THE LADDER TO HEAVEN
“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it”. [Gen 28:12]
There is much here that might be dwelt upon with profit to our souls, but we can do little more than mention one or two things.
Here we behold the marvelous GRACE of God, which delights to single out as its objects the most unlikely and unworthy subjects. Here was Jacob a fugitive from his father’s house, fleeing from his brother’s wrath, with probably no thought of God in his mind. As we behold him there on the bare ground with nothing but the stones for his pillow, enshrouded by the darkness of night, asleep—symbol of death—we obtain a striking and true picture of MAN IN HIS NATURAL STATE.
Man is never so HELPLESS as when asleep, and it was while he was in THIS condition that God appeared unto him! What had Jacob done to DESERVE this high honor? What was there in him to MERIT this wondrous privilege? Nothing; absolutely NOTHING. It was God in GRACE which now met him for the first time and here GAVE to him and his seed the land whereon he lay. Such is ever His way. He pleases to choose the foolish and vile things of this world: He selects those who have nothing and gives them everything: He singles out those who deserve naught but judgment, and bestows on them nothing but blessing. But note—and mark it particularly—the recipient of the Divine favors must first take his place IN THE DUST, as Jacob here did (on the naked earth) before God will bless him.
And under what similitude did the Lord now reveal Himself to the worm Jacob? Jacob beheld in his dream a LADDER set up on the earth, whose top reached unto heaven, and from above it the voice of God addressed him. Fortunately we are not left to our own speculations to determine the signification of this: John 1:51 interprets it for us. We say fortunately, for if we could not point to John 1:51 in proof of what we advance, some of our readers might charge us with indulging in a wild flight of the imagination. The “ladder” pointed to CHRIST HIMSELF, the One who spanned the infinite gulf which separated heaven from earth, and who has in His own person provided a Way whereby we may draw near to God. That the “ladder” reached from earth to heaven, told of the COMPLETE provision which Divine grace has made for sinners. Right down to where the fugitive lay, the ladder came, and right up to God Himself the “ladder” reached!
In His address to Jacob, the Lord now repeated the promises which He had made before to Abraham and Isaac, with the additional assurance that He would be with him, preserving him wherever he went, and ultimately bringing him back to the land. In perfect harmony with the fact that Jacob represented the earthly people we may observe here that God declares Jacob’s seed shall be “as the dust of the earth,” but NO REFERENCE is made to “the stars of heaven!” The sequel to this vision may be told in few words. Jacob awoke and was afraid, saying, “How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (v. 17). Next, he took the stone on which his head had rested and poured oil upon it. Then he changed the name of the place from Luz to Bethel. It is instructive to note this change of name, Luz—its original name, signifies “SEPARATION,” while Bethel, its new name, means “THE HOUSE OF GOD.” Is it not beautiful to mark the typical force of this? God calls us to SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD, but in leaving the world WE ENTER HIS HOUSE! “Never do we part from ought at His call, but He far more than makes it up to us with His own smile” (W. Lincoln).
Finally, we are told, “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God. And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house, and of all that Thou shalt give me I WILL SURELY GIVE the tenth unto Thee” (Gen. 28:20-22).
How true to life this is! It was not only characteristic of Jacob personally, but typical of US representatively. JACOB/AILED TO RISE TO THE LEVEL OF GOD’S GRACE and was filled with fear instead of peace, and expressed human legality by speaking of what HE will do. Oh, how often WE follow in his steps! Instead of resting in the goodness of God and appropriating His free grace, like Jacob, we bargain and enter into conditions and stipulations. May the God of Grace enlarge our hearts to receive His grace, and may He empower us to magnify His grace by refusing to defile it with any of our own wretched additions.
[Quoted from A.W. Pink’s ‘Gleanings in Genesis’]