Jacob is on the run, and he is on the run because, as is related in the previous chapter with his mother’s help, he stole the firstborn right to his brother, and he had to run to save his life. On his journey to Haran, Jacob stopped in a place called Luz. There, he went to sleep, and while he was sleeping, he had a life-changing dream. He dreamed of a stairway reaching toward heaven, with angels ascending and descending through it… and God spoke to Jacob through this dream.
Jacob’s dream is about God reaching down to him; it is about God reaffirming the promise he made to Abraham and Isaac, and through him, God is reaching down humanity with a message of grace. Jacob’s dream is about God’s grace for those running away from their past and bad decisions. And Jacob is only one example of many men and women to whom God has invested with this underserved, yet desperately needed gift of God’s action in our favor. Jacob’s dream content is contrary to the tower of Babel, where men were trying to reach up to heaven; to reach up to God by their means.
If anyone was ever in need of God’s grace, that one was Jacob. Because of his foolish and self-centered actions against his brother and father, Jacob was separated from his family and got deeply in trouble. Not only was he running away from his angry brother to save his life, but he also was on a long journey to a distant place where his future was uncertain.
This dream is the mean God uses to let Jacob know that he was not alone; that even when he did not deserve God’s love, mercy, and company, the Almighty was with him. Through this dream, he got to know that God’s faithfulness to the promise He made to Abraham and Isaac was real and available to him also.
Possibly the last on Jacob’s mind was to have an encounter with God that night; maybe what he least expected that day is to experience God’s mercy and grace; what he least expected was to have a personal encounter with the living God. Maybe he was deeply immersed in all the wrong things he had done; perhaps when Jacob went to sleep that night, he wished to go back in time and undo everything he did; maybe at this point, he was already missing his mother and his home. We can say that he was now at rock bottom. However, what a better moment in a sinner’s life to be reached by God than when he or she has reached rock bottom.!
That night in Bethel, Jacob discovered three important things: One, God’s grace. Two that God is where his children are, and three, wherever we are, can be a gate of heaven, a holy place, a place to worship God. Because the God of Abraham and Isaac is omnipresent.
Jacob learned that day on his way to Haran that is not about who he is or what he has done; it is about God and who He is; it is about what God has done for us. God made a promise to Abraham and Isaac, and the great “I Am” is faithful. Now, He repeats the same promise to Jacob; God is willing to keep His word, regardless of what we have done. Our God faithfulness is worthy to be trusted.
Jacob continued his journey, and God kept His promise; Jacob was prospered in everything he did. He got married and had children, and some fourteen years later or so, he returned to his hometown as a different man, and he had a new start again, and God continued His plan for Abraham’s family and the world.
Some 4000 years had passed since this event took place, and here we are talking about this meaningful encounter between Jacob and God. Amazingly this encounter between Jacob and God still speaks to us and fills our lives with hope. This story is a beacon, a standing stone, an example of God’s grace and love for every man and woman who believes everything is lost; for every man and woman who thinks they do not deserve a second chance.
As Methodists, we appreciate, we value God’s grace. We are the ones who introduced the concept of Prevenient Grace. Prevenient Grace, we can see it at work in this story and can identify ourselves with Jacob. You see, we all have walked immersed in our troubles at some point in our lives, thinking that our lives had ended, believing that God has forgotten us. And suddenly, without any expectations, without any announcements, God came into our lives and reminded us of His faithfulness and all those promises He made through Jesus and made us realize that we have never been alone. He was there when we made the mistakes we made; He was there when we ran away from our problems, and He was there with us to help us out and give us what we needed to keep going with our lives.
God, my sisters, and brothers, contrary to what humans do, does not come to us to complain about our past or to criticize our actions, He comes to help us build a better future; He comes to give us His hand to get us out of the pit.
If you are walking today feeling prisoner of decisions you took in your past, this is the place and the moment; this is the when and where you can discover that God has not left you alone. He has been with you not to put a check mark on a list of mistakes you have done, but to offer you His help, His hand, and His guidance to walk you back home, His home, where you -as His child- belong.
Paul, in Romans 8:17, reminds us that we are God’s children. We are inheritors of God’s promises. The victory Jesus accomplished on the cross is our victory also.
Like Jacob, we can also understand that God does not need a special place to show His love; all He needs is to hear the cry out of our hearts to be there with us and be our comforter. After the encounter Jacob had with God, he said, “This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” This declaration is essential. After we have a personal encounter with Jesus, we understand that every place we are is a place where we can worship our Lord, God is in every place where we are because His presence fills the earth. That means we do not have to be “good” only in church, we do not have to watch out for our actions and vocabulary only in church, but everywhere we are. Because wherever we are, God is with us.
“This is a gate to heaven,” Jacob said, and at that moment, Jacob knew that he could have access to God everywhere he was, and regardless of his condition, he could enter the Lord’s gates. The gates of heavens without any special permit because he was a child of the Almighty. All of us today can do the same, since we have been sealed with God’s Spirit, and our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ has paid off in full for all those mistakes we made in our past, we make in our present and all those we will make in the future.
The connection between heaven and earth in Jacob’s dream was a ladder. Today, the connection between heaven and earth is Jesus, the One who came from heaven, the One who returned to heaven. He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
This Sunday, you are in the right place because “This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” This is a place where you can encounter the Almighty and omnipresent God for the first time, and this is a place where you can reconcile with Him or reaffirm your commitment to God.