Refining Our Dreams
Though Abraham’s experience at Moriah pictured the Cross where God would recapture His dream of family and redeem us from our fallen nature, the actual fulfillment of the event was still hundreds of years away. We were still fallen dreamers. No person could better picture the post-fall condition of humankind than Jacob. Dreamer extraordinaire, he fine-tuned the art of post-fall dreaming to a very low level. Actually, he got a head start on most of us - he was demonstrating his true nature at birth! As his elder twin, Esau, was being born, Jacob was clutching his heel (see Genesis 25:26). Thus, the name Jacob, which means “heel-grabber.” Not very imaginative, but it works.
The term is actually much more revealing than a cursory glance might reveal. The root word has a figurative meaning of “circumventing (as if tripping by the heels); also to restrain (as if holding by the heel).” The Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon, one of the most respected Old Testament reference tools, actually says the word means “assail hideously” or “attack.” It goes on to say that a good translation of Genesis 25:26 would be “he attacked his brother at the heel.” (For all of you actually named Jabob, take heart. Jacob eventually overcame his nature, and his name ultimately became associated with honor and greatness. Yahweh is actually called “the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.)
True to his nature, Jacob again demonstrated his conniving heart several years later when he conceived a plan to finagle his elder brother Esau’s birthright. A short while after this, this same covetous nature manifested yet again when Jacob and his mother hatched a devious plan to steal Esau’s final blessing from his father. Jacob was nothing if not consistent! Isaac, old and dying, was making plans to pronounce the traditional parting blessing over his children; Esau’s blessing, as the oldest son, would be the greatest.
The heel-grabber had other plans.
All the details aren’t necessary, only the fact that the scheme involved a complete deception of his now blind father, Isaac, and a devious manifestation of his conniving nature (see Genesis 27 for the entire story). You can be fairly confident your dreaming nature has hit an all-time low when you swindle your brother out of his inheritance and deceive your blind, dying father to do so. God was gonna have a lot of work to do on this unrefined dreamer!
Jacob, as it turns out, was God’s choice to father the messianic race. At this point, however, he was anything but qualified. Far from being God’s trustworthy friend, Jacob hadn’t as yet even chosen the Lord as his God! (See Genesis 28:20-21). Trusting Jacob as a saving-the-world partner? Well, let’s just say God has a lot of faith in His transformational skills. He knew the treasure that lay buried under the Adamic soil of Jacob’s heart. God saw the good in Jacob and knew He could transform him from a crooked heel-grabber to a world-changing friend. He has similar plans for all of us. Through all the muck and mire of our hearts, He sees a potential dreaming partner.
Jacob’s life took a decided turn after he swindled Esau out of his blessing. Not any higher on the honor scale, Esau decided he would kill Jacob (see Genesis 27:41). There was only one recourse for Jacob - he would need to leave for a while. He and Mom decided he should visit his uncle Laban until Esau cooled off, and then return home. It shouldn’t take too long. Or so they thought. Twenty years later, Esau still wanted revenge.
God also had plans for this time, however. He began the process by sovereignly leading Jacob to Bethel, “the house of God,” on his flight to Laban’s. This was where his grandfather Abraham’s dream journey began. Approximately one hundred years had passed since God met with Abraham there, so it was no longer a place celebrated or even recognized by Jacob. However, it certainly was to God.
When Jacob arrived at Bethel, most translations simply say he arrived at “a place.” What the Hebrew text actually says, however, is he came to “the place” (Genesis 28:11). This was a special location to God - He had begun His dream recovery project here with Abraham, and here He would continue it.
That night as Jacob slept, the Lord gave him an astonishing dream in which He gave Jacob the same offer He had given his grandfather, Abraham:
He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”
With even a casual comparison of Abraham’s promise from God in Genesis 12, the similarities are obvious. The land, material blessings, protection, and many descendants - it’s all there, including the part about all the families of the earth being blessed through him. This was a continuation of Abraham’s promise, with God’s dream tucked neatly inside. This is why it took place at Bethel.
It is important to note that most of our dreams are built on the shoulders of someone who came before us. Bethel teaches us that this is not only okay, it is God’s plan. Whether it be a previous dream, our inherited gifts and abilities, or the training we’ve received, someone before us contributed to our dream.
Decades earlier, Abraham had met with God at Bethel and built an altar there, making it a holy place with an open heaven. Where he knelt, a future generation could dream. Abraham’s altar sanctified the ground, making it a bed on which Jacob could receive heaven’s dream. One generation’s dream and altar can become the bridge upon which the following generation crosses into its dreams.
Although Jacob was deeply impacted by Bethel and its visitation, he nevertheless left there with his selfish nature fully intact. Still, Jehovah had accomplished what He intended, planting the seeds of the generational dream.
True to form, Jacob hadn’t left Bethel before he forgot God’s portion of the dream, thinking only of what he might receive from it. What God might want or need - blessing all nations through him - had faded into the recesses of his conniving mind. This would be a good time to cut a deal with God, Jacob reasoned. So he laid out his proposal: “If you do these things for me,” he told the Lord, “then you can be my God. Oh, and by the way,” he continued, “if you do all of this for me, I’ll also tithe to you” (see verses 20-22)
What a deal for God!
The ignorance, arrogance, and audacity of Jacob are almost laughable. God and some of His angels have just visited him, offering a partnership. Rather than seeing it as an opportunity to dream with God, Jacob attempts to advance his own cause. This earth-level dreamer sees Bethel (“God’s house”) only through the lens of selfish provision and blessing.
It took God 20 more years to overcome Jacob’s selfish nature. But our Father is a determined Redeemer, and He had a special meeting planned with Jacob, one that would forever change him. In this God-encounter, his name would be changed from Jacob to Israel. Finally, he would dream with God.
Pray with me:
Father, though Jacob still walked in his selfish, conniving nature, You led him to Bethel where You made great promises to him. You inserted him into the great dream of redeeming humankind. Thank You for your ability to look past our faults and see our potential. Thank You for loving us and sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinful, and even Your enemies.
We also thank You for those who have gone before us, faithful ones upon whose shoulders we stand and on whose efforts we build. We are living many of their dreams. May we, too, be found faithful.
We pray now for this nation, America. We pray that You would do such a powerful work that we, as a nation, would become Your friend again. We boldly and confidently declare that your dream for America is not dead and will live again. We are moving toward this, and our momentum will not be stopped. We declare this and ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.
We decree that great transformation is coming to America, turning our hearts back to our Father and Friend.
Today’s post was taken from my book Dream.
Click on the link below to watch the full video.
[Dutch Sheets Dream, Discovering God’s Purpose for Your Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2012), pp 129-141.]