“The Traffic of Jacob’s Ladder”
March 21, 1999
Jacob, the homebody, was given a warm send-off by his parents, but we can well imagine his loneliness and fear as he walked away from home, turned and waved for the last time as he was about to lose sight of his parents at a turn in the road. I would be surprised to learn he did not have tears in his eyes. It wasn’t his idea; he didn’t want to leave home and family and, perhaps further, we can assume that he felt the weight of the fact that he had been forced to leave as a consequence of his own behavior. With help from his mother, he had messed things up to an impossible degree and this was his punishment. On he walked through the day, alone with his thoughts. That night, for some reason, he found himself in the open field near a town called Luz. Perhaps he had been too shy to ask for lodging. Perhaps he had been turned away. In any case, he was to spend the night in the open and so, finding a rock for a pillow, he lay down to sleep……
This is one of the truly magnificent pictures of God’s revealing himself to one of his children in the Bible. Think of Jacob’s state of mind as he lay down to sleep. Esau is behind him; he cannot go home. What is before him is all unknown. He is not the adventurous type. But, then, God gave him this vision in a dream. The stairway connects earth to heaven, it illustrates the linking of earth and heaven. Jacob himself will call the place “the gate of heaven” as well has the “house of God” in v. 17.
And what did all of that mean? It meant, as Jacob fully understood and will say in v. 16, it meant that in the darkness of that night and, still more, in the darkness of his own life circumstances, the Lord was with him, the Lord God, with his angels, was present to help and preserve him. The vision means largely the same thing as the promises that God spoke to Jacob. It illustrated the nature and the significance of those promises. At this place — a certain place it is called in v. 11, a nothing place, a place of no consequence, he found the nexus between heaven and earth and was given to see the traffic between heaven and earth that is always there, though otherwise unseen. Now he knew that he could not judge his circumstances any longer by their appearance to the human eye. Now, he realized that, while cut off from home and loved ones, he was not cut off from the living God or the influence and help and support of the angels of God.
In his defeat and failure, his fear and his loneliness, suddenly his eyes were opened to see a present God, the connection between this earth — even a no account, empty, inconsequential place on this earth, and heaven itself. Wherever he goes, from now on, he understands, wherever he is, no matter what his circumstances, his faith in God, and, still more, God’s faithfulness to and presence with him, makes that place the meeting point of heaven and earth. His life, therefore, is not the catastrophe that he thought it was when he went to sleep. It is now full of possibilities of every kind. And in this moment Jacob’s journey was profoundly changed. What was a flight becomes now a pilgrimage.