Jacob’s Ladder

He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

Genesis 28:12

My friend Jeff studied at Bath University. Whilst he was based in Bath, I took the opportunity to visit him, and to look around this beautiful city. There are so many fantastic things to see in Bath (not least, the Roman baths which give the city its name), but the sight I remember best is Bath Abbey. What particularly grabbed my attention was the carving on the west front, which depicts a ladder, with Christ at the top and angels climbing up and down, between heaven and earth. Rather amusingly, whilst the angels climbing up the ladder are the right way round, the angels climbing down from heaven are upside down!

There are several stories about how this sculpture came into existence, but for me, it is a clear depiction of what is often known as “Jacob’s Ladder,” which features in today’s verse. In the dream, Jacob sees the ladder, and God reaffirms the promises he made to Jacob’s father, Isaac, and grandfather, Abraham. God promises Jacob that the land he is lying on will be given to him and his offspring, that his offspring will spread across the earth, and that all of humanity will be blessed through his family.

Yesterday we saw how humans tried to ignore God’s command to “cover the earth,” preferring to stay together and build a tower to heaven. They were keen to show that they did not need God. Today we see the reverse; we see God building a ladder between heaven and earth, reaching out to his people. The Tower of Babel, built at man’s initiative, failed to unite heaven and earth. The ladder, though, which is God’s initiative, succeeds where the tower failed, and links heaven and earth. There’s an important message for us here. Whilst we might try to get to heaven through our own strength and through our own efforts, it cannot be done. The only way of getting from earth to heaven is through God, through the ladder that he provides. There is nothing that we can do that will get us to heaven; if it were down to us, we would fail every time. It is only through the mercy and love of God that can reach heaven.

Give thanks to God today that he willingly bridges heaven and earth, despite our failure to acknowledge him, and our blatant disregard for his laws and commandments. Praise God that we do not have to trust in our own feeble strength but his unending mercy to reach heaven!

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