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You might recognize the name Elizabeth Gilbert as the author of the bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love.  Along with her fiction writing, Gilbert also writes and speaks about creativity – how it works and how it sometimes doesn’t work.  She tells stories about her own experiences with writer’s block and the fear of failure that can stop creativity dead in its tracks.

You Missed the Exit

Gen 28: 10-17
William Chu

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My exit number was 245, to business 75 through downtown Grayling and M72 to Traverse City. As Julie was resting following our visit with our parents in Bay City, I was so in my head listening to music that I completely missed the exit. Julie opened her eyes somewhere around Indian River, MI, and when she saw the signs for the Mackinaw Bridge she said gently?

Bill you missed the exit? Again? Yep and the truth is this was, in fact the third time that I had missed this exit. Our home was in Traverse City, but I was so distracted and in my head that I forgot my destination and missed my exit.

I remember there was a moment of frustration between Julie and I over this error until we recalculated a new course toward TC that took us through Petoskey via US 31.

Petoskey has special place in our hearts, because it was there that Julie and I retreated when we were considering her call to the ministry. On the extended detour we talked and talked and talked about our call and our lives together. It was such a good conversation that I was actually glad that to have missed that exit. Because God had something wonderful planed for us.

Jacob has one of these “You missed the Exit” experiences in the scripture today.

As a means of catching us up in the Genesis narrative, allow me to take a detour through Jacob’s family atlas.

As we examine the Abrahamic genealogy map, you will note the common road-block of infertility.

First there was this couple called Abram and Sari who faithfully answered God’s call to move away from their home in Ur to a land that God promised. God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah as a sign of the second part of that divine promise, that their descendants would out number the stars in the sky and the sands of the beach.

God answered this second part of the promise in the most miraculous way, overcoming infertility. Abraham and Sarah were so old when they finally had a son that at Sarah actually laughed out loud at the thought. So they named their beloved son, Isaac, which means laughter.

These are the descendants of Isaac. When he was forty, Isaac married Rebekah. These couple also struggled with infertility, so Isaac turned to the LORD. God’s promise to Abraham included Isaac’s prayer was answered with twins. These twins battled with each other even in the womb. When they were born the first child was red and furry so they called him Essau (which means hairy) and the second came out grabbing at the heel of his brother so they named him heel grabber or Jacob.

Jacob MEANS heel grabber or leg puller.

Jacob lived up to his name and the great theologian Dr. Jennie Browne has referred to him as a jokester. Jacob loved to play jokes on brother; Esau and today we see him playing a trick on father; Isaac.

Jacob’s leg pulling nature distracts him from his destination or at least his destiny in the promise of God. Jacob’s metaphorical playlist is stuck his own cleverness rather than on the promise of God to Abraham and by extension to him. As Jacob is caught up on the trajectory of his jokester ways, he misses the exit of the promise of God.

Jacob completely misses an exit marked Abrahamic Promise of God – when he pranks his father Isaac to secure his future by claiming his brother’s inheritance.

Chris Seal was kind share this scripture with us in the dramatic reading today. Esau swore to KILL Jacob

Neither Rebekah nor Isaac desires this to happen. These loving parents intervene wayward Jacob’s life and detour him to Paddan-Aram to find a wife, to find himself, and to find his place in the promise of God.

Gen. 28:10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17 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.”

Jacob begins his journey with a nap. Jacob’s dream of the ladder, and angels helps him see what he couldn’t see as he was caught up in his own joking head.

Surely the LORD was in this place and I did not know it.

Jacob missed his place in God’s promise to Abraham and only realized it with the dream of the ladder. This dream was the realization that Jacob missed the exit and it placed him on a twenty-year detour.

God clued Jacob into the fact that Jacob had God as a Co-pilot. Jacob doesn’t need to assume that he is on his own when it comes to making his way in the world. The promise to Abraham is Jacob’s destination and destiny.

God then demonstrates this to Jacob on this life detour brought on by the missed exit. You will read that our jokester Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine when he meets Laban who trick him into marrying his daughter Leah when he really wanted Rachel. – And yet God makes a way for Jacob to eventually take Rachel as a wife.

And when the family road-block of infertility comes up for Rachel and Jacob, God helps the couple overcome with the birth of Joseph.

Jacob summarized his long detour to get back to that missed exit in this way.

Gen 28: 41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty- handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night.”

My prayer for you this day that even if you miss the exit that you might be open to the way God persistently helps you to turn around. And may your detour be as much as a blessing as Jacob’s.

Chu’s challenge

___ Reflect on God’s promise to you
___ Learn and tell a joke
___ Tell someone about your missed exit