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God continually pursues in love. Throughout the ages God reveals Himself to each individual and people group in unique ways that they will understand. The ways that God reveals Himself enables us to see into the unseen.
To know and experience the creator of heaven and earth and all things good is God’s heart’s desire. So since the dawn of time, God initiates a relationship of love and intimacy with His creation. History is filled with ordinary people, encountering the extraordinary God. That is the eternal one who created heaven and earth and all things good. One such encounter that reveals much about God is in the book of Genesis.
There was a man who had done a very bad thing. He was running away from his brother who he had just betrayed. His emotional state was at it’s lowest. In fear he ran and ran and ran.
From the stories of tradition passed down to him, he knew about the God of his father and father’s father. Yet he did not know God for himself.
It was the lowest point of his life. He was all alone. Tired and weary from his travels, he lay down to sleep.
The man’s name was Jacob. So lets pick up the story.
the ladder to heaven given in a dream
Genesis 28:11-22 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, 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 spoken to you.”
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 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!”
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.”
Remember at this point in time Jacob was in a bad place – emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Yet it was at that moment, the creator of heaven and earth reached down to him right where he was. In amongst all Jacob’s wrong doing and rebellion, God reached down to Jacob. He came down to specifically encounter Jacob personally. God started with what was familiar to Jacob and revealed Himself to him in a way he would relate to and understand.
God gave Jacob a dream. A dream that was like no other. It was a dream that had a glimpse into the unseen. Enabling Jacob to see, know and experience the creator of heaven and earth.
As we journey through today’s text we will discover that it was a dream not only for Jacob to know and experience God personally, but also a gift for us today. As God never changes and the Bible is His love story to us, we can gain a greater knowledge and experience of God through the dream given to Jacob.
The dream is rich in imagery, symbolism and meaning.
First God reveals a ladder that was set up on earth, that then reaches up to heaven. This is an incredible detail and significant.
the ladder to heaven bridges the gap
The ladder is a stairway to heaven, breaching the gap between earth and heaven. It is established on earth by God where humanity is. God established this ladder on earth, from humanity’s perspective, to enable humanity to ascend to heaven.
For it is humanity who have created the gap between earth and heaven, itself and God.
It is the first man and woman who chose to be one with good and evil, instead of remaining one with only good, only God. As a result of this choice to be one with good and evil, they were so overwhelmed with guilt and shame that they ran away from God.
It was their shame that became part for their identity. Their identity of being created in God’s image was now marred by evil. Shame had damaged their perception of God, self and each other.
As God never changes, even as they ran away and hid, God pursued them in love. For He is greater than any shame, false perceptions and evil. God personally covered their shame, so they would be comfortable in His presence.
So God in His great love and goodness shows Jacob how He reaches down from heaven, to pursue humanity in love and establish His kingdom on earth. To bridge the gap that humanity who now perceived existed. The gap between us on earth and God in heaven.
what do the angels represent?
Interestingly on the ladder there are angels ascending and descending. Jacob believed in angels. He would of heard about them from his father and father’s father Abraham. As the stories were passed down from generation to generation. Jacob would remember how Abraham, his father’s father had several encounters with the angels of God.
In the details God reached down to Jacob and started with what he already knew or thought he believed. In the dream God spoke to Jacob. He said, ‘I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.’
God introduced Himself to Jacob as the God of his father and father’s father. The eternal self-existing one declared to Jacob that He is the one who his ancestors told so much about. He would of recalled all the stories and life experiences. It was as if God said to Jacob, I am the one who saved your father Isaac by providing the sacrifice. The eternal one who met with your father’s father and made him the father of many nations. Jacob, I am the one who gave the promise of this land to your ancestors. Now Jacob, I give that same promise to you.
God reveals His nature to Jacob in a personal and intimate encounter. The eternal one also declares a personal promise over Jacob. A very special promise that is intimate and filled with such unconditional love. A love that is so pure, so gentle, so selfless.
God, the eternal one, declares over Jacob that He will keep him wherever he goes. He will not only keep him, but will never leave him. He will bring him back to his family peaceably and safely. God will be with Jacob in amongst all his wrong doing, rebellion and selfishness.
the love of God
The promise by God to be with Jacob is not a result of anything Jacob hade done or will do. It is in the very nature of God to be intimate and personal. For He is loving and kind. He desires to be with each individual and that none should perish. It is each ones choice whether to receive Him as God or reject Him and His right to rule and reign.
Jacob too had that choice.
God stated that He will do for Jacob the very thing He entrusted humanity to do with His creation, right back in the beginning. That is too keep, guard and take care of. Whilst humanity was not faithful in taking care of God’s once perfect world, God is faithful to His promises. He promises to take care of Jacob.
After this encounter with God, Jacob chose to align himself with God. The eternal one who created heaven and earth. Jacob enters into a covenant relationship with the living God. He says yes to God. He chose to receive God’s right to rule and reign. As a result of that choice, the God of Jacob’s father and father’s father, is now the God of Jacob.
Such a beautiful moment.
This dream and promise given to Jacob by God, is also prophetic. It reveals a time in human history that has already taken place.
the ladder brought God’s kingdom down to earth
As many centuries after Jacob’s encounter with the living God, the eternal one came down from heaven to reach humanity at their lowest point. Just as God did with Jacob through the dream and fulfilled every promise, so too God has done it in the flesh. God Himself in Jesus became the ladder. In Jesus He come down from heaven to earth. To establish His kingdom on earth and make a stairway to heaven for humanity to choose to enter into.
When Jesus walked the earth as a man He referred to Jacob’s dream in revealing this truth.
John 1:49-51 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?
You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Jesus the eternal word, the Son of God who became the Son of Man. Born of the seed of the Holy Spirit, lived, died and ascended back to heaven. In Jesus, heaven came down to earth. He brought heaven, God’s perfect domain where His will is done, down to earth, to us. In amongst humanity’s rebellion, guilt and shame, God stepped down into our stuff.
In love God reaches down to where humanity is at
Just like with Jacob God came down to humanity’s lowest point of need. The lowest point of humanity is evidenced in the crucifixion of Jesus. The same people who hailed Him king just one week later cried out crucify Him, crucify Him. Jesus was betrayed with a kiss, falsely accused, ridiculed, tortured and killed. Yet Jesus willingly subjected Himself to full human condition, so that we could be set free from it all.
Free from the guilt and shame, death and darkness, evil and selfish desires. As God in human form sacrificed His life and physically died for all humanity.
Jesus bridged the gap perceived by humanity between heaven and earth. He paid the cost for all our offences ever said, thought or done against God and each other. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Son of God, the Son of Man, disarmed the powers of darkness and death. He completely removed all the guilt and shame.
Jesus is the ladder to heaven. To God the Father and eternal life. Jesus the king of God’s kingdom came down to earth and established God’s kingdom on earth. That’s is God’s right to rule and reign. Heaven is open and Jesus the Son of God who became the Son of Man is the way.
No matter where are on this life journey Jesus reaches down to each individual, right where they are at.
jesus is the ladder to heaven
Imagine you are a donkey. You are tied up and all alone. It is market day. People walk pass you without even acknowledging you. Then along comes a servant of the king. He walks toward you. He sees you. Not only does he see you, but he has searched you out.
The servant of the king gives you respect. You are amazed. All your life you have just wanted to be loved and respected by others. The servant of the king gently whispers, ‘In the name of the king I have come for you. You are free because the king loves you, He has paid the cost for your freedom.
Come, the king has need of you.’