Scripture: 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 promised you.” Genesis 28:15 ESV
Observation: As the narrative of Jacob’s adventures continues, in chapter 28, we read of Isaac calling Jacob and blessing him in his hastened departure to find a wife in the household of his Uncle Laban. En route, Jacob rests for the night, and while dreaming, he sees a ladder extending from earth to heaven with angels of the Lord ascending and descending on it. And the Lord standing above the ladder declares to Jacob that he is the God of Abraham and Isaac and reiterates the covenant to Abraham: a promised land (Canaan) for Jacob and his descendants and the blessings of countless heirs (of faith) through Jacob’s progeny.
But what does the ladder represent? According to the Midrash Genesis Rabbah, “the ladder signified the exiles which the Jewish people would suffer before the coming of the Jewish messiah” (Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David: “The Four Exiles,” betemunah.org). In our New Testament, Jesus, our Messiah, responded to Nathanael regarding supernaturally seeing him under a fig tree: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The implication here is that Jesus is the ladder that bridges the gap between heaven and earth—and indeed, he is. Still, regardless of its significance for future generations, for Jacob, the ladder reinforced that his Lord would be with him and care for him until the fulfillment of his promise (above verse).
Takeaway: As children of the Abrahamic Covenant fulfilled in Christ, our Lord, Emmanuel (God with us), will be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He will be with us through the “ups” and “downs,” delivering us from seasons of exile and leading us to the eternal Promised Land. And when we, like Jacob, rest in the assurance of our Father’s promises, and like Nathanael, follow in the footsteps of his Son, step by step, we will see glimpses of the glory of the Father and Son as we sojourn onward and upward on the stairway to heaven.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the gift of your promises fulfilled in your Son. Would you please deepen our understanding and confidence in your Covenant of Grace, that like Jacob and Nathanael, we would follow your lead from our earthly habitat to our heavenly home? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling