Jacob had just finished blessing his grandchildren
And was preparing to speak to his children to tell them of their future.
He was alone, in the comfort of his quarters in Egypt
Provided by his son Joseph
Not only for him
But for his entire family
That had come down from Canaan
In the second year of a famine.
They would live. They would survive.
Jacob was relieved.
Yet, he still remembered the message
Passed down to him from his parents and grandparents.
God had told his grandfather,
"Know now that your descendants shall be strangers in a land not theirs;
they shall be enslaved and afflicted for four hundred years.
But then I will bring judgment upon the nation they are serving;
after that they shall go out with many possessions.”
But, for the moment, Jacob felt safe where he was, as he knew his death neared.
He was weary as the night came.
And he fell asleep.
He had a dream.
He was on a ladder.
He remembered, “I have seen this ladder before.
But I was standing below. Now I am high above the ground.
I have ascended. But why? How did I get here?”
He didn’t realize that another presence was with him.
“You climbed the ladder, Jacob. I wasn’t sure you would.”
It was God.
Jacob couldn’t see the Eternal, but he could sense
That God was speaking from above.
“What was I supposed to do, my Creator?
You showed me this ladder when I was young,
Just after I had left my home to escape the wrath
Of my brother Esau. I realized that stepping onto the ladder
Meant that I needed to live. I couldn’t be immobilized and stuck
In my fear and trepidation.”
God was impressed. “Jacob, or should I say, Israel, you have done well.”
Jacob was doubtful at this evaluation, even from the Eternal One.
“My God, I deceived my brother Esau, and when he sincerely asked me
To come with him, I declined. I favored one wife over another.
I then favored the children of Rachel over the others.
And I realize now that the rivalry of my life, with my brother,
was passed down to my children. The consequences
could have been disastrous.”
God was silent, and then spoke.
“Jacob - Israel - you have a new name because you were willing to struggle
To reunite with your brother. It wasn’t about following him.
It was about facing him, even once, where you could be yourself,
Confident, courageous, comfortable in your own skin.
And you now know that what appeared to be a tragic end for Joseph
Was part of a plan to bring your family to safety in Egypt.
How do you think Joseph was able to succeed without you
as an exemplar? No, you weren’t perfect.
But your relationships that could have been forever tinged with deceit
Found a resolution.
Even with the favoritism you extended to one wife and her children,
You were a dedicated father who supported and preserved your entire
Household. You struggled with my angel and prevailed.
You struggled with life, even with moments of mourning and sadness,
Even when your some of your children did not do what you wished.
You are still here. You and the generations of your family are all together. What more could you want?”
Jacob was not yet convinced. “Eternal One, how will my descendants think of me? Will they only see the deception that began in my childhood? Or will there be something more that they will remember?”
God was reassuring.
“Jacob, Israel, my child,
You have ascended this ladder because of all the good you have done.
You have loved.
You have pursued your goals with passion.
You have met challenges in your life with perseverance.
You have looked upon your grandchildren, held them and blessed them.
That blessing was not only a passing on of your faith, but an expression of gratitude.
Remember, a long time ago, you declared,‘If God is with me and watches over me on this path that I am taking and gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, and if I return safely to my father's house, then will the Eternal be my God.’
Jacob, I never heard that as a lack of faith or trust in me.
You didn’t know how your life would unfold, but here you are.
You are still dreaming of Me and how I have been with you
And I am with you now.
Jacob looked below and saw his whole life laid out as if it was a landscape.
God told him,
“This is who you have been, and who you have become.
Do you know what your children’s children and their descendants
will call themselves?
B’nai Yisrael - the children of Israel - Your children.
They will remember you as family, as an ancestor – a patriarch - who had a vision that, in many ways, he was able to realize.
Don’t get off this ladder, Jacob. History needs you to keep climbing.”
“I won’t get off, Eternal One.
I will hold on tight and move up, rung by rung.”
Suddenly, Jacob awoke in his bed. He was in Egypt, with his family.
Night had become morning.
The promise of his dream earlier in life
Had become a legacy he had passed to his children and grandchildren.
He knew that they would thrive. They would face challenges to their very well-being.
But they would live and climb up their own ladder
Rung by rung.