Genesis 28

Genesis 28 – March 6

Even though we are moving through Genesis at a deliberately measured pace, the arrival of Jacob has received limited focus. It seems as though he has just shown up, and he is already banished from his home and cast out into the east, never to see his mother or father again. So, before moving ahead, let me just provide a couple of necessary pieces of information that will help us understand what is taking place in this mysterious dream.

  • Jacob’s name means ‘deceiver,’ ‘liar’ or ‘usurper.’ It is a moniker that he lived up to very well. He has proven himself to be a sly trickster. He received this name because he was literally holding on to his twin brother’s heel when he was born. Anyone who has either delivered children or observed the process will know that the baby must have been perceived to contain immense motivation to pull his brother back in order to get out first.
  • Jacob’s attempt to move into first place becomes much more tangible when he swindles his brother out of his birthright. Years later, he also dressed up, lied to his father, and scammed Esau out of his blessing.
  • Although Jacob was a dishonest scoundrel, he was sovereignly selected by God to be the child to carry to covenant forward. 

So, with those details fresh in our minds, let us consider what is happening in this dream. On his way out of the promised land, Jacob stops for the night at the borderland and dreams. Let’s begin by considering the “ladder.” This is certainly not like any ladder that you have ever seen. It is tall enough to reach into “heaven” and it is wide enough that angels were able to ascend and descend at the same time. This is the only time in the Bible that this particular Hebrew word is used. Some have understood this to be a stairway. Others have understood this word to mean something more like a ziggurat (like the tower of babel).

Regardless of the shape, the purpose is that of connecting heaven to earth. But, even more important is what we read in vs. 13. “The Lord stood above it.” The idea is that God Himself was standing at the top of this “ladder” and calling down to Jacob. It was there that the Lord promised Jacob that he would one day return to this land and that he would receive the covenantal promises.

Notice that Jacob never seems to think even for one moment that he has any right to climb that ladder to heaven. He was not “buying a stairway to heaven.” His response was that of fear.

Vs. 13 - 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.

Also notice that Jacob still doesn’t understand the Lord. He makes conditional statements about whether or not God will be “his God.” He will follow the Lord “if” the Lord brings him back to this place. He set up a “house” for God. It seems that at this point, Jacob has not yet come to trust the Lord, even though He experienced this terrifying encounter.

In John 1:51, Jesus told Nathaniel that HE was the true and greater ladder. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” What is Jesus getting at? He is making it clear that He is the connection between heaven and earth.

Just a couple of chapters later, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) No human being had ever gone into heaven. Nobody had ever climbed into the presence of God. Jesus, the rightful inhabitant of heaven, came the opposite direction. He descended so that He would one day ascend to heaven again and lead a procession of His people with Him. We read about this in Ephesians 4:8-10,

When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?  He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Whether the focus is on Jacob or on us, the only way that we might ever attain heaven is by the Lord of Heaven descending, purchasing, redeeming, restoring, and leading us in triumphal entry to Himself forever.






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