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November 18 lesson: Jacob Forms a Relationship with God

November 04, 2018
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Jacob Forms a Relationship with God

Fall Quarter: God’s World and God’s People
Unit 3: God Blesses and Creates Regardless

Sunday school lesson for the week of November 18, 2018
By Dr. Nita Crump

Lesson Scripture: Genesis 28:10-22
Key Verses: Genesis 28:15

Purpose: To discover that human contracts pale compared with divine covenants.

In lesson 11, I wrote of the lessons we might learn from the story of Jacob’s deception of Isaac.  One of the lessons was that sometimes God allows success in less than moral situations to teach a greater lesson later. Think about where Jacob was in his faith journey as he tricked Isaac into blessing him with Esau’s blessing. The only record we have of Jacob’s dealings with God prior to today’s lesson was to call on God’s name to further his deceptive actions when he was trying to convince Isaac that he was, in fact, Esau. Jacob obviously did not have a personal relationship with the God of his father and grandfather. Perhaps God allowed Jacob to succeed in his deception of Isaac so that Jacob would have to run for his life. Perhaps Jacob being forced to leave behind everything for which he had been willing to bargain and to deceive put him in a position to be more reception to God’s presence. Perhaps being afraid for his life and on the run created just enough room in his heart and mind that he was willing to listen to God. Because in his fearful, weary state, Jacob was willing to hear a message from God.

Isn’t that the way many of us live? How many of us have gone to our knees in prayer only when everything else we could think to do failed? How many of us are driven to seek a deeper relationship with God only because nothing else has worked? We humans like to think that we can handle whatever life throws our way. We’re smart, we’re industrious, we can think of something. And most of the time, the solutions we come up with are not as deeply deceptive as Jacob’s actions. So even when our solutions fail, we still think we’re better than Jacob because we didn’t sink quite as low as he did. 

Jacob was a lying, conniving, cheating scoundrel. He was not the kind of person we associate with God and God’s plan. But God didn’t give up on him. God sought Jacob, reaching him in a dream. This was Jacob’s first personal experience with God. His first response was fear. And why shouldn’t it be? He had never done anything to deserve God’s positive attention. But God was there anyway, speaking to him, promising him good when he deserved punishment. 

What can we learn from this lesson? We can learn that God never gives up on us. Prevenient grace is the first of the three aspects of God’s grace in which we Methodists believe. Prevenient grace is the grace of God demonstrated by his constant presence in our lives even when we don’t recognize him. Prevenient grace is God continuing to look for ways to get our attention.  Prevenient grace is God always reaching out to try to draw us in, to draw us closer to him. God never gives up.

We can learn that God doesn’t wait for us to reach spiritual maturity before he finds us acceptable. Jacob was a work in progress. Even after his encounter with God, he was still skeptical. Verse 20 records Jacob’s promise, a promise that begins with the word “if.” If God does what he promises, I’ll believe. If God does what he promises, I’ll give back some of what he gives me for him to use. Jacob has encountered the holy and Almighty God and he still wanted to bargain. And God kept his promise to be with him despite his skepticism. 

Ladies and gentlemen, if nothing else in scripture convinces you that God can and will use anyone to accomplish his work, the story of Jacob should. If nothing else in scripture convinces you that God keeps his promises, the story of Jacob should. If nothing else in scripture convinces you that you should give up on self and turn to God, perhaps the story of Jacob should. 

God’s willingness to seek Jacob even after his worst actions forces us to admit that his salvation has little to do with Jacob’s moral condition and everything to do with God’s goodness. Nothing we can accomplish will ever be good enough to earn God’s love. So instead of depending on self, we should depend on the grace and mercy of the one holy and Almighty God who seeks us out and invites us in. Are you willing to die to self in order to live for God? 

(Information in this lesson was drawn from The New Application Commentary, Genesis, From biblical text…to contemporary life, John H. Walton, p 568 - 577 and the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Bible Studies, Uniform Series, International Bible Lessons for Christian Teaching.)

Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at nitac@sgaumc.com.

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