Tag Archives: Promised Land

Jacob’s Ladder

The Dream of Jacob by artist He Qi

One of my favorite stories in Genesis is Jacob’s dream at Bethel in chapter 28.  Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, is running away from his brother Esau.  Twice he had tricked his elder twin.  First Jacob had taken Esau’s birthright for a hot lunch.  Then with the help of his mother, Rebekah, he stole his father’s blessing from Esau.   Esau had reason to threaten Jacob’s life and so Jacob fled.

When he stopped for the night, Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching up to the heaven with angels ascending and descending on it.  The Lord God stood at the top and speaks to Jacob.  One might expect God to chastise Jacob, to demand his repentance.  After all, Jacob has tricked not only his brother, but his father, Isaac, as well.   Surely God would demand justice.

Instead, God speaks only of the promise and blessing.  God promises Jacob shall return to the promise land and will become the father of a great nation, a blessing to all nations.

Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land (Genesis 28:15).

Some Christians think that the God of the Old Testament is a wrathful, angry God and that grace and love only appears in the New.   Yet the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is filled with moments of grace and blessing.  God has always been a God of grace and love who will always keep His promises.  Jacob had to taste some of his own medicine when he reached his Uncle Laban’s home in Haran, but eventually he returned.  God kept the covenant.

The other strong image from the dream is that God’s angelic hosts go up and down the ladder.  God comes to humanity, not humanity climbing up to God.  God initiates the dream and the covenant.  Jacob can only respond in faith.

After Jacob awoke from the dream, he recognized that he was on sacred ground.  He named it “Bethel” or House (Beth) of God (El).   Later in Israel’s history Bethel would become one of the holy places for worship. (Judges 20).

Lord Jesus, make me ever mindful of your promise and grace.

Spying On Our Fears

As Resurrection moves quickly through the Old Testament, many wonderful stories must be skipped. This Sunday we will jump to the book of Deuteronomy which is Moses’ final sermon to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land (recounted in the book of Joshua).

But this was not Israel’s first attempt to enter Palestine. The book of Numbers recounted a previous attempt to invade the land (chapters 13 and 14). Moses selected twelve spies from the twelve tribes to spy out the land of Canaan. They were selected leaders and instructed to be bold and observant. The spies returned with a huge cluster of grapes suspended on a pole. Their report emphasized a land flowing with milk and honey and with abundant fruit.

However their report also stated that the occupants of the land were many and strong, their towns fortified and very large. Caleb, one of the spies, countered “We can take the land.” The other spies disagreed, saying, “We cannot go up against this people for they are stronger than we.” Their fear overrode their trust in God’s promise. The fear of the leaders/spies also infected the people.

The whole congregation said to Moses, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword, would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Exodus 14:2-3)

Fear can destroy a family, a congregation or a nation. We see a potential danger and magnify it beyond reality. We feel threatened and we either seek to fight or flee. The people of Israel wanted to flee.

Caleb spoke again to the people, trying to turn their focus to God.,

The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Exodus 14:7-9)

The people did not listen to Caleb that day. Their rebellion against God resulted in God’s declaration that this generation which yearned for Egypt must die so that a new generation of hope can arise. The story has a Christian connection: the fearful “old Egyptian” in each of us must die so that the new Christ can rise up within us. Baptism is a reminder of our being joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20

When has fear diverted your trust in God? When has your faith in God overcome fear?

Lord Jesus, today, kill the fear within me and reignite my trust in you.