). Esau’s marriage was a failed attempt to please his father, that really showed that he was unrepentant and only wanted Isaac’s favor and not God’s.

However, the main application, we should take from this is that obedience leads to experiencing God’s presence. Jacob’s obedience to his parents, and ultimately God, in not marrying one of the pagan women preceded the manifestation of God’s presence. Obedience commonly is the pathway to intimacy with God and ultimately his blessing. We see this in many Scriptures:

John 15:10 says: “If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” To remain in Christ’s love means to constantly experience it and be aware of it. It includes having our prayers answered and experiencing God’s presence. Therefore, to not obey God means to not experience God’s love as we should.

Philippians 4:8-9 says it this way:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

The promise for thinking on godly things and practicing them is that the “God of peace” will be with us. Those who practice godliness in their meditations and actions experience God. They experience him in the work place, in their families, in worship, and in leisure. These people live anointed lives, as God’s favor showers over them. The opposite of this is true when our thinking and living are ungodly. This leads to missing God’s presence and opens the door for all types of evil. It was when Saul was in rebellion that the Spirit of God left him, and a demon spirit was allowed to torment him (1 Sam 16:14).

If we are going to experience the God of peace, we must walk in obedience. It is no surprise that Jacob’s obedience led to an intimate experience with God.

Are you living in obedience and therefore growing in the knowledge of God? Or living in disobedience and growing farther away from the Lord? If we cherish iniquity in our hearts, David said the Lord will not hear us—we will miss his presence and blessing (Ps 66:18).

Application Question: How have you experienced God’s presence when being obedient to God and how have you lacked it in seasons of rebellion?

To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Practice Solitude

Meanwhile Jacob left Beer Sheba and set out for Haran. He reached a certain place where he decided to camp because the sun had gone down. He took one of the stones and placed it near his head. Then he fell asleep in that place and had a dream. He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it…

Genesis 28:10-12

As mentioned, in obedience to Isaac, Jacob left his home and started a 500-mile journey to Haran. There are two things that are interesting about Jacob’s journey and stop in Luz, which is later called Bethel. (1) First, Jacob seems to be alone. When Abraham’s servant went to Haran to find a wife for Isaac, he left with a large caravan that included servants and camels in order to prove to the family that his servant, Isaac, would be able to provide for a young maiden (Gen 24). However, Jacob was totally alone. This was probably because Isaac was disciplining him for his deception. (2) Also, typically when traveling, one would stop at an inn for housing or be welcomed into someone’s home. However, Jacob intentionally decided to avoid the city and camp outside by himself.

This may seem insignificant, but this is actually a very important step to experiencing intimacy with God. We must practice the discipline of solitude—intentionally getting away from people and work to focus on God. Jacob’s family was very wealthy. In Genesis 14, Abraham defeated several armies with 318 servants. Isaac inherited all of Abraham’s wealth and also increased it. He became so wealthy that the Philistines envied him (Gen 26:13–14). Because of this, Jacob was accustomed to being around a booming estate with many servants and business activities to take part in. Now, however, he was all alone.

We must, at times, put ourselves in the same environment to experience intimacy with God. Moses met God by himself on a mountain, as God appeared in a fiery bush. Gideon met God while by himself threshing grain. Elijah met God in a cave. It was while Christ was in the wilderness fasting that angels came and ministered to him after his temptation (Matt 4:11).

Sadly, many of us never intentionally get alone with God, so we can experience him in deeper ways. Our lives are filled with rushing. We rush to work, rush from work, rush through eating, rush to bed, rush through our devotions. We often don’t take time to just sit, listen, and speak with God. Psalm 46:10 (NIV) says, “Be still and know that I am God.” “Be still” can also be translated “stop striving.” We need to practice intentional solitude to experience God.

Application Question: How can we practice the discipline of solitude?

  1. Be intentional. Set a time and a place to meet with God daily and even multiple times a day. Daniel prayed to God, in his room with his window open towards Jerusalem, three times a day (Dan 6). Christ got up early in the morning and went to the mountain to meet with God (Mark 1). Consider practicing not only daily disciplines but seasons of concentrated time with God. Go to a retreat or a discipleship school. Choose to fast for a week by neglecting a meal or more daily for extra time with God. Christ fasted for forty days and experienced special grace (Matt 4). Moses fasted for forty days and experienced God in a special way as well (Ex 34). We must be intentional about our times of solitude with God. How are you being intentional about your time with God?
  2. Be zealous in guarding your solitude. (a) To do this, be careful of timewasters. Too much of good things like Internet, playing video games, hobbies, etc., can actually hinder our relationships with others and God. (b) Also, be careful of busyness. Sometimes we think of busyness as spiritual. However, Christ rebuked Martha for her busyness, even though she was serving God and others, and praised Mary for sitting at his feet (Luke 10). Don’t let busyness crowd God out of your life—including the busyness of serving.

Application Question: What types of spiritual disciplines have you found most helpful in experiencing intimacy with God? What are your time-wasters that you have to be careful of? In what ways have you seen busyness crowd God out of your life? How is God calling you to intentionally practice solitude?

To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Recognize Our Brokenness

Meanwhile Jacob left Beer Sheba and set out for Haran. He reached a certain place where he decided to camp because the sun had gone down. He took one of the stones and placed it near his head. Then he fell asleep in that place and had a dream. He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it…

Genesis 28:10-12

While Jacob was on this journey, we can assume that he was hurting in various ways. Certainly, he was experiencing some fear, as he ran for his life and was potentially on his own for the first time. In addition, he was probably experiencing some shame. Not only had he manipulated his brother but also deceived his blind father. No doubt, this was a difficult time for Jacob. He was probably afraid and ashamed. Maybe, that’s why he wanted to be alone, instead of going to the gate of Luz and finding lodging.

However, Jacob’s brokenness was the perfect place for him to experience God. And this is often true for us. It is when we are broken, weak, lost, and lonely that God can move miraculously in our lives. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged.” Steve Cole said it this way:

In problem solving, the first step is to recognize and define the problem. Often our problem is that we don’t clearly see the problem. We aren’t aware of our great need, so we aren’t open for God to move into our lives to begin working on the problems. Many times it takes a crisis, where we are brought to the end of our own abilities and schemes, for us to be able to see our need and be open to God’s breaking into our lives.2

Matthew 5:3 says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is when we are in a state of poverty of spirit—when we recognize our sin and weakness before God—that we experience his kingdom both in salvation and in sanctification.

Since this is necessary to experience God, in his grace, he often allows us to experience trial and weakness. That is why Scripture says, “Consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials and tribulations because it is the testing of your faith” (James 1:2). We can consider our trials pure joy because we know what God is doing in our lives—he is revealing himself to us and transforming us into his image.

Application Question: How should we respond to the fact that God often meets with people in special ways during times of brokenness?

1. We should thank God when he allows us to be weak, lonely, or broken.

James 1:9-10 says, “Now the believer of humble means should take pride in his high position. But the rich person’s pride should be in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a wildflower in the meadow.” The humble person, meaning the poor, should thank God for his state in life. His poverty creates weakness and helps him trust in God more. However, the rich should take pride when God humbles him, because it teaches him the brevity of life. Trials are a blessing from God because they show us our weakness and brokenness, which prepares us to experience a harvest with God—one of intimacy and spiritual growth.

2. We should recognize times of trial or brokenness as opportunities to minister to others.

Often when we are trying to share the gospel with an unbeliever or help an immature believer grow, they many times don’t want to hear God’s Word. They don’t want to hear it because they are comfortable with their lives as they are. In those situations, we should wisely love them and wait for opportunities to minister to them. Typically, their ears and hearts open in times of trial. Trials make their hearts good ground for the precious seed of God’s Word. It is then that we should prayerfully share God’s message and wait for God to bear fruit. Trials are a strategic time to minister to others.

Colossians 4:5 (ESV) says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” The Greek word for “time” used here is not “chronos” for chronological time, but “kairos” for seasons. There are certain seasons in people’s lives when they are more open to God’s Word, and those seasons are often times of trial or brokenness. We must patiently wait for those seasons and then strategically plant God’s Word, while hoping for a spiritual harvest.

Application Question: How have you experienced special times of brokenness or trials when God met with you in a special way? How have you experienced openness in others to the things of God in times of trial or difficulty?

To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Have a Revelation of God’s Word

… He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it and the Lord stood at its top. He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants. I am with you! I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!”

Genesis 28:12-15

The prophetic words God spoke over Jacob of a land, seed, and blessing were the same things, Isaac prayed over Jacob before he started his journey (v. 3-4). It was the blessing that Jacob had initially tricked his father into giving him (Gen 27). But now, Isaac willingly spoke it over Jacob’s life. Jacob, no doubt, had heard about the promises of Abraham his whole life. But, when God spoke these over him while at Bethel, he finally had a revelation of them. God was truly going to make a great multitude through Jacob and give the land to his descendants. Now, those words weren’t just words that he had heard his parents speak or that his father prayed over him, now they were God’s Words. As Jacob met with God, he had a revelation of God’s Word and promises.

Similarly, we cannot have a true revelation of God apart from his Word. It is through God’s Word that he reveals himself to us. In Jacob’s time, they didn’t have the written revelation of Scripture, as we do; therefore, God would speak to them in more charismatic ways. However, God has given us his written Word, by which we test everything and know God more. For those who love God’s Word, meditate on it daily, and obey it, God promises many blessings. Psalm 1:1-3 describes some of these blessings. It says:

How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked … Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he attempts.

God blesses those who delight, meditate on, and obey his Word—everything that they do will prosper. They’ll experience God in the mundane, their work, their family, their ministry, and especially in their trials.

Application Question: How can we have a revelation of God’s Word, in order to experience God’s presence?

  1. To have a revelation of Gods Word, we must depend on God. Consider David’s prayer in Psalm 119:18-19: “Open my eyes so I can truly see the marvelous things in your law! I am like a foreigner in this land. Do not hide your commands from me!” David understood that apart from God’s revelation, he couldn’t understand God’s Word. Therefore, his posture was humble prayer. Pride hinders our reception of God’s Word, while humble prayer opens the door for understanding. We should pray before we study God’s Word, while studying it, and after studying it. As we do this, God will meet with us and give us revelation.
  2. To have a revelation of Gods Word, we must depend on others. In Ephesians 4:13, Paul taught that God gave us pastors and teachers to help us “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.” Through the teaching of others, God helps us understand the faith, know Christ more, and grow in maturity. We need godly believers speaking and explaining God’s Word to us. Therefore, we should saturate our life with attending church and small groups, reading godly literature, etc., in order to have a revelation of God’s Word.
  3. To have a revelation of Gods Word, we must turn away from sin. James 1:21 says, “So put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the message implanted within you, which is able to save your souls.” In order to welcome God’s Word and allow it to change us, we must put away filth and evil. It has been said that either God’s Word will keep us from sin or sin will keep us from God’s Word. When we’re walking in sin, we don’t want to read our Bible or go to church. Our hearts aren’t good ground for God’s seed, and therefore, the Word can’t change us. Are you getting rid of sin, so you can have a revelation of God through his Word? Or is sin helping you get rid of God’s Word?

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced how God’s Word keeps us out of sin or sin keeps us out of God’s Word? In what ways is God calling you to get rid of sin, in order to prepare your heart for a greater revelation of God through his Word?

To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Accept God’s Grace

and had a dream. He saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens. The angels of God were going up and coming down it and the Lord stood at its top. He said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of your father Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. All the families of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using your name and that of your descendants. I am with you! I will protect you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you!”

Genesis 28:12-15

Another aspect of Jacob’s experience with God that must stand out to us is the fact that it was full of grace. God speaks to him, “I will give you and your descendants the ground you are lying on… I am with you… I will protect you… and will bring you back to this land. I will not leave until I have done what I promised you!” God’s Words don’t make sense. God doesn’t condemn him for stealing the birthright/blessing. God just declares that all the promises would be completed through God’s power. Jacob would have the land and descendants, and his family would be a blessing to the nations. God would protect him and bring him back to the land. Jacob could not secure the promise on his own—his deception made him a fugitive. But, God was going to accomplish it by grace—Jacob just needed to believe and accept that reality.

This is true with us as well. If we are going to experience God, we must accept his grace. This is true in salvation. We can’t work for it or earn it, we must simply believe and accept it. Many miss salvation by trying to gain it through works—church attendance, baptism, giving to the poor, etc. By seeking to gain it through self-effort, as Jacob did with the birthright, they miss it. But those who humbly accept Christ’s finished work on the cross will gain salvation. John 3:16 says whoever believes shall be saved. And this is true with many of God’s promises. They are offered, not because we are righteous, but because he is faithful. Philippians 1:6 says that the work God began in us, he will complete until the day of Christ (paraphrase). Until Christ comes, God will work in us to complete his works. Grace doesn’t mean that we don’t have a role in knowing God or fulfilling his promises; it just means that even our role doesn’t happen apart from grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (paraphrase). Even our faith is a gift of God. Philippians 2:12-13 says God works in us to will and do of his good pleasure (paraphrase). The desire to accomplish his works and the empowerment to do it all come from God and his grace.

In fact, in this narrative, the grace of God was changing Jacob’s heart not only through the experience of God’s spoken promises but also Jacob’s vision in general. In the vision, he sees a stairway that went from the ground to heaven. At the top of this stairway was God and going up and down the ladder were angels. This would have reminded Jacob that God was sovereign over the affairs of the world. He was the king. His angels reminded Jacob that he was not alone and had no reason to fear. God was managing his affairs on the earth through angels. Angels are specifically sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation, according to Hebrews 1:14. Angels would protect Jacob, provide for him, and help guide him, all according to God’s will. This would give him tremendous peace and it should do the same for us. Christ told the disciples to not despise one of God’s little ones, as their angels always see the face of God (Matt 18:10). They are waiting for a word from God to defend, strengthen, or encourage.

Specifically, with the stairway, this was an Old Testament shadow of Christ. In John 1, Christ used Jacob’s stairway to explain to Nathaniel that he was the only way to heaven. Many believe that Nathaniel was meditating on Jacob’s stairway under a tree—maybe marveling at God’s grace to a deceptive man. When Christ meets with Nathaniel, he says, “Look, a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit” (John 1:47). Maybe, Christ was saying, “You are not like Jacob—a deceiver!” After Nathaniel recognizes that Jesus was in fact the messiah, Christ said: “I tell all of you the solemn truth—you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (v. 51). Christ was essentially saying, “You are not a deceiver like Jacob, but you need the same grace. I’m the stairway to heaven!”

Interpretation Question: As a picture of Christ, what did the stairway, or ladder, symbolize?

  1. The stairway symbolizes that there is a gulf between heaven and earth—God and man. Since the gulf is so large, nobody can reach heaven apart from a supernatural work of God.3
  2. The stairway symbolizes that a way has been provided for man to reach heaven. Again, the stairway is a shadow, which fully became realized in Christ.4 Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but by me” (John 14:6). In John 10:9, Christ also said: “I am the door. If anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

The Old Testament is full of pictures and shadows that represent Christ. He was the sacrificial lamb that covered the sins of the people. He was the Sabbath day on which people found rest. He was the temple in which God’s presence dwelled. He was the priest who interceded on behalf of the people. He was the righteous king, who would one day have an eternal kingdom. He was Israel who spent years in Egypt. In all these shadows, Christ is pictured. In John 5:39-40, Christ said this to the Pharisees, “You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.” The OT is not only full of prophecies about Christ but also pictures to help prepare people for the messiah.

As Jacob experiences God, he experiences grace—unmerited favor on his sinful life. He must give up his striving and deception, as the promise would come through God’s grace. And it’s the same for us. This is true in salvation—to work for salvation is to never experience it. It comes by grace through faith alone (Eph 2:8-9). But it is also true in sanctification, anything good in and through us comes from God’s grace, so no one can boast (Phil 2:12-13).

Application Question: How can we experience more of God’s grace in order to grow in intimacy with God?

1. We must humble ourselves to experience more of God’s grace.

James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” The prideful reject God and don’t depend on him. They are independent instead of dependent. Instead of depending on God’s Word, prayer, his body, etc., they depend on themselves and miss God’s grace. However, those who humble themselves before God and depend on his grace like a child (cf. Matt 18:1-4), experience much grace and intimacy with God. It was said of Moses that God spoke to him face to face, unlike with other prophets, and he was the humblest man on the earth (Num 12:3).

Are we prideful and independent or humble and dependent? We can tell by how much time we pray, study God’s Word, and rely upon God’s people. The prideful are too blind to know their great need for these things; therefore, they neglect them.

2. We must respond with faith and commitment to experience more of God’s grace.

In response to God’s revelation, Jacob anoints a stone, which was a symbol of worship and devotion to the Lord.5 Then he made a vow to God saying:

“If God is with me and protects me on this journey I am taking and gives me food to eat and clothing to wear, and I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will become my God. Then this stone that I have set up as a sacred stone will be the house of God, and I will surely give you back a tenth of everything you give me.”

Genesis 28:20-22

Commentators are divided on exactly what Jacob was saying. “If” can be translated “since.”6 If “if” is the correct translation, Jacob is bargaining with God. If God would protect him and bring him back to the land, Isaac’s God would be his God. That is quite possible since Jacob’s character is a bargainer. However, if “since” is correct, which many believe, Jacob is saying “Because God will do all these things, I will remain faithful to him, name the place the house of God, and give a tenth of my earnings.”

Either way, Jacob responded to God’s grace in faith, even if it was imperfect. We must do the same. To continue to experience God, we must respond in faith. True faith is not simply belief. It always has the corresponding fruits like commitment and devotion. Similarly, if we’re going to experience intimacy with God, we must respond to God’s grace with faith.

Christ said this, “So listen carefully, for whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him’” (Lk 8:18). If we respond to God’s grace, he will continue to give us more of it, including himself. If not, he will take away.

How are you responding to God’s grace? Are you committed or uncommitted? Hot or lukewarm? Zealous or apathetic? To experience God, we must respond to his unmerited favor. He has given us Christ, his Word, communion, the saints, opportunities to serve, and even the grace of trials so that we might seek him and know him more. Are you responding to God’s grace? Those who do receive more. By his faithful response, Jacob was preparing the way for a greater revelation of God, and we must do the same.

Application Question: Share your salvation story. How did you come to accept God’s grace in salvation? Share a time when you experienced a deeper intimacy with God after salvation and therefore a greater commitment. How would you rate your current commitment and zeal for God on a scale of 1-10 and why?

Conclusion

Jacob was raised knowing who God was. He was raised in a believing family. However, in Genesis 28, he experienced the God of his parents and his faith became his own. We need to experience God in salvation and then have constant fresh experiences of him. Like Moses, we should constantly cry out, “Show me your glory!” (Ex 33:18). How can we experience intimacy with God?

  1. To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Practice Obedience
  2. To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Practice Solitude
  3. To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Recognize Our Brokenness
  4. To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Have a Revelation of God’s Word
  5. To Experience Intimacy with God, We Must Accept God’s Grace

Application Question: How is God calling you to pursue intimacy with God?

Copyright © 2018 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

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1 Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Genesis II.

2 Accessed 3/30/2018 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-53-how-god-begins-us-genesis-281-22

3 Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Genesis II.

4 Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible – Genesis II.

5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 33). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

6 Wiersbe, W. W. (1997). Be authentic (p. 34). Colorado Springs, CO: Chariot Victor Pub.

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