In my sermon on Sunday, I was forced to leave out one idea due to time—but it’s still worth mentioning. I preached about a fun and familiar story in Genesis 28, where Jacob is running from his angry brother, lies down to sleep for the night, and proceeds to have his infamous dream about a stairway to heaven. In short, he wakes from the dream, realizes that God has been in his life all along and he wasn’t aware, and his life is forever altered.
There’s an interesting idea from this story, however, that I didn’t have time to explore. I find it fascinating and noteworthy that Jacob is used to being so controlling, conniving, and manipulative, but this encounter with God happens when he has no control over the situation: while he is asleep. Jacob is a trickster; shyster; scam artist. He’s constantly working the angles, taking advantage of people, and finagling his way into things he doesn’t deserve. He’s used to always being in control, but here, this encounter just happens to him. He has no say over it.
This whole incredible encounter happens while Jacob is asleep. He finally has no control; he’s not in charge; he can’t trick his way in or out of this one. It’s like God is saying, “If you won’t stop masterminding your life and your world (which, by the way, isn’t working), then I’ll just have to enter your life through some other way. I’ll have to visit you when you can’t control the situation.”
Which makes me think of Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” God doesn’t necessarily make all things good, but He is relentless in His effort to work for the good of His children—and that’s what He’s doing with Jacob. If Jacob won’t give up his control and stop his abusive and manipulative behavior on his own, then God is willing to get creative in how He might get Jacob’s attention.
This little subplot of the story helps remind us that we aren’t ultimately in control anyway, so we might as well not try to be. God will not relent. He will never stop pursuing us—beckoning us back into right relationship with himself and the world—the same way the Prodigal Father never stopped pursuing his wayward son. And God will use whatever means necessary to finally get our attention.
Jacob is invited to finally stop running—to surrender to God’s will and way—and that is our invitation as well. May we never have so tight of a stranglehold on our own lives and agendas that we are unable to hear, see, and sense God’s often-gentle tug on us to live into his better plan.