And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. (Genesis 28:14)
At this point in the history of God’s people, it would be difficult to find someone less deserving of God’s blessing than Jacob. With the assistance of his mother, Rebekah, he deceived his aged and blind father, Isaac, and stole for himself the blessing Isaac was going to give to Jacob’s twin brother, Esau. With this theft, the already strained family relationships were ruptured, and Jacob had to flee from his family and his homeland because Esau was threatening to take revenge on Jacob and kill him after their father died.
While traveling to visit a far-away uncle he had likely never met, the lonely and, perhaps, homesick Jacob stopped for the night. I’ll let the biblical account pick the story up from here:
As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:12-15)
Notice that God first identifies himself and then repeats to Jacob the promises that he first gave to Abraham: the promise of land, the promise of numerous descendants, and the promise that all the families of the earth will be blessed through those descendants. Furthermore, God also promises to be with Jacob, to protect and to bring him back to this land. And all these promises given by God are unconditional. God does not say “if” anywhere in his words to Jacob. He unequivocally declares who he is and what he is going to do for and through Jacob—who is, by the way, totally unworthy and undeserving of any of these blessings—because that’s how God rolls.
Compare that to Jacob’s response. He knows that the one, true God came to him and gave him specific, unconditional promises. And yet Jacob hedged his bets and used a conditional “if-then” statement to give a tentative response to these unconditional promises from God.
Then Jacob made this vow: “If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.” (vv. 20-22)
That’s how Jacob and how all the rest of us fellow human beings roll.
But our half-hearted responses do not deter God from his plan of gathering for himself a Blessing People through whom all people in the world will be blessed. God still blessed Jacob and fulfilled his promises to him of property, protection, presence and people. And when Jacob’s biological descendants faltered in their efforts to follow God and fulfill their destiny, God was still faithful to them. Through times of war and peace, plenty and famine, victory and defeat, God did not forsake his Blessing People and he continually brought them back to himself.
Centuries later, through Jacob’s biological descendants, God brought forth the One who unconditionally committed himself to follow the way of the Lord even though it led to isolation, suffering and death. No dreams of angels comforted Jesus as he hung on the cross. Here was the rightfully blessed Son of God who had no deceit in his heart and who stood for all that is good and beautiful and true. And yet he was betrayed, denied, tortured and sentenced to die for crimes he did not commit.
Those crimes were ours, and Jesus paid for them all to make a way where there was no way for us to have a free and full relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God is not deterred by Jacob’s or our conditional promises because he fulfills both his promises and ours. Jesus fulfilled God’s unconditional promises of grace by coming to this world and paying the ransom to set us free from our bondage to sin, death and the devil and to bring us into his family of Blessing People. Jesus completed our half-hearted pledges of commitment and faith by coming to this world and being the ideal human being who totally aligned his will to that of his Father’s and only did what he saw his Father do (John 5:19-20).
So you can rest in the unconditional promises of God and know that your incomplete commitments will always be made perfect by Jesus. And as you do that, the people around you will be blessed.
Dear Jesus, thank you for being both the One who initiates and the One who completes my faith. Help me to rest in your love. Please come and live your life in and through me. Help me to live as one of your many Blessing People. Amen.