When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16
Jacob practices a life of deception and finally it forces him to run away from the ones he has hurt. He takes advantage of his brother to buy his birthright (the double portion of the inheritance the oldest child received). Then he dupes his father, Isaac, into giving him his older brother’s blessing. Blessing your children is an idea that is foreign to many of us, but it carries great power. It is similar to the words of affirmation that Gary Chapman describes in The Five Love Languages. John Trent and Gary Smalley explain the power of parents speaking favorable words to their children in their book, The Blessing. According to Trent and Smalley, we bless our children and others with meaningful touch, a spoken message, attaching high value to the child, picturing a special future for the child, and making an active commitment to fulfill the blessing.
But Jacob steals his father’s blessing and brings on his brother’s wrath. When he hears that his brother wants to kill him, he runs away toward his mother and grandfather’s ancestral home. He travels until darkness falls and he can run no farther. He’s alone, exhausted, scared, and out of tricks. In his exhaustion he sleeps, and in his sleep dreams of a stairway to heaven (Jacob’s ladder of the old spiritual). The dream opens him up to a vision of God in which God personally renews the promise to increase Jacob’s descendants like the dust of the earth and to be with him wherever he goes. Now God is not just his grandfather’s god or his father’s god, but God whom Jacob knows and to whom he relates. As Jacob puts it, before he was not aware of God’s presence. Now God goes with him.
It’s the same for each one of us. Each one must find God. We can’t get to heaven on our parents’ faith. Just going to church or going through the motions of religious practices won’t save us. Each one of us must relate to God personally.
I am not saying that each one of us can find our own god. The God of Jacob, the God who reveals himself in the Bible, is not impersonal or abstract. He is not a force or idea. He is the creator of the universe who made us in his image so that we can relate to him. He continues to reveal himself to each of us by his creation and by his words so that each of us can know him. Once we know him, it opens the door for him to bless us in all the ways that a father can bless his children.