Tough Love

Advanced training can get pretty rough.

Genesis 28:18-22 (NKJV)

Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”

If the Guinness Book of World’s Records had an entry for “worst confession of faith” this would be a sure finalist. Jacob says, “the LORD shall be my God,if five things all go the way he wants them to. Wow, what a piece of work he is.

But the worst part of it may be what he does with the rock. A pillar is a pagan worship practice; he should have built an altar.

And describing a pillar as God’s house is just silly. He is trying – the oil he pours on the pillar is precious to him – but he has no concept of God as the Lord of everything (especially of Jacob).

Jacob needs some lessons in theology – and he’s about to get them. This will be a magnificent example of God’s tough love educational program for people who don’t deserve His loved.


Of all the characters in scripture, only Job got bigger shocks than Jacob – and there’s an interesting lesson in that. Jacob is one of the least admirable people in the Bible, while Job is all the way at the other end of the scale. Yet they are one-two on the list of people tried by God.

The most tried people in scripture tend to be great saints – Noah, Joseph, Jonah, Peter, Paul, etc. Except for Paul, they led entirely admirable lives, and the part of Paul’s life that wasn’t admirable was the part where he didn’t suffer trials.

God’s educational system seems to always be some kind of tough love. He relentlessly pursues character development, and He doesn’t slack off on those characters that are already pretty well developed. In fact, the more developed characters tend to get more trials.

That makes sense. Suppose you were a coach training two athletes; one was average and the other had a shot at the Olympics. Which one would you push harder?

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, – James 1:2 (NKJV)

Trials are indicative of great things. No one likes trials, but when you are tried take comfort in the fact that God has chosen you for some advanced training.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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