“And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!” (Genesis 28:12, ESV).
Yesterday we learned that Bethel means “house of God.” It was Jacob who first called it that, and it has everything to do with his dreams at that particular location.
We may remember that Jacob means “he cheats,” or “deceiver.” As a youth, he did everything to live up to that name. He cheated Esau out of his birthright for a lousy cup of lentil stew, and he deceived his father to receive Esau’s blessing. He took away from Esau everything to which a first-born son was entitled.
The blessing was just the last straw for Esau and he was plotting to kill Jacob as soon as Isaac, their father, died. Rebekah, their mother, found out and manipulated Isaac into sending Jacob away so that his life would be spared. It is here that we find Jacob snoozing with a rock for a pillow. And Jacob dreamed a dream.
In the dream Jacob sees a great ladder or stairway bridging the gap between Heaven and earth. Angels were ascending and descending. Then Jacob hears the voice of God. God reiterates the promise that he gave to Abraham many years before (Genesis 12:7).
Jacob was a liar and a cheat, so why did God entrust such a lofty vision to him? The simple answer is that it was because of His promise to Abraham, but it’s not that simple.
I’m sure that we are all familiar with the idea that people tend to live up, or down, to the expectations placed on them. Jacob came from the womb holding on to Esau’s heel in an effort to get out first (Genesis 25:26), so he was given the name which means cheater. A name like that can change the way that people look at you. Every time someone spoke his name it was a reminder of that fact. It’s as if someone named their child Lazy. Odds are he or she will live down to those expectations.
So God set before Jacob a vision of the future. He demonstrated that He sees beyond all that’s wrapped up in a name. It was up to Jacob to decide whether he would live down to his name or up to the vision and promise.
Elisha, whose name means “God is salvation,” was encouraged to remain in the place that represented salvation, Gilgal. But Elisha knew that God was going to take Elijah up in a whirlwind and he refused to stay in the comfort that he knew. God was presenting Elisha with a vision. Like Jacob, Elisha was faced with a choice to either stay where he was comfortable, or move forward to see what God has in store for his life.
Tomorrow we will look at the second vision that Jacob had at Bethel and how that plays further into our look at the prophet Elisha.
Blessings on your day!
Image from https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/hopes-fears-progress-and-maybe-dna-unravelling-real-meaning-jacob-s-ladder-007679