Sleeping on the Promises (Genesis 28:10-15)
I loved to go visit Daisy Vanlandingham, but the sweet sister would get upset with me every time I went to see her. Daisy was one of the elderly shut-ins at the first congregation where I was the pulpit minister, and being the good preacher that I am, I’d try to check on Daisy every week. But invariably when I went to visit Daisy, I’d fall asleep and sleep at least half the time I was there. And, Daisy would get upset. Daisy also complained that the preacher before me would do the very same thing—Scott would come in to visit and before long, he’d be asleep. And, she just couldn’t figure out why preachers would come to visit her and spend most of the time asleep.
I’m not a rocket scientist, but I’m fairly sure I know why Scott and I both slept every time we went to see Daisy. You see, Daisy insisted that the preacher sit in her nicest recliner and put his feet up. Daisy kept every shade in the house drawn, making it so very dark in her house, and Sister Daisy kept her thermostat at about 85 all year round. If that’s not the perfect “storm” to fall asleep on the job, I don’t know what is!
I’m confident that each of you have found yourself sleeping at an inopportune time. You may have started snoring during a really good sermon. Your supervisor may have walked by your desk to find you asleep on the job. Maybe you took a quick little nap when you had a toddler at home and awoke to find the house in every state of disarray imaginable. It can be quite embarrassing to be sleeping in the wrong place at the wrong time!
But what if we could fall asleep and learn of the faithfulness of God? That’s the case with Jacob. The patriarch was tired, went to sleep, and learned that his God—and our God—keeps every single promise he has ever made. This morning, we want to go back in time to Bethel, as it were, and take a nap with Jacob and learn of God’s faithfulness. We often sing about “Standing on the Promises.” Well, not this morning—we want to be caught “Sleeping on the Promises.”
As we sleep on the promises, we will see that God keeps his promises.
Scripture (Genesis 28:10-15)
After a long day of traveling, Jacob stopped for the night and got a stone to use as a pillow. He could certainly have used one of those fancy pillows advertised on TV. Yet, he used what he had—a stone.
Jacob had a dream in which he saw a stairway reaching from the earth to heaven. Angels were going up and down on it.
I know some translations have the word “ladder” instead of “stairway,” and we sometimes hear about Jacob’s ladder. Yet, we are to think about a staircase or a ramp which reached from the earth to the heavens. Angels, messengers of God, were going up and down on it.
“There above it stood the LORD.” The Hebrew idiom should actually be translated to show that YHWH was standing beside Jacob. The Lord did not need that staircase to reach the earth—as the angels apparently did—but he came and stood right beside Jacob.
The Lord revealed himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac. The promises God is fixing to make to Jacob the Lord has already made to Abraham and Isaac. There is a continuity in the plan and purpose of God from one generation to the next.
“I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.” This land promise is like ones given to Abraham. For example,
- “To your offspring I will give this land” (Gen 12:7).
- “The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Gen 17:9).
Not only did the Lord promise Jacob the land where he was sleeping, but he promised that his descendants would be “like the dust of the earth.” God had made the same promise to Jacob’s father and grandfather:
- Abraham: “I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted” (Gen 13:16).
- Isaac: “I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham” (Gen 26:24).
God promised Jacob that the whole earth would be blessed through his descendants. It is through Jesus Christ—Jacob’s descendant who gave his life for all mankind—that God has blessed all the earth.
God promised to be with Jacob and to watch over him wherever he went and to bring Jacob back to Canaan. God promised not to leave Jacob “until I have done what I have promised you.” You know what? God fulfilled every single promise he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: When Solomon blessed the people at the dedication of the Temple, he said, “Praise be the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses” (1 Ki 8:56). David declares, “Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies” (Ps 36:5). God is so very faithful! You can trust every single word God has spoken, for he is faithful. God keeps his promises.
How should we live since God keeps his promises? In other words, tomorrow morning, when I’m drinking my coffee and watching the news, how should my life be different because God keeps his promises? When I walk in the office tomorrow morning—being sure to keep my social distance—how will life be different because God keeps his promises? When my kids are driving me up a wall, when my parents are being unreasonable, when my girlfriend breaks up with me, when the doctor gives me a diagnosis I don’t like, how will my life be different because God keeps his promises? Let’s think about that.
One: Understand that trouble is going to come.
Life isn’t always going to go the way you want it to—we live in a fall world where heartache is a reality. Job, after he had lost everything dear to him, said, “Man, born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Ecclesiastes 9:11-12. In this morning’s text, Jacob finds himself in something of a pickle: He and his momma have just tricked Isaac into giving him the blessing and Jacob is fleeing for his life to his Uncle Laban’s home in Haran.
I’m confident this morning that something in your life is giving your grief and you find yourself in something of a pickle. This week I want you to take one of your struggles and put it front and center in your life.
Two: Go to Scripture and find promises of God which apply to your struggle.
Let me give you some examples of what I mean:
- Are you worried about your finances? Go to passages like Matthew 6:33 where God promises to supply your needs if you put him first.
- Are you worried about death? Go to passages like Revelation 21-22 and read about the splendors God has prepared for his people.
- Are you racked with grief? Go to 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 where the God of all comfort promises to comfort you.
- Are you losing sleep because the guilt of sin is too much? Go to 1 John 1:7 where God promises that the blood of his Son Jesus purifies you from all sin.
Whatever your struggle this morning, there are passages of Scripture where God says, “I love you, I will be with you, and I will bless you.” Open Scripture this week and find the promises of God you need so desperately right now.
Three: Display those passages where you will see them.
Write those passages of Scripture on a piece of paper and put them on your mirror, on your refrigerator, in your Bible, or wherever else you can see them regularly and remember God’s great promises. Put those Scriptures somewhere you will see them, read them, meditate on them, and where they will become a part of you.
The Hebrews were to display Scripture at places where they would be reminded of God’s word (Deut 6:8-9). Do the same!
Four: Pray for strength
Pray for the courage to take God at his word and to believe his every promise. When the father of a young demon-possessed boy was before Jesus, the Lord told him, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” The little boy’s father immediately cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk 9:23-24). Make it your prayer this week that God will strengthen you and help your unbelief.
We can rest well because God keeps his promises!
Yet, I want you to remember something vitally important: God keeps every promise he has made, not just the promises you want him to keep. When God promises to bring you before his throne in judgment, he will. God promises to bring judgment upon those who do not know his Son and do not obey his gospel. He will. When God promises to punish the unrepentant in the flames of an eternal hell, he will. Are you ready for God to fulfill every promise today?