This is a story about Jacob, later renamed Israel. This scene is a turning point for Jacob who realizes his position through it.
Jacob finds himself alone in the desert after having fled from his outraged brother, despite having just received a tremendous blessing from his father.
We see quite a lot of Jacob's actions but seldom see his inner struggles. However we can have a glimpse into his thoughts here. We do not know exactly how he is feeling at the moment, but the clue is that he is sleeping in a desert. Lying on a stone may suggest that he does not care even about his life, as interpreted by some scholars, since nobody would like to sleep at a desert surrounded by wild animals, and probably vicious men who could kill him. After he received blessings, he is now in a place of nowhere. He must have felt lost, hopeless and uncertain about his future.
To comfort him, God gives him a dream in which he sees a ladder connecting heaven and earth, reminding him of the promised blessings given to him through his father, similar to that which Abraham had received.
We must hold on to all the promises, for God remembers them and works to fulfill them. When we forget them, God reminds us of those promises again. God’s promises will surely happen although we do not know when it will take place. Our part is to work hard and not give up till the day they come true.
The vision of a ladder that connects heaven and earth is really transforming to Jacob who realizes his important position. Blessings from above will pour down on people through him and can lift up problems from below to heaven through prayer. He was asleep but now his spirit is awakened from the dream. His raising up the stone vertically, upon which he had slept, became a pillar symbolizing his realization of the truth that he should not lie down but stand up, facing heaven and living toward God.
This message can be applied in different levels, to our personal faith or church’s development, etc. Sometimes we will feel hopeless and lost but if we endure in darkness, the rare light will come to us eventually, showing that God is always with us.
Through the "Bethel experience", we will realize our calling. Remembering this became the enduring strength for Jacob's life to go until the end.
By Jeremiah Chan
Bible Portal Contributor