Signposts: Daily Devotions

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”
—Genesis 28:16

Jacob, trickster and conman, flees home after stealing his brother’s birthright, and heads far north to Haran (present-day Iraq). Stopping for the night in the wilderness and using a stone for a pillow, he dreams of a stairway from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending. 

God comes to stand beside Jacob and says, "The land on which you lie, I will give to you and to your offspring, and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south…I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (Genesis 28: 13b; 14; 15)

This, the first recorded dream in the Bible, describes the appearance of what is known as Jacob’s ladder. It is a lovely dream with a comforting and hopeful message. We understand why Jacob awakes and says, "Surely the Lord is in this place."

But knowing the circumstances from which this dream emerges, we have an entirely new perspective: Jacob, by all standards of human behavior, does not deserve this dream.  As one commentator puts it, "he has the dream many law-abiding folks would give anything to have." You would think he’d be given a nightmare!

Genesis vividly portrays, through unforgettable characters, Isaiah’s musing that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; God’s ways are not our ways. (Isaiah 55:9). Luckily for Jacob, theologian Frederick Buechner writes in Peculiar Treasures, "God does not love people because of who they are but because of who God is," and that truth is borne out throughout the remarkable pages of this amazing Biblical book.

As with all memorable dreams, the question is "what am I supposed to wake up to?" The answer, for old Jacob, seems to be that invited or not, deserved or not, the presence of the Lord will be with him. If that is true for him, it is surely true for us as well.

Thank you, dear Lord, for your abiding presence, especially when we do not deserve it. Amen.

Copyright © 2010 Margaret Jones.