Jacob's Ladder
Dr. Joe Temple

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 27. We are going to base most of our remarks on chapter 28, but it is important for us to be familiar with what is in chapter 27, which we have already touched upon.

We have been studying the book of Genesis, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. There are two things that we have asked you to keep in mind. One is we should follow the divisions of the book which the Holy Spirit has placed there. Any outline that you might make of the book of Genesis will be helpful to you, but if you find the outline which the Holy Spirit has made, the book will open up like a flower, and you will be able to ascertain the truth that is in it.

One of the ways that we have been studying the book is on the basis of a phrase repeated every time a new division is presented. You will remember that the division in which we are at the present time began with verse 19 of chapter 25, where we read, “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son: Abraham begat Isaac.” We reminded you that this phrase, these are the generations , is repeated throughout the book as an indication that a new division is about to begin.

Then we told you that another way we can study the book of Genesis is as it revolves around the lives of the men who fill its pages. There was Adam, there was Noah, there was Abraham, there was Isaac. And now there is Jacob. After Jacob will come Joseph, and the remainimg portion of the book of Genesis will revolve around his life.

We have been thinking about Esau because we are not able to think about Jacob until we get Esau out of the way. Esau is the man who really should be occupying our attention. He was the firstborn of Isaac, and he should have been the natural heir to God's plan and to God's purpose. But as we noticed as we studied the Word, God took Esau and set him aside, even though he was the firstborn, and He put Jacob in Esau's place to be the recipient of all of God's blessings and to be the progenitor of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We learned that God put Esau aside because he was a profane man. We do not mean by that that he was a cussing man. He was not. We mean by that that he was more interested in material things than he was in spiritual things, and God had to set him aside because he had no interest in spiritual things.

Jacob was vitally interested in spiritual things, but he still had a lot of the flesh in him, and he was like so many of us…he was not willing to accept God at His Word and to let God work. He felt as though God had said, “Now you do it.” But God did not say that. God said to Jacob, “This is what I am going to do, and I will do it. Just leave it with Me.” But Jacob would not, so we have a sad picture indeed of a man who was not willing to trust God to accomplish the things that God wanted to do.

Chapter 27 of the book of Genesis is a story of the saddest deception that one person could practice on another person. We have touched on the story, you will remember.

Deceiving Isaac

Jacob stole his brother's birthright by getting Esau to sell it to him for a mess of pottage. Then he thought, “If I have the birthright, then I ought to have the blessing. How am I going to get the blessing? Am I going to wait on God for it? God said He would give it to me eventually. No, I won't wait on God for it. I will see what I can do, personally, about it.” Jacob…this is a sad thing to say, but it is true…had the help of his mother in this. We remember how Rebekah clothed Jacob with goat's skin and made a good stew of venison which was what Isaac dearly loved, and sent Jacob into Isaac's room with the stew. Isaac was blind. He could not see, and Isaac said, “Oh, but Esau should have the blessing. Who are you? You have the voice of Jacob, but you have the smell and the feel of Esau.” Jacob lied and said, “I am Esau, Father.” He took advantage of his old father, blind and helpless as he was, and Isaac blessed Jacob.

Later Esau came in, you will remember. He had already made his stew, and as soon as he brought it in he said to his father, “Father, bless me.” Isaac recognized his voice and knew that he had been tricked, and he said, “What has happened?” The story was out, and Jacob had to flee for his life.

This is where we are going to take up our discussion, because this is really the beginning of Jacob's life. We read from Genesis, chapter 28, verse 1:

Genesis 28:

1And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
2Arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother's father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother's brother.
3And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
4And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.
5And Isaac sent away Jacob: and he went to Padanaram unto Laban, son of Bethuel the Syrian, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob's and Esau's mother.
6When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padanaram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;
7And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padanaram;
8And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;
9Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

Now notice verse 10:

Genesis 28:

10And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15And, behold, 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.
16And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

God's Appearance to Jacob

This passage of Scripture, beginning with and continuing on to the end of the chapter, is the portion that will occupy our attention. If you were listening carefully as we read, you recognize it as another interesting appearance of God to man. The Old Testament is full of those instances where God made Himself known to ordinary, human men.

When we complete the study of the life of Jacob, we are going to find that there are seven appearances that God made to Jacob, and each one of them was made at a very crucial time of his experience. We are going to find that three of them were made to Jacob while he was called Jacob, and four of them were made to him after his name was changed to Israel. There was as much difference between the two men as though they were two men because when Jacob was Jacob, he was doing everything with the effort of the flesh. He was conniving and scheming and planning and trying to work things out all by himself. But when his name was changed to Israel (and remember, it was not changed until God brought him to the end of himself) then there was a sweet tranquility in his life that enabled him to wait quietly upon the Lord.

Results of Interfering With God's Plan

This vision that God gave to Jacob is one of the most interesting illustrations of the grace of God to men that there is in all of the Word of God. Do you remember why Jacob was leaving home? Because he had tried to usurp God's authority and God's place and to work out God's plan in his own strength and by his own effort. If he had not ever tried that, he would not have had to leave home. Of course, his father thought he was leaving to get a wife. But his mother knew why he was leaving. She overheard what Esau was going to do. Esau was going to murder Jacob, and she said, “What can I do? I cannot leave him around here. He will get killed for sure.” His mother was guilty of something that has brought a great deal of trouble to families even in our day. His mother was guilty of partiality.

God's Grace Alone

There was Jacob, running away from home because he had tried to interfere with God's plan. It looks as if God would have said, “Well, I will have nothing more to do with them. I will just let them try to work this thing out.” But He did not. Do you know what happened? He taught them a lesson. Do you know what lesson He taught them? It is not found in chapter 28 of the book of Genesis. It is found in the book of Romans, and I would like for you to notice what is recorded concerning this very incident because it is so important for us to know that God works by grace and by grace alone.

In chapter 9 of the book of Romans, God is making a comment on these two boys, Esau and Jacob. We have already noticed part of this comment in verses 10-13, where God put his hand on Jacob by choice and bypassed Esau, and said, relatively speaking, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” In verse 14, He said:

Romans 9:

14What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

Notice verse 16 particularly:

Romans 9:

16So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

All the running that Jacob could do was not going to change the plan of God. All the willing that Rebekah could do…that is what she was doing. She was to have her way or die…could not change the plan of God. When God has a plan, God is going to fulfill that plan, and it would behoove you and me to find out what God's plan is and to fall in step with Him .

Will you go back with me now to Genesis, chapter 28, as we look again at this passage of Scripture and notice that as Jacob came to the end of his first day's journey, he lay down to sleep:

Genesis 28:

12And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said,…

I want you to notice the contrast between what God said and what Isaac said. Isaac was the first to pronounce the blessing of God upon Jacob. He was going to pronounce it upon Esau, but Jacob wanted it, and he wanted it so badly that he tricked his own father into giving him the blessing.

Isaac's Blessing of Jacob

I want you to notice, if you will turn back to chapter 27, the blessing that Isaac pronounced upon Jacob and notice the difference in what God said. Perhaps we will learn that we struggle and strive for the favor and the blessing of man, we struggle and strive for the success of our own efforts, and they are pathetic alongside what God is able to do if we only give Him a chance.

In verse 27 of chapter 27, after Jacob had deceived his father, we read:

Genesis 27:

27And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the LORD hath blessed:

Notice what he says:

Genesis 27:

28Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine:
29Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.

If you think about that blessing, it was all an abstract blessing. There was nothing personal about it. It was just as though God said to Jacob, “You tried awfully hard to get the blessing, and you did not get much. You lied, you connived, you did things you ought to be ashamed of to get the blessing, and you did not get much. Now I am going to tell you what I am going to give you absolutely free, just because I planned it all the time.” Look at verse 13 where He said:

Genesis 28:

13…I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

“It is all yours, and I planned it that way from the very beginning.”

Genesis 28:

14And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Listen…and this is wonderful indeed!

Genesis 28:

15And, behold, 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.

Do you notice what He is saying? The most that Isaac could say to the son was, “Son, God bless you.” That was the most that he could say. But when God took over, God said, “I am with thee, and I will keep thee in all places whither thou goest.” Is that not a wonderful promise? Do you realize that it is a promise that you can claim, and that I can claim? God has promised that He will be with us and that He will keep us in all places where we go. It is a wonderful thing to be able to rest on that.

God Strengthening His Children

We cannot always control the places where we go, but it is amazing how the Lord can keep us in those places and give perfect peace and perfect rest in the midst of them.

A personal reference related to a member of our family comes to my mind, and whenever the Holy Spirit brings something to mind like this I feel that He would have me pass it on to you by way of illustration.

We are supporting in Ethiopia our missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Ely. Mrs. Ely is my wife's sister, and she lived with us for a number of years. We had the privilege, by the grace of God, of sending her to Bob Jones University, enabling her to prepare for the mission field. Sarah Edna was a very timid girl as far as frightening things were concerned. If she saw a mouse fifty feet away you would have to pull her off the chandelier. She was frightened about little things. She was just a very scared girl in so many ways. But the Lord called her to the mission field and she is in Ethiopia and has been for many years. I will never forget the first letter that she wrote back…how they were in a very primitive place there in Ethiopia, living in a mud hut without any doors or windows. The openings were there, but there were not any doors or windows. She mentioned the jackals and how ferocious they were and how eerie was their laugh. They would laugh in the middle of the night, and if you had gone to sleep, you would bolt upright in the bed with cold chills breaking out all over you. She said they would even come to the door and laugh this hideous laugh. I remember her writing in this letter, “But you know, the thing that surprises me is that I am not afraid. The Lord is able to keep you in whatever place you go.”

Is it not wonderful to realize that? That is what He said to Jacob, and that is what He says to you and me:

Genesis 28:

15And, behold, 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.

Have you ever been left in the lurch? Have you ever depended upon someone and then had them go back on you? Have you? I expect that nearly every one of us has at some time or other. We just knew that someone was going to stand by us, but he went back on us. He left us in the lurch.

But here is a promise that God made. How I love this promise:

Genesis 28:

15…for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

How many times has someone left us in the lurch and we have said, “But you promised you would stay with me.” “I know, but I cannot.” “You told me you would not leave me until we got through this thing.” “Well, I know I told you that, but I cannot stay with you. I cannot keep my word.” We are left in the lurch.

God's Presence Promised to Us

You say that this is a promise that God made to Jacob. He did not make it to us. The Holy Spirit knew that someone would say something like that, so He repeated it for us so that we might claim it for our very own.

Turn with me to the New Testament, to the book of Hebrews, and notice in chapter 13 how God repeated the promise so that you and I might remember it. Remember that God said to Jacob, “I will not leave thee until I have done all those things which I have spoken of to you.” So in Hebrews, chapter 13, verse 5, notice the same words:

Hebrews 13:

5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
6So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Did you notice the testimony that we can all give? Here it is: “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” What right do you have to say a thing like that? God gave you a promise. What is the promise? “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

It is not apparent in our English translation, but in the original language by the use of double negatives this verse of Scripture becomes exceedingly emphatic. Actually it reads in the original text, “I will never, I will never leave thee and I will never, I will never let you down.” That is the real meaning of the word forsake .

You may have a lot of people let you down in the course of your life, and I suspect that you have. People have disappointed you and left you in the lurch. They have brought tears to your eyes and sleepless nights to your life. Or maybe someone whom you loved very, very dearly and who you thought would never let you down, did. I would like to remind you that our God has promised that He will never let you down. If the whole world goes back on you, you can rest upon the fact that what God said to Jacob, He is saying to you: “I will never leave you until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.”

The Ladder to Heaven

That is what God said to Jacob. Did you notice the details of the vision? They were wonderful! I suppose that nearly every one of us knows about this, because if we have been to Sunday School we have heard about Jacob's ladder. I suppose that nearly everyone here has made a Jacob's ladder and carried it home from Sunday School. But I wonder if we realize the full import of it. Look again at Jacob's ladder in verse 12:

Genesis 28:

12And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13And, behold, the LORD stood above it…

Do you get the picture? When Jacob was dreaming, he saw a ladder come down out of Heaven. The feet of the ladder rested on the ground, and the very top of it reached to Heaven, and at the very top of the ladder was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, was God the Father, was the Holy Spirit…the blessed Holy Trinity. There He was! And as he looked, he saw angels ascending and descending. What do you think that ladder means?

Someone may say, “I suspect it means that if you get to Heaven, you have got to climb up there. That is what a ladder is for. You have got to climb and to use a ladder.” That is not what it is for. Did you notice there is not a man on that ladder, no human being on that ladder? There are angels on that ladder. What in the world does it mean, anyway?

You know, I have told you repeatedly that the best commentary on any passage of Scripture is the commentary which the Holy Spirit makes somewhere else in the Word of God. It is good to read Dr. Brown and Dr. Jones and Dr. So-and-so, but it is always better to know what the Holy Spirit says about any particular passage of Scripture. Some of these portions of the Old Testament the Holy Spirit has been pleased to comment on in the New Testament.

So turn with me, please, to the Gospel of John, chapter 1. In this chapter we have a comment on chapter 28 of the book of Genesis:

John 1:

43The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.
44Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
45Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
46And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
47Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
48Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
49Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
50Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
51And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

You say, “What connection does this have with Jacob's ladder?” Will you keep in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ knows all about us. He knows our downsittings, and He knows our uprisings. He knows our thoughts afar off. Will you keep in mind that what He said to Nathanael was, “When you were sitting under the fig tree, I saw thee.” Philip ran to get Nathanael and said, “Come see Jesus.” He came, but long before Philip went to him Jesus saw him sitting under the fig tree.

Do you know what Nathanael was reading under the fig tree? The book of Genesis, chapter 28. Did you ever wonder why Jesus said, “Behold an Israelite indeed,in whom there is no guile!” Do you know what He actually said in John, chapter 1, verse 47? “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob.” That is what He said. That is the meaning of the word guile there. There was Nathanael sitting under that fig tree reading about Jacob and thinking about Jacob, that old deceiver, that old supplanter, and how God met his need and blessed him in spite of his deception, not because of it. As he was thinking about that, he heard about the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord Jesus said, “Behold, a man in whom there is no Jacob.”

That caught Nathanael's attention, and he said, “How did you know about me? How did you know what I was doing? How did you know what I was reading?” The Lord Jesus Christ reminded him that He knew all about everyone. That is the reason Nathanael said, “Why, you are the Son of God.” Nathanael was born again that day.

Did you notice verse 50?

John 1:

50Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.

“Do you think it is a marvelous thing that I said unto you that I saw you under the fig tree? Is that what made you believe, because I said that? Well, let me tell you, you are going to see greater things than these.” And Nathanael said, “How am I going to see greater things than these?” Jesus said, “You are going to see Heaven opened and you are going to see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Christ…The Ladder to Heaven

I asked a while ago what was Jacob's ladder? I should have changed the phraseology of that question, and I am going to change it now that we have read this portion of the Word. I am going to ask, “Who is Jacob's ladder?” You have the answer right here. Jacob's ladder is the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the only way from earth to Heaven. He is the only One who is big enough and great enough to bridge the gap that separates earth from Heaven.

But what is this about angels ascending and descending on the Lord Jesus Christ? What are those angels doing? To me this is a wonderful and a tremendous thought.

Will you turn, please, to chapter 14 of John's Gospel. Notice who is involved in this discussion: Philip, and he is the one who was involved in chapter 1.

John 14:

8Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

You see, it was the Father that Jacob saw at the top of that ladder. It was the Father that Nathanael was thinking about while he was reading chapter 28 of the book of Genesis. In the book of John, chapter 14, verse 9:

John 14:

9Jesus saith unto him, have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

Listen very carefully now:

John 14:

12Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

Isn't that an astounding verse of Scripture? Do you realize what it is saying? Jesus Christ is saying that we are going to do greater works than He did while He was on the earth. You say, “How could that be?”

Greater Things for Christ

Do you remember what He said to Nathanael back there in chapter 1? He said, “You are impressed because I saw you under the fig tree? You are going to see greater things than these.” Notice the phrase greater than these . He used this same phrase in connection with the disciples. You say, “What greater things can we do?” Well, look at verse 13:

John 14:

13And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Those greater works which the Lord Jesus was talking about were the works that can be accomplished by prayer. And the greater things that Nathanael was going to be able to see when he saw the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man were going to be the greater things that are wrought by prayer. That is the reason the angels are mentioned.

Do you know what those angels are doing? They are not just taking their exercise. They are carrying our prayers to God and carrying God's answers back to us. Why are they going up and down on the Lord Jesus Christ? Because He is the only way that we can reach God by prayer. If you do not pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, God will not hear you. You say, “That is narrow. That is selfish. That is bigoted.” Well, that is just as narrow as the Word of God, for that is what the Word says. “If you ask any thing in My name, I will do it.”

This commentary on Jacob's ladder teaches us that you and I have a free, unhindered access to the throne of grace. All we need to do is to voice our petitions and angels take the request immediately to the throne of grace and angels bring it back.

Our time is gone now, but when you have time, read chapter 9 of the book of Daniel, and you will find that what I am saying to you is true. I am glad that I have a Jacob's ladder in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ! I am glad that I have free access to the throne of grace. I am glad that He answers my prayers.


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