Genesis 28:17 (ESV) … “And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
God would appear to Jacob at least five more times in the years ahead, but this first meeting was a significant one. He learned that God was interested in him and was at work in his life. From that night on, as long as he trusted the Lord and obeyed His will, he had nothing to fear.
A significant decision (vv. 16–22). On awakening, Jacob’s first response was one of fear and surprise. God was in that place, and he didn’t know it! But “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7), so Jacob’s response was the right one. He discovered that he could find God in unlikely places and that any place is “the house of God” (Bethel) because God is there. He would be away from his father’s house for at least twenty years, but the Lord would be his “dwelling place” no matter where he went (Ps. 90:1).
His next act was to worship the God who had appeared to him. He turned the headpiece into a pillar to memorialize the great experience that had been his that night. By pouring oil on the stone, he consecrated it to the Lord. He didn’t use the stone as an altar or make a sacrifice; he simply set it apart as a memorial. In later Hebrew liturgy, the pouring out of liquid was symbolic of pouring one’s life out in devotion to the Lord (Ex. 29:38–41; see also Phil. 2:17; 2 Cor. 12:15).
But most important, Jacob dedicated himself to the Lord that morning and claimed the promises that God had made to him (Gen. 28:13–15). The “if” found in many translations of verse 20 can also be read “since.” Jacob wasn’t making a bargain with God; he was affirming his faith in God. Since God had promised to care for him, be with him, and bring him back home safely, then Jacob would affirm his faith in God and would seek to worship and honor Him alone.
Jacob didn’t have an easy life in the years that followed; for though God forgave his sins and was with him in his journeys, Jacob suffered the consequences of his sins. God in His grace forgives us, but God in His righteous government sees to it that we reap what we sow.
Jacob had deceived Isaac, but his father-in-law Laban lied to Jacob and deceived him. Jacob used a kid to deceive his father, and Jacob’s sons used a kid to deceive their father (37:29–35). During the years he worked for Laban, Jacob endured many trials, both as a shepherd and as the husband of four wives and the father of many children (31:36ff). The thing that kept him going when the going was tough was his faith in the promises of God. God promised to be with Him, and that’s what Jacob depended on (31:42; 49:24–25).
And the Lord didn’t fail him, nor will He fail us.“The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (Ps. 46:7, kjv).