Summer Devotional and Sermon Series
Week 8/Heroes: Jacob
I recall summers spent as a child attending Vacation Bible School. We made crafts, we sang songs, we heard Bible stories and we learned that Jesus loves us. One of the songs I recall from those days is the old spiritual “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder.” I never really understood what the song was about but it was fun to sing and it created a mental picture of reaching heaven.
As I read the account of Jacob’s flight from his brother’s anger, I found myself singing that old song. Jacob was tired and laid down to rest with his head on a stone. As he fell into slumber, a vision appeared to him. A staircase with angels ascending and descending to and from heaven. The Lord appeared in his dream and announced a promise to Jacob. The land on which he was standing would be given to him and to his offspring and He told Jacob, as well, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” As a result of that encounter with God, Jacob took the stone that he had laid his head on, poured oil on it to sanctify it and then named the place where he stood “Bethel” which means “house of God.”
God revealed himself to Jacob and reaffirmed the covenant made with Abraham. That ladder or staircase provided a link to God… a symbolic reconnection of the relationship of man with Him. Generations later, from that lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob came a baby, born in a stable who became a physical representation of that ladder. Jesus came to reconnect the relationship with God that was severed through sin. We read in Romans 5: 1-2 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
The words of the song seem to say that we can climb our way to heaven through our own efforts. But in reality, our efforts are useless. It is only through the redeeming love of Jesus, our ideal “Jacob’s Ladder” who came to earth (and who was from the earthly line of Jacob) that we can live eternally. Martin Luther explains it with these words: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”