This chapter opens with Isaac’s shining moment. He has now accepted God’s plan and surrendered to God’s sovereignty: his son Jacob will receive the blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham. As Isaac pronounces the blessing, repeating the promises of the covenant, he speaks with the authority, dignity, and spirituality of his father.
Jacob is immediately sent away to fulfill his God-given destiny. It will begin with finding a wife from among his mother’s relatives in Haran.
On his way, Jacob stopped for the night. While he was sleeping under the open sky with a stone for his pillow, the Lord gave him a dream. Jacob saw a ladder set up between heaven and earth. Now, a ladder is used to reach things that would otherwise be unreachable. I believe that this was God’s invitation to Jacob to know Him. It was God opening Himself and His home to Jacob. The God of Abraham and Isaac could be the God of Jacob, too!
As Jacob watched the angels ascending and descending the ladder, the Lord appeared and spoke to him, reviewing the great promises of the covenant.
When Jacob awoke, he was certain that his dream had been more than a dream — he had been in the presence of God! Jacob was a changed man. He had experienced a unique dream-state conversion, and he expressed his new faith in three actions:
First, he built a makeshift (but adequate) altar to worship the Lord. His first waking thought was that he must seek the Lord. His altar was made from the “pillow” on which he slept as God spoke.
Second, he changed the name of the place where God had appeared to him. It would now be known as “Bethel,” meaning “house of God.” The Lord had made Himself at home right there with Jacob!
Third, Jacob made a confession of faith, “The Lord shall be my God” (v.21). He also made a vow to honor God with his tithe. Here is convincing evidence that God had changed the man’s heart: the cheater who had been ruled by greed became a giver!
FOR FURTHER STUDY…What do you think Jesus’ statement in John 1:51 has to do with this story? Could it be that Jesus is Jacob’s ladder, the way God has provided for sinful people to access the God of Heaven? Hmmm…