The young man was exhausted. Having left behind friends and family alike, he had yet much more ground to cover before reaching an unknown destination. Like a fugitive, he was constantly looking over his shoulder for possible enemies.
“How did I come to this?” head shaking at the duplicity that had made this furtive escape necessary, “how could I have been so greedy?”
The sky above and the ground beneath were the same to him, for he felt like he was traveling through a narrow, dark tunnel; one he had dug himself and therefore, all the more contemptible. Mile after mile he plodded on, his tumultuous thoughts a whirlwind of past events, each chasing the other like a dog chasing its tail.
Each step Jake took led him farther away from the only life he had ever known. He camped out under the stars each night, too tired from the everlasting walking to appreciate the sparkling diamonds on black velvet above him. Occasionally, he took a break to bathe in a river, the gentle lapping over his acing ankles as soothing as a mother’s caress.
“How far should I go?” he asked himself each night before the sleep of exhaustion claimed him as its own.
Every morning he arose, stiff and sore, he would answer his own question, “As far as it takes for me to feel safe.”
And so it went, day after day and night after night, until Jake lost track of time. He was so alone and forlorn, forsaken by his God and by man, that he felt beaten.
Then, IT happened. An event strange and wonderful wrapped in alternating layers of strength and weakness. It had been a day filled with surprises from beginning to end, starting with a sunrise that belied Jake’s troubled, buffeted soul, unexpectedly lifting his spirits. He had a spring to his steps that day, and extra bursts of energy sprinkled throughout his trek, seemingly coming out of nowhere. He stopped at dusk to enjoy the developing sunset, its rays giving him a renewed sense of hope. And, for the first time since he had been on the lam, he marveled at the star-studded night sky, counting the blinking jewels like so many sheep before drifting into a sweet slumber.
Then, such an amazing sight obscured his vision, like nothing he had ever seen or would ever see again, that he was not sure if he was awake and alert or sleeping and dreaming! For, wondrously, a golden stairway appeared that rose out of the ground where his head rested on a stone pillow, up, up, and up into the very heavens! He tried to grasp the lowest rung in vain, his arms and legs no longer obeying his commands, like so many unmovable rocks. Simultaneously, other-worldly creatures were stepping up and down the invisibly-anchored ladder, their glowing, feathered wings tucked between their shoulders like a peacock’s retreating plumage. They were dressed, and yet, undressed, clothed in unearthly translucent flowing robes trimmed in gold lace that flowed through the ladder’s rungs as if the steps were only ornamental.
Angels! Jake instinctively perceived that their faces, hands and feet were made of flesh, yet not of the human kind. What sort of vision was this, and what did it all mean? Just as fleetingly, the creatures faded into the shadows as a surreal voice spoke from the top of the ladder—a voice that seared his heart, branding him as God’s servant as surely as his earthly family’s herds were marked for ownership.
“Jacob, I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying . . . I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”*
Awestruck, Jacob awoke from his sleep and took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar, pouring oil on top of it, naming the place Bethel.
Revived and encouraged, Jacob eventually covered over 400 miles, settling in Haran where his Uncle Laban lived, where he married and started a family, trusting in God’s blessings as he lived and learned along the way . . . in years to come, Jacob’s Ladder became a symbol of Jesus bridging the gap between heaven and earth .
*The Bible, Genesis 28:13
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