How Then Shall We Live?
Devotions on Living the Deeper Christian Life
“Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set forth up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” – Genesis 28:12
Lessons From the Ladder
In this verse in Genesis 28:12, we are told that Jacob left Beersheba (meaning, “Well of the oath”), toward Haran (meaning, “strong and enlightened”) on a 12-mile journey. He stopped at a certain place for the night and had a dream. What did Jacob dream?
A stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and Angels of God were going up and down on it. Some were going from the earth to the heaven, others from the heaven to the earth. The Hebrew translation suggests that the ramp extended both down towards the Earth and up to the Heavens and was supported upon a cursed earth. This is also the only place in the Bible where the word, “Ladder” is used.
Some Hebrew commentators have written that this story is meant to teach us the following; a man does not always remain at the same stage. He is always ascending or descending. When he reaches the top, he must concern himself with the probability that he will fall. When he reaches the bottom, he must strive once again to climb to the top. That this is the nature of man.
Chaim Potok, novelist and narrator of contemporary Jewish experience, said, “When the soul of a man is in its darkest night, he must strive constantly for new light. When one thinks there is only an end, that is when one must struggle for the new beginning.” It is at this point in his life that Jacob was in the “dark night” of his soul. His brother was out to kill him for the birthright that Jacob had stolen. It was here that God extended His vision, His “Enlightenment” to Jacob’s eyes through a dream.
The vision revealed the knowledge of God’s involvement with man. God’s angels, His messengers, were revealed to Jacob personally, ascending and descending to heaven with a God given destination. Jacob came to understand through this enlightenment, that God was involved directly with His people on earth, and therefore directly involved with the direction that Jacob was also going. It is important to Notice in this story that Jacob lies in a horizontal position with his head on a rock, while God’s vision was one of a vertical nature; a ladder going from heaven to earth, revealing God’s plan that was one of heavenly movement.
It is here that God reiterates the promise that he had given his forefather Abraham, the promise that Jacob’s descendants would be blessed by the “Seed” that would come from his family. But this time, the promise was given to Jacob PERSONALLY. God wanted a personal relationship with Jacob, not that of a grandchild relationship that was handed down. God was asking him to get his head off the rock and look at all that was available to him through an interactive relationship with the living God.
It is also interesting to note, that God led Jacob to stop at a certain place for the night that meant, “Enlightenment,” a foreshadowing of what was to come. It may be that God is leading you from the place of your “well of oath” or first commitment, to stop at a certain place of “enlightenment”. I have seen many people fight and claw their way to the top, only to find that they had placed THEIR ladder against the wrong building. They are unhappy with their career, their relationships, their homes, and their very lives. God offers a glimpse at HIS ladder that is supported by heaven itself, and a promise of His involvement in our lives. If today, you find your head against a rock, look up, for you may see angels descending from the heavens with a message from heaven to you.
Words to Think About…
<>–PATCHES OF GODLIGHT–<>
“We–or at least I–shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have “tasted and seen.” Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun, which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are “patches of Godlight” in the woods of our experience.” – C. S. Lewis in ‘Letters to Malcolm’
<>–WHAT DO YOU SEE?–<>
“When you have first learned God, or His will, you can address yourself cheerfully to the study of His works. If you do not see yourselves and all things as living, moving, and having their being in God, you see nothing, whatever you may think you see.” – Richard Baxter in ‘The Reformed Pastor’