Chapter 33 Jacob's Ladder And His Vow

He dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven (Genesis 28:12).

Through the scheming of his mother, Jacob had deceived his father into thinking he was the first-born, Esau, and thus had obtained the blessing of the birthright. To escape the wrath of Esau, his father Isaac sent him away, at the mother’s insistence, to her brother, Laban, at Padan-aram. He was as sharp a deceiver as Jacob. But, on the way, Jacob came to Bethel and lay down to sleep.

It was no doubt a painful experience to leave his godly home when all around was a heathen world. Sin had driven him out to be a lonely wanderer. His way was solitary; his journey not without danger. “Be sure your sin will find you out” is an inexorable law of God. Jacob’s pillow was now a hard stone. The gloom of the night only added to the inward anguish of his heart.

But Jacob was the chosen of God for sovereign and divine purposes. Jacob was “the lot of His inheritance”—the ground upon which God would build His eternal purpose. Jacob, therefore, was heir of an everlasting portion which could not be lost. In sending him away, his father sent him away with blessing, not with rebuke. Here at Bethel, God made Himself known to Jacob and, in doing so, made no mention of his failure. But there would be twenty years of discipline before Jacob would be rid of his pretense to be Esau. When sleep closed Jacob’s eyes a marvelous vision was given him.

The Ladder

The remarkable thing about his vision is that God came in at the beginning of Jacob’s wandering with its consequent discipline, to assure him that he was loved of God and cared for by Him. The Lord’s purposes stood fast. Jacob’s failure did not change God’s purpose in grace. “Behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven.” The foot of the ladder rested on earth, which was a clear picture of God’s beloved Son assuming our humanity as a Babe in Bethlehem, in living the life of a common carpenter, in laying down His life for us, in giving Himself a ransom for many, and in offering Himself as a sacrifice to die a felon’s death upon the accursed tree. This is where the ladder stands, in the miry clay of our manhood.

But see where it rises! The One who came down so far, the same ascended to Heaven above, for He was ever co-equal with God, in power, in wisdom, in dignity, in holiness, and in truth. The bottom of the ladder reached down to man; the top of it reached up to God. Thus a link was forged between the two. What a clear emblem this is of God’s promised Redeemer!

The Blessing

“Surely the LORD is in this place,” said Jacob, “and I knew it not.” Of course! He is everywhere. He was here in the revelation of His saving grace. It is only that revelation of God in Christ which can subdue restless flesh and tell those who feel outcast of His own purpose and grace. God’s only way to bless is to bring man to Himself, and He can only do that through the revelation of His Son. God was no longer afar off at Bethel; He was very near. Jacob was no longer an outcast, but the object of God’s peculiar care.

There were material blessings for Jacob, such as the promised land and the great increase of his natural seed. He was to spread abroad in every direction. But there was to be spiritual blessing of greater value—“In thy seed [Christ] shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 28:14).

“I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of “(verse 15). God was there in grace through the revealing of His Son as the Ladder, or else there would have been no such rich promise. The dream calmed Jacob; the promise refreshed him.

The Vow

“And Jacob vowed a vow” (verse 20). If something is of God we must be true to it and pledge ourselves to it. God was the God of Bethel, and Bethel means “the house of God.” Through the ladder there was made known a way for Jacob to rise to God, and in honor of this revelation he set up a pillar and anointed it. The God of Bethel is the God of our vows. Jacob vowed that God would be his God. He made a solemn dedication of his heart to Him. God never forgets that! Later on He was to say, “I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto Me” (Genesis 31:13). Nor should we forget the day we gave ourselves to the Lord. Oh, let us put our feet upon the Ladder, the Lord Jesus, and through Him ascend to the throne of God which is high over all the earth. The Lord Jesus alone is our approach to God.

O Lord, how infinite Thy love!
It spans all time and space,
Enwraps Thy loved ones to the end
In its encircling grace.

Author unknown

The contrite heart is incense sweet,
Our gracious God to Thee;
It worships at Thy mercy seat
In perfect liberty.

That gift which Thou wilt not despise
Do Thou to us impart
And then accept our sacrifice—
A broken contrite heart.