There are two elements from today’s reading, that should be encouraging to us, in the middle of our real life challenges.
The first comes in v. 10-17. Jacob has left his father, on his way to look for a wife among the daughters of his uncle Laban. And along the way, God meets him, in a vision. “Jacob’s Ladder” we call this section – the ladder to heaven, with the LORD at the top, and angels going up and down, on the ladder. Jacob is amazed, and calls the place Bethel, the house of God, the gate of heaven.
But then, in v. 18-22, Jacob’s response is, well, more human. More self-centered. More Jacob-like. More us-like. Having just seen the vision, his response is still only “IF God comes through with all this, THEN I will worship Him, tithe Him, etc.” Let’s see if this God comes through, then we’ll see what’s what.
Now, it’s dangerous to make arguments from silence usually. But I think it’s reasonable here: nothing happens, after this. The narrative moves on. This is profound, because we can feel Jacob’s earthiness, his shallowness, and we cringe. But God does nothing. He sticks with Jacob, and fulfills all His promises to Him. As D. A. Carson puts it: he meets Jacob where he’s at. God is patient, and kind.
Perhaps because God sees what we cannot yet. The history of God’s people moves on, until a man named Jesus encounters Nathanael, in John chapter 1. By verse 51, Jesus makes an astounding claim and reveal: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
In other words, I AM that ladder to heaven, that Jacob saw in His dream. I AM the Bethel, the house of God. God meets us where we are at, most viscerally, in His own Son coming to earth as a man, and walking our steps. He has literally met us where we are at.
And he has experienced all our temptations, and endured them all to the end. He knows. So he can be gracious with us. He knows we are but dust.
And he can patiently meet us where we are at, because we gain access to the Father through Jesus. It all depends on him, and not the quality of our faith, or our performance. What matters is the strength of our ladder to heaven. Crucified, and resurrected, and ascended – he will patiently, powerfully hold.